Zillow.com, which launched its home valuation service Wednesday, was plagued with outages throughout the day.

Hundreds of thousands of people visited the site, Zillow reported on its blog. Their interest was doubtless piqued by stories running in almost every major media outlet in the country, including Inman News, and the reputation of Zillow Founder Richard Barton, who also founded Expedia.

Visitors to Zillow encountered long waits for the site to load, often ending up only with messages such as, “Our apologies. Due to overwhelming demand, our beta site is down. We’ll be back online as soon as possible. Please check with us again later.”

The site attracted more than 300,000 page views between midnight and 7 a.m., according to the Zillow blog.

Spencer Rascoff, chief financial officer and vice president of marketing at Zillow, reported, “Zillow is a bit slow right now. Sorry,” on his blog. Earlier, he had posted, “Check it out. But remember, it’s a beta and we have a few kinks to work out.”

Often, when a huge number of people try to access a Web site at the same time, the unexpected volume can cause the servers to crash.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Zillow blog claimed that the site was “stable,” though access still was sporadic.

“We’re back up, albeit slowly due to the massive traffic we’re still receiving,” Amanda Hoffman, a Zillow spokeswoman, said.

“We were a little overwhelmed by the traffic we were getting earlier, but have made the necessary adjustments to handle a higher volume. The site should continue to get faster as the day goes on and we make more adjustments to the system. Hopefully before too long we should be back to running at a normal speed,” Hoffman said in an e-mail message around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

After doing a few valuations on the site, Arizona Realtor Bill Buckner said, “This must be the wholesale prices model, because they missed retail values by a country mile. Looks like the Realtor will still be needed, and has not been replaced by ‘Hal.'”

Real estate agent Julie Knudtsen of Bellevue, Wash., is in the process of refinancing her own home. “My professional appraisal came out at $845,000, which I felt was a bit high as refinance appraisals often are. However, my Zillow estimate came in at $934,000.  Wow … talk about overpriced,” she wrote in an e-mail. 

“The real danger for the consumer is that if they buy into an over-priced estimation of their home pricing, they will run into real problems when they try to sell for that price,” Knudtsen wrote.

Zillow.com launched in beta, offering free home-value estimates and data on more than 60 million houses in the United States.

The company has attracted much attention in its pre-launch stage over the last year, with many speculating that Zillow’s team could force drastic change in the real estate industry — which historically has been resistant to new entrants.

The Seattle-based company is positioning itself as a provider of research tools and information to help real estate consumers perform more research on their own.

Site users can go to Zillow.com and enter their address to get their home’s “Zestimate,” the term the company is using for home valuation estimates calculated through Zillow. The “Zestimates” are updated daily using the company’s compiled public data and an algorithm created by its statisticians to reflect the current market value.


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