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Posted by: Chris Palmeri on March 12, 2007
Home pricing site Zillow.com caused a huge sensation when it started offering its Zestimates on what people’s houses are worth. All the attention (and online traffic) has spurred rival Realtor.com to respond. The company’s new Real-Time Market Snapshot gives online home shoppers access to more recent sale prices in a particular neighborhood.
Some background: Realtor.com was among the first Internet sites devoted to housing. It was actually started by the National Association of Realtors, a group that always wants to make sure its got a piece of any home sale. Realtor.com has long offered a “What’s Your Home Worth” feature. Both it and Zillow rely on county deed records to generate the data. While Realtor.com gives a wide price range for a property, Zillow gives a specific estimate, and thus produces a lot more buzz.
Now the Realtors are striking back. “The problem with the county data is it’s about three months old,” says Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com. His new Real-Time service uses data gleaned from the many multiple listing services across the country. That data is generated by the Realtors themselves. Having more up-to-date data is important as housing prices soften.
In order to get that Real-Time snapshot you have to leave a particular property address and your contact info with Realtor.com, which then feeds your request to a local Realtor. Thus, you’ll get contacted by an agent. On the sample snapshot that I got, the transaction data was more recent, but there still wasn’t a specific estimate of what the property is worth.
I should add, while a recent study by the Wall Street Journal found Zillow’s Zestimates to be fairly accurate. Their Zestimate for the sample house I used was $800,000. It’s actually worth $1.3 million, judging by recent sales on the block. That’s a huge discrepancy. The online real estate wars continue.
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.