Zillow's New Feature: 'Make Me Move'

Posted by: Peter Coy on December 7, 2006

You’ve probably seen this bumper sticker:

“If you’re rich, I’m single.”

The fertile minds at online real estate startup Zillow.com have come up with its real estate equivalent:

“Make me move.”
Richard_Barton_new.jpg


It’s a feature for people who have absolutely no intention of moving … unless.

Unless, that is, someone came along and offered them a truly enormous amount of money. You, the homeowner, can create a free account with Zillow and post how much it would take to get you interested in moving. No commitment. Anyone who doesn't blanch at your number can send you an anonymous email that may or may not be the start of a negotiation; your choice. Here's a link.

I am one of those people who really, really, really doesn't want to move. We're near the end of an expensive renovation that has the house exactly the way we want it. But I posted a Make Me Move price anyway just to see what it felt like. What it felt like was skin-crawly weird. Once you name a price, even an absurdly high price that you're sure no one would pay, it puts your mind in a whole new frame. It's the logical endpoint of the complete commercialization of housing: everything is for sale. Financial economists love this kind of stuff.

To explain why I have mixed feelings, here's a sanitized version of a joke in the same vein as the "If you're rich, I'm single" bumper sticker. A rich guy asks a young woman if she would go on a date with him for $100 million. She thinks long and hard and finally says yes. He pulls out 50 cents in change and asks for a date. She's outraged. He says, "What's the matter? We're just negotiating price."

Rich Barton, Zillow's CEO (pictured), seems to have had a little bit of the same reaction to using Make Me Move. He and Zillow President Lloyd Frink previewed the feature for me in New York a couple weeks ago. "Some people said it's flirtatious or frivolous. But it quickly gets serious," Barton said. "I ended up having a talk with my wife" about whether their house was truly for sale.

While Make Me Move is the most intriguing feature of the new Zillow website, it's worth mentioning that Zillow introduced a less surprising but probably more important gambit today, namely, allowing people to list their homes for sale. Here's GigaOM's take on the changes.

Reader Comments

Mark Norman

January 3, 2007 1:19 PM

As a realtor, I clicked on the link just too see what it was about. I hadn't been to Zillow's website in a while. I put in the address for a somewhat (less than a month) new listing that I have to see what Zillow's estimated the house at.

Zillow's estimate was more than $75,000 below what we have it on the market for. We are presently closeing in a deal that we yield us an offer at better than 99% of asking.

While I was looking at all this, I saw a house that was shown as a Make Me Move listing.

I checked the MLS and this address is shown as having been listed three times without a sale (each one expired without a deal); the last two times were both in 2003.

Will this be just another realtor tool to find out who is thinking about selling? If this one is an example; it was totally unrealistic. Unfortunately, most home owners do not put much effort into pricing their home.

Bill Weaver

February 26, 2007 2:49 PM

Zillow prices have no basis in reality. I checked my floorplan home against an identical home in our subdivision both with a lakefront view. My home has a screened in swimming pool that the other lacks. Zillow has the home without the pool at $20,000 more than my house. And this price comparison does not take into other upgrades in my home.Go figure.

John

March 1, 2007 11:42 PM

Well Zillow is not perfect by any means. I mean how are they supposed to know everything that you've upgraded in your home unless you log on and update your house on Zillow?

I also think that Zillow is about 3 - 6 months behind on the current housing prices. With that said, it is still a pretty cool site if you ask me.

Zack

July 30, 2007 10:43 AM

I think Zillow is one of the best all-inclusive starting points for home price. No other site yet is as easy to use geared to the layperson who wants to to keep track of home prices in their neighborhood. Before Zillow, every other internet site wanted a real-estate agent to contact you in person to estimate values, a pain if you only casually checking to see what your house might be worth. That said, Zillow is only a starting point, and they can only make rough estimates of your home based on public records. They cant know that you have a new/old kitchen, or that your landscape wonderful/awful. Details like these which are not available on line (unless you enter it) greatly affect the buyers bid and ultimately the selling price.

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About

BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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