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Cyberhomes vs. Zillow – Dueling Valuation Tools for Your San Diego Home

For the uninitiated, the title is a bad joke. Moving on…

At our most recent office meeting, between the property pitches and the vendor pitches, our office manager promoted our company’s new affiliation with Cyberhomes. Now, being too lazy to do a site search this morning, Cyberhomes has undoubtedly been talked about ad nauseam here. And, as I have confessed many times lately, I have been too time-challenged to be the good little feed reader “reader” I should be of late, so the subject of Cyberhomes has probably been beat to death elsewhere. That’s the beauty of ignorance – I will barrel bravely ahead.

Prudential California Realty is in Beta with their Cyberhomes affiliation. For now, a home valuation feature has been added to the Prudential website but, ultimately the feature will be included in all individual agent pages. It is being promoted to us as superior to Zillow in that (according to our office manager) it incorporates “MLS data as well as public records”. I found this confusing. Aren’t MLS sales ultimately a matter of public record and, therefore, inherent in the Zillow model as well? With the help of a colleague, we stumbled on what he meant.

My colleague and I decided to play a little Zillow. In our version of investigative reporting, we proceeded to embark on some exhaustive comparative analysis. By exhaustive, I mean, we decided to look up the value of both of our own homes on both Zillow and Cyberhomes. Elbow to elbow, armed with dueling computers, undaunted by the challenges which might lay ahead, we Searched.

In each case, our homes were valued approximately $150,000 lower on Cyberhomes than on Zillow. Bummer. Being blessed with the keen eye for detail, we suddenly realized that we live in the same subdivision and in the same model, one block apart. Where scientific method is concerned, we are the Suxors. What about a different neighborhood? I threw out the address of an active listing I have a mile away. Ready, set, show us the money! His “Zestimate” returned a number in the ballpark while my CyberValue (back off, I’m copyrighting that) returned a “Listed for Sale” flag and the listing price. No CyberValue in sight.

Now, being the kind of gal that will do whatever it takes to get to the Truth (my client was running late), I began randomly looking up other company’s listings. The result? A CyberValue but no “Listed for Sale” flag or price. Ay, there’s the rub. As a listing agent for Prudential, I am totally digging this.

How many of us have placed our listing on Zillow to discover that the Zestimate is $6 million below our listing price? Another colleague recently asked me what I do in these circumstances. The choices include not placing the listing on Zillow, having the seller massage the number by assigning additional value based on their “upgrades” (installed naked cherub fountain – add $80,000 plus $1200 for the “harp”), or just ignore it. More often than not, I am opting for the latter. Now with Cyberhomes, my competitors are saddled with the CyberValue based on the complex Cyberhomes algorithm (rock, paper, scissors) while my listing is stupid-random-value free!

So, I am left with many questions. How will the consumers perceive this CyberTwist on the Zillow model? Will they go flocking back to Zillow for a property valuation on my listing, the “value’ being absent at Cyberhomes? Is Cyberhomes going to win one audience (the agents) and lose the, ultimately more important, other? Finally, and this is my real question, how can two models, each based on pubic records, return results which are so very different? To me, this difference of price opinion harkens back to the central issue. No online valuation tool can replace a living, breathing, knowledgeable professional, a category within which many licensed real estate agents happen to fall.

Anyone out there who knows more about this than I (which, by my estimation, is everyone), do tell!

(Press time update: My CyberValue just jumped $170,000 overnight, this for a home in a neighborhood where nothing has sold since the Eisenhower administration).

Related posts:
  • Destination: Vertical. Zillow houses “hot or not” for homes
  • New AVM on the block: Cyberhomes from Fidelity . . .
  • Stifle those yawns: CyberHomes is coming out of beta

  • 10 comments

    10 Comments so far

    1. Linda Slocum July 29th, 2007 5:01 pm

      Kris, I noticed that your website is by Ubertor. Is Prudential offering the Cyberhomes feature to all Prudential agents, regardless of their web service provider, or do you have to use one of the company’s generic sites to take advantage of this new feature?

    2. Kris Berg July 29th, 2007 5:11 pm

      Linda,

      Big company, wants to promote company brand – I bet you already know the answer to your question. Like so many other to-better-help-you-succeed agent tools they offer us (and, in their defense, these are many), this only applies to the company sites. I might not do it differently if I were in charge, but, as an agent who has gone to great lengths to brand myself, it stinks.

    3. Linda Slocum July 29th, 2007 6:16 pm

      So, in other words, the main company site has these nifty tools that generate generic leads that are then funneled back to the agents, right?

      I’m assuming that Yahoo leads would be handled the same way as Cyberhomes leads… Do they charge you for these company-generated leads, or are they passed on tariff-free?

      Interesting to note is that the agent directory for our local Pru office shows less than a handful of agents with their own websites!

    4. Reggie July 30th, 2007 6:52 am

      Hi Kris, the automated valuation can be enhanced with your own opinion. Why don’t you spend a few minutes and choose your own comparables, refine the value by including any home upgrades like kitchen remodel? I’m sure your price would become more accurate. This is the best practice when using AVM values.

    5. Kris Berg July 30th, 2007 7:25 am

      Off topic (I really was interested in the Cyberhomes versus Zillow angle), but continuing on this path, the leads are funneled back to the agent if they specifically relate to that agent’s listing. Otherwise, general inquiries and searches are routed, best I can tell, through the relocation company or through agents who have agreed to participate for a referral fee. Yahoo is handled the same way, as is any other lead generated from the company site.

      Case in point, our website was down for a nano-second a couple of months ago, and the result was a very pissed off client. Being loyal, her Search for Homes Plan B was to navigate over to the company site. Within minutes of simply saving a search, she was contacted from another agent in my office offering to help her with her homebuying needs. Since we have always shunned the leads for fee approach (and this includes our refusal to participate in the company Relocation program), I can only guess that a referral fee would have been involved had this agent been successful in snagging my client.

      Regarding your agent directory, I doubt you are getting a true picture of the number of agents with their own websites. Any modifications by me of our company web page require corporate approval. While I now hear they are allowing a reference to our personal websites, it is gratuitous at best; we certainly can’t slap a redirect on it, which would be my preference. Since all of my marketing promotes my site rather than Pru’s, I have chosen to all but ignore my page on their site. It has long been on my to-do list to get in there and take it as far as I can go, but it is a lower priority right now.

    6. CJ, Broker in NELA, CA July 30th, 2007 5:25 pm

      Kris – FYI – Cyberhomes launched in November of 2006 — Here’s a post from Pat Kitano http://transparentre.com/2006/11/09/cyberhomescom–title-insurance-now-has-a-consumerfacing-website-with-a-1999-style-name.aspx

    7. Kris Berg July 30th, 2007 7:05 pm

      Yeah, I know they aren’t new, but I had the sudden need (in light of their recent BFF status with my brokerage) to question the differences between the CyberDudes and Zillow. I really was looking for answers, as I suspect someone out there is in a position to speak to the differences in valuation results and the potential impact of zapping a value at all from a home that is currently listed. Still in the dark.

      Cordially,

      Miss Understood

    8. Linda Slocum July 30th, 2007 7:21 pm

      Most people in our area know that the “Zestimates” are generally not valid data, since they’re rarely on target. This is partially due to the diversity of homes in a small area, with several tracts side by side with similar square footage but very different upgrades and amenities.

      The other challenge in the Los Angeles area is that our County Recorder’s office isn’t always on top of things, so recent sales can take months (or years) at times to show up on the standard online title reports that these systems draw from.

      Still, these systems do allow people to keep an eye on their neighborhood activity to some extent.

    9. Kris Berg July 30th, 2007 7:29 pm

      Linda, All that. My question remains, does ANYONE know how their valuation algorithms differ? And, what about eliminating the published value for active listings on Cyb… Oh, forget it. I guess I really wasn’t all that interested.

    10. Russell Shaw July 31st, 2007 1:19 am

      If I had to forecast, my money would be on Cyberhomes. They have VERY deep pockets and don’t need to raise any money to do what they want. They have hired THE guy who created the technical side of Realtor.com.
      http://www.inman.com/blogger/2006/05/on-move-this-just-in-marty-frame.aspx