Opportunity, at times, cloaks itself in annoyance. Some real estate agents like to grumble about Zillow and their clients’ propensity to take the Zestimate and other data points as gospel.
However, a website with the level of access and data-gathering power that Zillow has presents a real opportunity. One interesting thing that Zillow does is make its data fully accessible to any end user. The data are all downloadable and available to be used.
Zillow’s data download by city or metro area is a massive series of spreadsheets but provides the best chance at diving deep into their numbers. Below are some basic steps for working with the spreadsheets.
1. Isolate the data sets you need. For each report, you will probably be looking only at a few areas. You will likely be focusing on the area you work in — if you get a great influx of buyers from another city, perhaps that area, too — so you can compare and contrast housing values and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
2. Once you isolate the areas you need, also take a look at the time periods you need. You may only want to examine pivotal years that tell the story in your market, or you can put them all into a graph, which could be easier to analyze.
3. Now that you’ve got only the data you want to examine, look at each Zillow spreadsheet. Some relate to Zillow’s housing indices, while others deal directly with sold price and price per square foot.
Using the stats from every single spreadsheet is likely overkill and may overwhelm your end user. Focus on the data that relates to the story you want to tell. Are there time periods of dramatic rise or fall? Which data segments are most relevant to your market? Zillow breaks the data into condos, single-family homes and rentals, as well as dividing up data by housing price and size. Depending on where your market focus lies, you may want to exclude some of the data.
4. Now that you’ve got the data you want, it’s often a good idea to compare them to other data in the marketplace — such as data from your local MLS (multiple listing service) or numbers from other local, statewide and national real estate associations. The numbers often differ, but the trend patterns should be similar and should help you find the story you want to share with your clients. You can also incorporate local economic data to help craft an overall picture.
5. Conveying the data to your clients has two components: words and images. Putting the data in context makes it more than just a flurry of numbers; context makes those numbers relevant to the reader.
Combine your analysis of the data with simple graphics. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make things visually interesting. You can use an inexpensive service to create simple graphics or create charts right in Excel.
These data can be shared in blog posts, newsletters, email, presentations and conversations. Your analysis can also serve as an introduction, inviting your client to request more information, such as a CMA (comparative market analysis).
Like the Zestimate, these data are not the ultimate authority, but they will hand you another tool to use in the ongoing quest to provide clients with the most comprehensive overview of their real estate world.
And for clients who may already be on Zillow, using data directly from their favorite real estate website may actually bolster their faith in your acumen!