ZillowIn a bid to be all the things, Zillow announced just minutes ago that it has launched new tools that will not only allow property owners and managers to collect rent and vet prospective tenants more easily, but will also provide renters with the ability to submit multiple applications for apartments at once and pay rent online.

The tools will also screen prospective tenants by performing background checks, the company said in a press release. (more…)

 

What are the best Dallas-area neighborhoods for trick or treating? Find out from Zillow. (Photo: Stephen Depolo via Flickr)

What a treat! Zillow released its annual Trick or Treat Index, and this year, Dallas haunts the chart at No. 11. The index narrows down the best cities to score candy based on single-home density, average home values, and number of children under 10. In summary: More candy for less walking.

After the jump, check out  Zillow’s list of top spots and a few other local haunts. Plus, brush up on some Halloweeen safety tips to keep the night freakishly fun. Got any favorite trick-or-treating spots? Hit us up in the comments with the best neighborhoods for those full-size candy bars.

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Are Zestimates an invasion of privacy?

Back in May, Zillow was sued by several flippers in Chicago who were annoyed that Zestimates were undervaluing their flips (likely because the system hadn’t caught up) and bringing in bottom feeders using Zestimates as holy writ on appraised value and therefore purchase price.

In my May coverage, I noted that Zillow seemed to have an easily winnable case because Illinois law makes exceptions for using an “automated valuation model.” Simply, because it’s an algorithm analyzing data and not someone physically evaluating a property, it’s OK.  This morning, U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve agreed with me when she dismissed that count of the lawsuit with prejudice (haha). Note: “with prejudice” means it can’t be tried again … it’s done.

However she also dismissed counts II-IV without prejudice, meaning they could be tried again, even though she ranks the odds of success as slim.

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This statement just came over from Zillow. The real estate search giant says it won’t pursue legal action against Kate Wagner and the McMansion Hell blog, but Wagner agrees not to use Zillow photos moving forward. 

“It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down” they say. Well, when a billion dollar company threatens you with a cease and desist, think you just keep on publishing? 

Bad PR move on Zillow to send Wagner that letter. Good move to send out this notice.

Hello, please see below for a statement from Zillow.

We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won’t use photos from Zillow moving forward.

It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate’s freedom of expression. We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners – the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients’ homes.  

Emily

EMILY HEFFTER 
Public Relations Manager 

P 206.757.4439 
M 206.850.5970 

 @EmilyHeffter

Update, 6/29: I know what it feels like to be legally bullied, and it is scary as hell. I have just heard that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) is now helping Ms. Wagner! 

If you have wondered what has happened to the hilarious and often irreverent blog, “McMansion Hell,” that we have linked to on a few occasions, you’ll have to wait for the book*. McMansion Hell temporarily shut down after the founder, a 23-year old grad student at Johns Hopkins, got a cease and desist letter from none other than Zillow!

On Monday, Kate Wagner, a John Hopkins grad student focusing on architectural acoustics, found herself staring down the legal letterhead of a cease and desist order. In her spare time, she runs a popular blog, McMansion Hell, which skewers the trend of mass-produced suburban mansions. Posts on the site featured promotional shots with amenities like “doors to nowhere” and “compulsory chandeliers.” Real estate aggregator Zillow was not happy when it noticed she was using photos from its site. Wagner posted a picture of the order to her Twitter account and has since taken down the site while she seeks legal counsel.

Wagner started the blog just last year, and amid the ever-escalating obsession of Americans with real estate, it has grown and proliferated and been featured/linked to from many huge eyeball-reading sites such as Business Insider, The Independent, and Huffington Post.  Our tag line, for example, is “The people who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt.” Wagner’s is “If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you’ve come to the right place.”

McMansion Hell was a cleverly written blog that mixed sarcasm, internet/millennial lingo, and erudition into commentary all superimposed digitally onto real estate listing photos; sometime the front of a house, often the interiors. There was copy, too.  She created a whole section of homes that are “Certified Dank™” (Texas has 3), her collection of the worst of the worst or “fugly”. Knowing how long and hard we work here at CandysDirt.com to produce quality content, I am sure Kate spent hours upon hours at her laptop.

Alas, many Texas homes have been featured on the site.

It is interesting that Zillow, arguably the biggest, most popular and influential real estate website on the planet, sent the cease-and-desist to someone making $22,000 off her blog. Because Zillow makes all its revenue and builds its business model off of using photos provided to it for free from MLS feeds across the country.

Of course, it has permission to do so, which is Zillow’s “rational” for the cease and desist:

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Editor’s Note: Jon and Candy are in Denver, at NAREE, and they are hearing a LOT about Instant Offer, Open Door, and other institutional iBuyer platforms. Homevestors, for example, told them they won’t sell a house to someone who has not physically seen it. Full deets next week!

By Alex Doubet
CEO and Founder of DOOR

Alex Doubet

There is a cottage industry in the world of real state agents of generating an uproar over the continued march of innovation. This cottage industry complains about innovation in general, and the effects of the internet on the brokerage space, specifically. The recent announcement of Zillow Instant Offers (ZIO) moved that cottage industry into full-tilt hysteria.

ZIO is nothing more than a slightly different iteration of the business model pioneered by home buying companies such as HomeVestors (of “We Buy Ugly Houses” fame). Opendoor is another recent entry into that same space.

Zillow recently rolled out ZIO as a product to connect homeowners on their web portal with investors. Real estate agents immediately screamed about Zillow “bypassing agents” and “taking our data and profiting on it.”

First things first, listing data does not belong to agents.

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Greg Hague is a Phoenix-based real estate broker and owner of Real Estate Mavericks. He is also an attorney. He is mad as hell at Zillow and “not going to take it anymore.” So Greg has started an on-line petition, that we are including here, in case you want to sign it. There are already A LOT of signatures, at this printing more than 12,000.

We told you about Zillow’s new “Instant Offers” program, an integrated experience which allows sellers to bypass Realtors completely and buy homes online. Certain homes. Instant Offers allows homeowners to receive all-cash offers on line from a group of 15 large investors along with a side-by-side comparative market analysis (CMA) from a local Zillow agent Zillow advertiser.

Many Realtors, like Greg, see the program as an attempt to push them aside, breaking many promises the company has made to steer clear of the transaction. (more…)

By now you have called in to refill your Xanex Rx after learning that Zillow is not only democratizing the home buying process, it’s turning it into an Amazon-like experience. We knew this was coming.

The online real estate disruptor announced this week a pilot program for buying and selling homes online called “Zillow Instant Offers.”

The way it’s working now: if the seller chooses to use the “Instant Offer” program, they will also receive a comparative market analysis from a local real estate agent, free of charge. That can help them decide if they want to proceed with the sale, and it might even lead to a lead for the providing agent.

One might ask, why not use a “Zestimate”? I mean, Zestimates drive us all crazy, though I think, I hope, by now homeowners know it’s really a starting point, nowhere near the actual value. Last year Zillow announced they had significantly improved the accuracy of the Zestimate tool, and after all, they said, home is worth only what someone is willing to actually pay for it. I believe there are nuances in that phrase: interest in real estate spurs more looking, which in turn spurs more buying. But keep repeating the fake message enough and it becomes the truth!

Jon tells us Zillow is getting sued in Illinois over those Zestimates.

So it’s interesting that at this critical juncture, Zillow is looking to boots on the ground agents with knowledge of the market to back up their AVM. Maybe this is the mousetrap… (more…)