Why You Shouldn’t Use Trulia and Zillow in Your Home Search in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills MI

No zillow or truliaI know what you are thinking.

Your Realtor is hiding the really good homes from you.  Or you can find things that your Realtor can’t because you are more motivated.  Certainly there has to be more for sale out there, right?!?  So you head over to Zillow and Trulia where you unearth a bevvy of beauties that have never appeared on your agent’s daily or hourly updates. Gotcha!

I hate to debunk a good conspiracy theory, but the fact is that those “finds” you are tracking down on Zillow and Trulia are not actually for sale, in spite of the appearance that they are available.  

How could that be?  It’s simple.  Zillow and Trulia take information from sources that are not updated.  I know because I get calls all the time about homes that sold two years ago but buyers are still finding them on line.  Our local MLSes, Realcomp and MiRealSource are the two most accurate sources of current inventory.  Zillow and Trulia have access to those sources, but they also aggregate data from sites that are not updated with the same strict standards as the MLSes.  So mistakes slip through and remain to confuse buyers and sellers alike.

Furthermore, they include confusing listings from paid advertisers like RealtyTrac in their home searches.  RealtyTrac attempts to get consumers to pay for access to their paid services to search for potential without much transparency.  In truth, most of the homes we see listed on Realty Trac will never actually be available for consumers to purchase.  Just because a homeowner is in some stage of default, does not mean the home will be sold to the public at rock bottom prices.  The allure of paying $250,000 to snag a desirable new home worth $1,500,000 in Birmingham’s prestigious Quarton Lake Estates neighborhood baits consumers to pay RealtyTrac’s monthly subscription fee to gain access to the next great deal.  But they will never catch that deal, I assure you, because it really does not exist.

Your Realtor works on a commission.  Hiding the “good houses” will prevent her from making her livelihood.   Ask her how she can help you to access the best data sources available to you and what other services she can offer to help you find your next home.  And in the meantime, don’t be tempted by the “shiny objects” offered on Zillow or Trulia.  You are certain to be disappointed and frustrated.

So what’s a buyer to do?  To be continued in an upcoming post…



  1. Maureen says

    Thanks Ed, and thanks for stopping by. I went to Kalamazoo College and have a warm spot in my heart for SW Michigan!

  2. says

    Hey Mo, Jay T. from Zillow here!

    No question, ever, that home buyers (and sellers) should be working with a real estate pro such as yourself!

    That “lowballer” allure is strong, as you well know, everyone wants a “SMOKING DEAL!” People love to look at ‘pre-foreclosure’ types of properties. We recently stopped using ReatlyTrac and now supply pre-foreclosure info for free, and are building out a “foreclosure center” to help consumers and RE pros better understand that whacky world.

    Hope you and Dmitry are doing well and staying warm!

  3. says

    Hi there Jay.

    Thanks for stopping by. Glad Zillow pulled the plug on RealtyTrac. Consumers never understood that bait and switch, so you are better off without them, and frankly I got tired quashing false hope. I do believe Trulia is still sporting them though.

    Hopefully our paths will cross IRL again at Mid Year in May. My regards to Francy as well. It was a treat to see your jumbo-tron photo on Times Square!

  4. says

    I will never get back the hours I spent researching old stale listings that buyers have found on T and Z and just didn’t want to miss out so they sent me the address. I was sent one last week that closed 4 years ago.

  5. says

    Interesting take, considering the fact that I found that she’s a “Mayor” on Trulia?
    Written Sep 17th, 2009:
    I typically refrain from tooting my own horn, but I am very excited about yesterday’s announcement from Trulia.com, the leading real estate site. Trulia launched it’s new Trulia Mayors program and chose five agents from across the country from the 400,000 agents active on the site, recognizing us as “social media role models and innovators.”

    I’ve been active on Trulia since they launched TruliaVoices, a forum where consumers can ask questions and get answers from industry professionals. I think it is a fabulous resource for consumers to gather information.

    Personally, we love the attention our listings get on Trulia from potential buyers. Dmitry and I are committed to getting outstanding exposure for our sellers, and Trulia is a key component in our marketing strategy.

    I am tickled to have been chosen and am looking forward to doing more work with Trulia and the other Mayors in the coming months.

  6. says

    Yes, Joe Trulia asked me in 2009 to be a “Mayor”. Trulia does not pay me anything for that nor have they compensated me in any way other than a badge on my profile and a t-shirt or two. Trulia does not actively use the Mayor program much anymore, but the title remains. If you click through to my activity on the site you will see that I rarely answer questions or post on my blog there.

    I still promote my listings on Trulia and Zillow because I know buyers are looking there. There are many positive attributes of each site. But I hold firmly that there are better ways to go about finding a home and that most consumers don’t know the downfalls of those sites. Consumers still need an agent to help understand the information available to them.

    I have had clients have a very incorrect idea about the value of their home because of a Zestimate. If they had relied solely upon that they would have left a ton of money on the table.

    Even if I am a Mayor, that does not mean I am not free to express my opinions or that I cannot criticize Trulia.

  7. says

    @Chris Griffith Wouldn’t it be nice if we could bill someone for every hour we spent researching listings that sold a long time ago?! Imagine the income from that!

  8. says

    Hi Maureen,
    Here at Trulia, we agree that a consumer should work with an agent to search for a home. You are correct that some brokers and agents send us listings outside of MLS channels. And some agents and brokers are not as diligent in updating those listings. We’re currently working with several MLS’s increase the percentage of MLS sourced or verified listings, but it’s a lot of work. I’d be happy to get on the phone with you and go into further detail some time if you’d like.

  9. says

    Hi Todd,

    I would welcome the chance to talk to you sometime soon. Ironically (or not) I just spent the last two days in an MLS strategic planning session for Realcomp II governors facilitated by Clareity Consulting. (Joe Woalman please note that I am not only a Trulia “Mayor” but also an alternate Governor of our MLS. I find these titles kind of amusing.) Trulia and Zillow were frequently discussed as were all the other players in the on-line real estate ecosystem. One of the things that I picked up was that Zillow has over 1800 data sources. Imagine trying to assess the reliability of 1800 data sources.

    Trulia and Zillow have done an outstanding job of bringing real estate information to the people. They have built beautiful sites that are easily navigated and can provide a wealth of info for consumers. But a filter is needed for the information, and that is the agent, as we all agree.

  10. says

    I have worked as an assistant for two Realtors for years. I would try to ‘cancel’ homes on both Zillow & Trulia which had expired to no avail. Because we are with a large RE company, I was told the company would have to cancel the listings, or they could do it for me but I would have to call them each time one expired. NEVER trust that the home you are looking at is currently for sale. Not to mention, for sale by owners will sell their homes and never think to go in and update it to sold.

  11. sam says

    Great points. We’ve had to sell, move and buy and stopped using Trulia completely for a resource as they appeared to be an advertisement for reatlytrac which is at best questionable.

    However, we have found that doing your own research is extremely powerful. If helps you understand the options and what the price ranges are. It helps a good realtor help you. We’ve found that Redfin.com was the best source for the typical shopper, but they only cover major metros. However, we found that new listings were added to their site before others and were often accurate and they sold homes and pricing histories were pretty accurate.

    Shopper beware, like anything else, some realtors play games, are lazy, or too busy to provide you the service you require – we’ve personally experienced it. Get a good referral and be open an honest with your agent. Remember it is your investment for where you’ll be living for some time, to realtors it’s a commission.

  12. Bill Marquis says

    My wife and I are small investors. We depend on Zillow and Trulia to provide information while we drive through neighborhoods. We compare prices that were paid for other houses near a house that appeals to us by using our phone apps. Once we find a house we are interested in we call our realtor. This research could not be done without Zillow. We would have wasted her time constantly looking for houses that we evaluate first by curb appeal and neighboring houses. Yes, there are some houses entered wrong but not nearly enough to offset the value of having detailed information at your finger tips. Combine technology with a realtor makes dollars and sense for us.

  13. says

    Dmitry and Maureen,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about these national syndicators. I agree completely. These nationwide syndicators provide an inaccurate view of the market to buyers by inflating the number of homes actually listed for sale.

    Paul Zubrys, Independent Broker / REALTOR
    Southwest Michigan Lakefront Property since 1987

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