Almost every day I hear this from a client: "I saw this on Zillow...". And even though this is an ongoing discussion and everyone has their own opinion about Zillow, I wanted to point out a few of the pros and cons of using Zillow when researching real estate. These are my opinions and specific to our market, so please keep that in mind if you are not in the Boise area.

PROS

  • Zillow is a great resource when looking for a rental property! 
  • Very few Boise rentals are listed on MLS, unlike some other states. There are a few, so you should check with an agent to search MLS for rentals, but the majority of them are listed on Zillow or other sites, such as Craigslist. 
  • Zillow is the site most homeowners that choose to sell their home "For Sale by Owner" list their home. 
  • If you find a home on Zillow that is listed For Sale by Owner, contact your agent FIRST before you approach the seller. Sometimes even if sellers are listing FSBO, they are willing to work with an agent if it means they are bringing a buyer for their home. 

CONS

  • You can't always trust the Zestimate, especially in a city like Boise, where the market is changing rapidly and the tax assessment values are usually less than the market value of a property, the Zillow estimates or "zestimate" value that Zillow publishes is not always accurate. If you are interested in what your home could sell for, the best thing to do is contact an agent and ask them to prepare a comparative market analysis for you (or CMA). 
  • Not all homes listed on Zillow are actually for sale. Sometimes homes come up as a status on Zillow as "pre-foreclosure". This often brings false hope to a buyer when they are conducting their search. This status is triggered by a few different factors from the Zillow system, but it could mean something as simple as a homeowner has missed their payment and is currently in default for their mortgage. While this situation could eventually result in a foreclosure or short sale of that property, this could also mean that the owner just missed one payment and will soon get back on track and the home will not be for sale. The best thing to do if you see this status is to call your agent and see if the home is actually available to purchase. 
  • Zillow doesn't have all the homes that are for sale listed on their site.  Sellers have the right to choose to list their home on MLS only. While Zillow and other websites are a great way to advertise to the masses, some sellers are worried about putting their house on the internet, so they opt to have it listed only in MLS, making it only accessible to agents. 

Here's the bottom line, talk to an agent if you have any questions and he/she will guide you to all things real estate, including Zillow!