Zillow is Data Porn

Omilord, Zillow is data porn for middle-aged people — which probably explains why it’s timing out like crazy. This is the richest data-centric interface I’ve ever seen, with everywhere you turn in the app there being more info — look there’s previous sales! and one-year value trend! and neighbors’ estimated home values! and — and I’ve hardly gone below the surface.

Fix the performance issues and they’ll have longer time-on-site metrics than anything except porn sites.


  1. Audience: YOU.

  2. Guilty as charged. I’m so biased when it comes to this sort of thing appealing to all of my worst instincts in data-centric services that I could barely see straight after ten minutes working with Zillow — before it bogged into oblivion, of course,

  3. Al Brockman says:

    Zillow still does not have a lot of places

  4. This site is beyond bogus. My current condo complex is overvalued by a million dollars. My previous homes are overvalued by $500,000, the home before that by $650,000.

  5. I agree. I checked out the brownstone next door to me in the nicest Brooklyn area- zillow valued the house at 1 million–and it just sold for $4.5 last month. Hope they don’t burn through that cash too quick…

  6. Paul,
    I spent 2 hours on Zillow yesterday, and I had a blast. It is very addicting. In my case, both of my properties were very fairly and accurately valued.

  7. When your Beta site gets bogged down because it’s been in the NYT, the morning networks, the nation’s newspaper, it ain’t all bad.

  8. It’s no wonder you compare Zillow to porn. Marjorie Garber has written a book entitled “Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses.” Her premise is that real estate has become a form of “yuppie pornography.” Hopes of summer romance have given way to hopes of summer homes, and fantasies of Romeo have been replaced by fantasies of remodeling. The high prices we view on Zillow makes our breathing heavy and our heart beat faster.

  9. I’m a Realtor in So. Cal. I test drove Zillow, too. Zillow is a fun site to play with but bears little relationship to the real world. Everything I plugged in was either WILDLY over- or under-valued. It was bizarre. How and where are they getting their data and how are they managing it?

  10. Let’s not have unrealistic expectations of Zillow, or any other site like this. They get their data from public records, the MLS, zip data, etc. So, proprty by property is going to skew wildly, especially if there is only one prior sale and few comps in the hood. If the previous owner stole the house, or gor robbed, Zillow will calculate as if that price was market-place correct at the time, influenced by that same dynamic in comps. And Zillow can’t get into properties and adjust based on which were fixers and which were improved better than average, Nor calculate automatically for any post sale improvements (you can add those manually) which is why real brokers won’t be going away.
    My current house actually comped on the nose (at least compared to estimates that two brokers who specialize in my ‘hood had thrown out pre-Zillow). However, their comps included my improvements and Zillow’s did not, so – adding that – they over-estimated.
    A friend’s house showed as taking a $300,000 hit in 6 months in a hot zip code as the only two comps post his sale were for horrible, horrible fixers with bad flow, pushing his valuation down.
    Which, ultimately, shows the limitations of such sites: no two houses (that are not in a sub-division) are the same. In the Hollywood Hills, moving two houses over can change the views (adding or subtracting hundreds of thousands in value). Compare this to car sites: there are 500,000 Toyota Camtry made and sold every year, 10,000+ in the same color/option configuration. Thus, KBB.com is going to be more accutate. Basica statistics.
    Zillow is still hella’ fun though :)

  11. if you find zillow interesting you should check out http://www.HomePriceMaps.com

  12. i am not sure i would call http://www.HomePricemaps.com DATA PORN, i mean aren’t we helping the consumer make better informed decisions, thus not relying upon the realtor as much, or at least giving the consumer the ability to know when his realtor is screwing him over?
    since when is THAT PORN????????????????????

  13. Where do these site get their data of the prices of homes that have been sold?

  14. Serge Fournier says:

    does it apply to Canada

  15. Zillow is great, kind of like looking at sector indexes in the market. To get to specific values – you will still have to do some real leg work, honest research and not expect to get an instant answer off the internet. Zillow is a great point of reference for a value range based on geographic orientation which is the basic premise in real estate. And if the data is poor, so will be the valuations. If you are one of those who rely upon the back up camera in your new car and refuse to turn your head around to really see what is back there – something or someone will suffer.