Zillow & Price Comparison

Zillow is an American online real estate platform, established in 2006 by former Microsoft executives and Expedia founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink. Similar to many other online platforms, Zillow does not earn revenue or profit from sales or rentals that take place through its website or tools; rather, it considers itself a “media company” and generates revenue through advertising. In order for Zillow to continue to succeed and grow, it must maintain a high volume of traffic on its website and digital properties, and provide users with a useful, reliable experience.

As of 2015, the platform listed 110 million properties in the US for sale or for rent. It offers a number of features important to its users (agents, renters, landlords, sellers and buyers), such as photos and aerial views, property details and metrics, mobile apps, mortgage quotes, and a real estate “advice” community. Some features are shared by similar platforms, but many are unique to Zillow and explain its industry domination.

Zillow is well-qualified as a price comparison tool: it is free and easy to use, earns revenue through advertising, and its price data comes from a variety of sources, including user-generated content, other listing platforms, public data and real estate databases.

Zillow’s price comparison features extend and surpass the functionality offered by similar online real estate platforms, and even some retail and e-commerce platforms. Some of the price-related features include home evaluations/estimates, historical tracking of home value over time, and prices of comparable properties in the area. Zillow’s mobile app is also available on all major devices including iPhone, Android, iPad, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and AppleTV, so it’s comparative tools are “always on” and readily available to users on-the-go.

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Unlike other platforms, Zillow also offers ratings and reviews of real estate agents, along with their current listings and past sales: another comparative tool of value to users.

Unfortunately there were not any properties available to me in Toronto, Canada, however my testing was based on properties in nearby Buffalo, NY as well as user feedback on the app stores and public forums. Having used a variety of online real estate platforms over the years – as a buyer and seller, and as a renter (but never a landlord!), I’m impressed with the extensive feature set Zillow offers its users, in particular the historical price tracking, comparable listings and evaluation tools. The mobile app even allows you to draw an area to search, a good use of “touch” smartphone technology.

As is common to all mobile apps and online platforms, technical bugs or stability issues cause user frustration and dropoff, so Zillow is best to prioritize maintenance and improvements to keep users satisfied and engaged.

The key to ongoing success is in growing and maintaining an enormous database of listings and properties: this content or “inventory” is what will keep users returning. Apparently the listings are not “live”, however, so I would suggest a tighter integration with other platforms to ensure current listings as one important improvement.

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