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: