3 Big Ways Finding Your Home On Zillow Could Cost You

Though convenient, real estate listing websites like Zillow can cost you money and time.

The driving force behind most of the shifts across all major industries has been rooted in technological innovation. Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, and even something like DoorDash, a food delivery service, are perfect examples of businesses that prioritize efficiency and convenience through the click of a button. Time is a commodity, and partner — business is a-boomin’!

Real estate is no different. Websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin, among other real estate listing services, have become the go-to for consumers starting their home search. It’s extremely efficient and seems relatively comprehensive. More importantly, it gives users the freedom to search the real estate market on their own terms.

But wait— does it cost us in other ways?

It does, unfortunately. Whether you’re listing a house or buying a house, there are costs that you may not account for when scrolling through your options on Zillow or Redfin. You owe it to yourself to be informed and to avoid falling into the click-traps that are set up for people in your position. Let’s talk about the three major ways that these listing services can affect you personally.

1 - Your Personal Information

The first thing you do when you find a house that interests you is to put in your contact information. This wouldn’t be a problem if you were, say, giving it to a boutique real estate agency like Nail & Key, as opposed to a massive corporation whose sole mission is to make a profit from selling your information to other random real estate agents. This often translates to dozens of calls from different agents soliciting their services to you. There's nothing more intrusive than sitting down to eat dinner with your family and having transaction-hungry real estate agents blowing up your phone.

Working with an agent you trust is crucial throughout the process, as is knowing that your personal information is secure and not being sold to the highest bidder.

2 - The Price

Let’s cut to the chase: the most common factor that influences your decision to sell or buy a home is the price. The problem with sites like Zillow is that they often don’t show updated prices and/or are misleading because they don’t account for closing costs, which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars. What’s worse is that sometimes the houses they show aren’t even for sale.

Sellers might factor in Zillow’s appraisal system (also known as Zestimates), but again we run into some costly mistakes. According to economist John Wake, the typical Zillow Zestimate error is $14,000. This algorithm-based approach to real estate saves you time on the front end, but could end up increasing your days on the market due to misappraisal.

When we get the opportunity to begin a relationship with you and discuss your real estate goals, we make it our mission to provide you first with accurate numbers, so that you can make smart, efficient decisions for yourself.

3 - The Faceless Agent

As we mentioned previously, when you click on the agent or contact information on real estate mass listing websites, they send your information to agents who purchased that click or phone call. Privacy aside, we run into an equally problematic issue: to these agents, you are just a transaction, and somewhere down the line, you will notice the impersonal nature of this relationship.

From an agent's perspective, if you’re purchasing leads then you are spending a big chunk of your commission just getting your foot in the door with complete strangers. This inevitably creates a "quantity over quality" mentality. And here’s the thing: it works for them. But sometimes that means they won’t fight for the things that are most important to you and your family, or for the things that will save you money. This often results in people feeling like the real estate agent was just there to cash in a check for minimal effort, which isn’t wrong. They are acting like an agent when really what the client really needs is a guide.

This discrepancy in the value provided by agents and the value you’re paying for hurts the industry for all of us. That’s why we believe there’s no other way to do business than to really invest in your clients’ goals and dreams and to give them results that exceed the market average.


We truly shudder at the idea of sitting in a cubicle and calling people for hours a day just to make a quick buck. That’s just not how community works. We enjoy getting to know our clients — most of whom are our friends or become our friends — and their specific needs. There’s no copy and paste solution to real estate, which encourages us to carefully consider each family’s goals. It also reinforces our mission to always create tangible value, which gives us a sense of dignity and pride in the work we do. While Zillow can be a great resource in jumpstarting your search, finding a skilled, trustworthy real estate agent can save you thousands of dollars and give you the peace of mind that you deserve to have when buying or selling your home.

Vince Penick