In recent years, Zillow has become one of the most ubiquitous platforms for homebuyers. When passing by a house with a for sale sign, we no longer get out to “grab a brochure” instead, we just look to our smartphones and “Zillow it” for quick information on pricing, taxes, and schools. Never before have buyers had so much information available at their fingertips.
For sellers, Zillow is a great platform to get out in front of millions of prospective buyers for little or no cost. Technology enables people to virtually tour your house from their smartphones without wasting any of your Sunday afternoon with unnecessary showings. It even gives you an early idea of what you can expect to receive for your home based on your “Zestimate,” which I gather is the floor of what you could expect on the open market, or the minimum price in which you should feel confident receiving for your home, in many cases.
Whenever an “open” platform offers so many benefits for little to no cost, there will always be people that take advantage of it, bending the rules to further their agenda. My wife and I call this “Zillow spoofing,” and it’s a real nuisance for homebuyers.
Spoofing is a nefarious act of creating communication to make it appear it came from a different source, hoaxing or tricking someone into believing they are receiving communication from someone else. This tactic is used often in social engineering, making you believe you have received an official communication from someone of importance. In phone networks, this can be called phreaking, and makes it appear that you are receiving a phone call from a disguised number.
In Zillow, I consider spoofing to occur when a builder or listing agent intentionally misrepresents the address or coordinates of a home or homesite in order to appear in the search results of popular or desirable areas in a metropolitan area. Today, I came across a listing for a new subdivision 30 minutes away from the area in which I was looking. This is a nuisance as homebuyers must sort through the listing to determine if it is “really” where the map says it is.
What’s tough about this grey area is that the listings are real–the houses or homesites are for sale/contract, and they could be easily corrected to show their “true” location. And, more often than not, they’re being posted by legitimate brokers and builders. Unlike other scams and fake listings, these are seemingly benign. However, in aggregate, they can really waste time homebuyers’ time “vetting” each listing to see if it is location accurate.
So what can we do about it? Unfortunately, there is no easy way to report spoofing on Zillow. Users are given a menu of options to report listings, although I don’t think that these categorically fall under spam. Perhaps that’s how I should report them. In either case, this behavior needs to stop and Zillow needs to create a system of accountability for builders and listing agents that abuse the privilege of using their platform.
Do you work for Zillow and have any positive assurance? Are you a homebuyer bothered by this? Leave a comment below and thanks for reading.