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    House Hunting? 7 Things You Should Look For When Browsing Zillow Listings

    By Laura Gariepy,

    24 days ago
    Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images /

    Zillow has become a staple in the modern homebuying experience. After all, the website highlights the latest real estate market trends , lets you search through available properties and facilitates contact with real estate agents.

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    However, like most information you see online, you probably should take Zillow listings with a grain of salt. Here is what three real estate agents said about the popular platform.

    Also check out ways to afford a home in 2024.

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    How To Use Zillow for House Hunting

    Chrysti Peek, broker and team lead at Chrysti & Co. in Durham, North Carolina, said Zillow “is a great way to find and explore open houses.” She encouraged home shoppers to “use it like a Pinterest board. What do your favorites say? Is there a theme that you’re noticing that you didn’t think of when you started searching?”

    Peek also indicated that sharing listings with your real estate agent can be a great way to help them understand what you want in a home.

    She said, “New clients frequently send me saved favorites and say, ‘I love this neighborhood’ or ‘Here’s an example of the floor plan I really like,’ and it’s a great starting point for starting their search discussion.”

    David H. Michan, a California-based Realtor with Terra Equity Management , agreed that viewing Zillow listings can be an appropriate way to begin your home search.

    However, he said, “The best thing to do if you find a listing on Zillow is to send it to your agent so they can provide you with the actual listing from the MLS to ensure full accuracy and other pertinent information that is given to agents and not the public.”

    Jared Blumberg, co-founder of the Werner Blumberg Team of Compass New York City, is also concerned about listing accuracy.

    “I work in New York City, which is a unique market where I would never advise viewing properties on Zillow,” he said. “We are one of the few markets that does not list properties directly on that website. They pull inventory from other websites they own, so the listings are not always accurate.”

    Explore More: Is Barbara Corcoran Right About the Housing Market?

    What To Look For When Scrolling Through Listings

    It can be helpful (and fun) to look through listings on Zillow, but be sure to keep these seven things in mind when browsing.

    Information That’s Too Good To Be True

    Peek warned that a low price could be a red flag: “Is [the property] in a flood zone? Are there rooms in terrible shape that aren’t visible? Agents have access to information that Zillow may not show, such as notes about serious defects.”

    In addition, Blumberg said, “Be wary of photography tricks, which can be hard to spot unless you are working with an experienced real estate agent. These tricks are used to hide major issues with the property that a seller’s agent does not want you to know prior to seeing [the home] in person. Photography editing has come a long way, and it can be very hard to spot these modifications.”

    The Phrase ‘Pre-Foreclosure’

    If you see a house labeled as pre-foreclosure, it’s a trap.

    “These are not listings,” Peek said. “There are agents that pay for Zillow leads, and those properties are another way to get buyers to click [the] ‘Find An Agent’ button to send them to a paying agent.”

    Advertised Renovations

    A new kitchen or bathroom could be a major draw – especially if the renovations are to your taste. However, proceed with caution. A recent home upgrade isn’t “necessarily bad, but it is a trigger to dig deeper into permits and past owners,” Peek said.

    The Length of Time Listed

    “One key item to look for is how long [the home] has been on Zillow,” Michan said. “It will say how many days it’s been there, and if you see something like 150 days, it could be that it’s an old listing and not even active. Also, some of the information, such as property taxes, might not be as accurate because the information is pulled from public databases instead of entered by the real estate agent.”

    The Financial Picture

    Your new house will cost more than the listed mortgage, so Blumberg said, “Always confirm the taxes and common charges listed are accurate and that whatever number is shown includes both of these figures. Often, they only list one or the other, which can be only half the financial picture.”

    The Zestimate

    While it can give you a ballpark home value, Peek said, “Do not use the Zestimate as a basis for an offer or expected listing price. They have a 7.9% margin of error for off-market properties. That’s a lot of money!”

    Signs of a Scam

    “There are scams out there, especially with rental listings on Zillow,” Michan said. “These scams can range from having you inquire in order for the scammer to get personal information to actually performing a transaction on a property they do not own or are authorized to represent.

    “One of the most common signs is if a property is listed for sale or rent at a much lower price than the typical price in the area and type of property. If you see this, don’t engage them in any way, and there should be a button on the listing where you can report it as a suspicious listing.”

    This article originally appeared on : House Hunting? 7 Things You Should Look For When Browsing Zillow Listings

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