After playing with Zillow for the past couple of days, the first words that come to mind are “Impressive, but you are not a Jedi yet”. I have a hunch the guys at HouseValues are going to get “Netscaped” if they don’t take their game to next level.
The UI is slick. The mapping isn’t quite Virtual Earth / Google maps slick but it’s close (if you add mouse wheel zoom, arrow key navigation support and resizeable maps, I’d put it in that league). Seeing all the lot boundaries displayed on the map is something that I haven’t seen done well before and is a feature that will be expensive or difficult for Zillow’s competitors to match. I like the fact that they partnered with GlobeXplorer, since I believe that will enable them to out map RedFin.
I find all the trash talk about uptime and availability amusing. As any experienced software engineer will tell you, the first days for any web based service that has had the anticipation & hype of Zillow are going be rough. After all, if the mighty Microsoft had troubles with X-Box Live when Halo 2 was launched a few years ago, the fact that Zillow’s first day had some minor troubles is hardly surprising. Besides, I’m sure Rich Barton and the boys will buy a few AMD Dual Core Athlons CPUs with the new WD Raptor drives during the next few days and cure that problem.
I suspect biggest problem with Zestimates is the current lack of high quality data. (Gee, the same issue I keep complaining about). Any realtor will point out, doing an accurate completive market analysis house is a problem that involves many, many variables. I understand it’s a hard problem, but the fact that the Zetimates are so far off for my house (which I thought should be an easy case) is disappointing. I don’t expect accurate estimates for waterfront, hilltop views, high rise condos, Bill Gate’s house or rural properties. But my house is a cookie cutter house is suburbia (with lots of similar houses for sale). I would think my house would be an easy one to get right.
Just for kicks, I implemented a quick & dirty Compeitive Market Analysis feature for the Rain City Guide home search. I found it to be more accurate than Zillow for my house, and Dustin thought my estimate was right on the money for his home (after he entered the correct square footage). Anyway, play around with it and let us know how close to the “right” price it is for your area.
BTW – My version just goes against active NWMLS listings (so forget about trying it if don’t live in Washington). It’s pretty crude and it’s not as cool as Zillow, but then again, I hardly have $32 in venture capital (much less $32 million), so cut me some slack!
I think the nay sayer would be wise to recall the words my former boss once said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.” Zillow’s Zestimates may be off in Safeco Field right now, but I have no doubt they will get much better over time. And when they do get better (not if), you better be ready.
Well, I’m going to shut up now and let my code do the talking. I’m sure the engineers at Zillow are following suit.