Zestimate will be a 'live offer for every house,' Zillow CEO says

Rich Barton painted a future Monday in which Zillow's home valuation tool doubles as part of its iBuying program

Zillow founder and CEO Rich Barton said Monday that in the future the home valuation Zestimate tool will double as an offer from his company to buy any house in the U.S.

Barton made the comments when asked by WBUR, a Boston-based National Public Radio member station, if offers from the company’s iBuyer program Zillow Offers, which pays homeowners cash for their property, align with the values produced by the Zestimate.

Rich Barton, co-founder and CEO of Zillow Group

“That’s the psychic goal,” Barton replied. “That’s the ideal. Ideally I would like to have the Zestimate be a live offer for every house in the country.”

Barton added that “it will take quite some time to get there,” but that is, nevertheless, “where we’re headed.”

“The closer I can get to making the Zillow Offer actually match the Zestimate the more certain people can be about what their house is actually worth,” Barton continued.

Responding to Inman’s request for comment, a Zillow spokesperson said in an email that the company is “always experimenting with new ways to improve the Zestimate.” That includes looking at different ways data scientists have built algorithms for the tool, as well as incorporating contextual information such as road noise or proximity to parks. However, the company did not say how long it might take before the Zestimate and Zillow Offers are completely aligned.

In addition, the Zestimate has also generated some controversy in the past; the tool is currently the subject of a lawsuit alleging Zillow conspired with real estate brokerages to hide its valuations for certain properties. Tweaks to the tool that led to valuation changes have raised eyebrows, and questions, in the recent past as well.

For now, however, Zillow Offers is gradually expanding across the U.S. — it should be live in 14 metro areas by the end of this year — and is increasingly playing a larger role in Zillow’s bottom line. During his interview with WBUR, Barton echoed his own earlier comments about the program, saying that within three to five years Zillow Offers could be doing $20 billion in sales per year. Barton said that amounts to about 5,000 houses per month.

The possible convergence of Zillow Offers and the Zestimate also comes at a time of intense transition for the company. Barton only just returned to helm Zillow last month, and on Tuesday the company unveiled a sweeping rebranding campaign. The campaign includes a reimagined lead generation platform for agents, now dubbed Zillow Premier Agent, as well as a service to provide home loans for buyers.

During his interview Monday with WBUR, Barton referred to these transitions and said that Zillow is once again a “startup.” Barton — who took over for now-departed CEO Spencer Rascoff — also indicated that he had returned to the chief executive chair in order to guide the company through a period of significant change.

“I’m bringing kind of an insurgent’s mindset back to the company,” Barton said.

This post was updated after publication with additional comment from a Zillow spokesperson.

Email Jim Dalrymple II