According to a recent report from Zillow, a significant number of markets across the nation are seeing price reductions across all ranges. Is that a sign of depreciation? What can buyers and sellers expect when it comes to the bidding process?

In this weeks BobMortgage Zone episode, Bob Johnson (AKA BobMortgage) tells us what these lower listing prices and “corrections” are — and especially what they aren’t. Get the pulse of the real estate market with Bob Johnson, senior mortgage adviser at the nation’s oldest private lender, Wallick & Volk.

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scam

(Illustration courtesy Pixabay)

Every so often, I’ll get tipped about a listing in Dallas that seems too good to be true — a scam, some might say. Sometimes you get photos of the inside, and immediately understand why the Realtor or owner chose a bargain price.

Other times, you know immediately it’s a scam. And that’s what happened Friday when someone mentioned a three-bedroom, two-bath listing near Knox-Henderson that had been priced at $34,000.

Now, we’ve done this before, and by now most CandysDirt.com readers know we have zero reticence about engaging with folks that are probably up to no good. A few years ago we did just that when a property owner found her rental listing duplicated, with the new listing offering the house in Highland Park for a ridiculously low $1,000 a month.

Now, I’d love to send you to the actual listing, but after being alerted by the actual property owner (more on that in a minute), Zillow pulled the fraudulent listing down. However, knowing this would probably be the case, I grabbed screenshots. (more…)

recessionDallas was among nine metros where the bulk of home values have hit pre-recession levels, affordability is hampering one age group in particular from purchasing homes, Zillow is making yet another bid toward world domination, and mortgage rates are ticking up — all this and more in this week’s real estate news roundup. (more…)

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…)

Here is news coming from the east coast that the State of New York is considering — mind you, just chatting about — regulating online real estate ads placed by agents. The focus is on third party ads such as Zillow’s “Premiere Agent” whereby an agent buys an ad on another agent’s listing. That is, the on line publication/portal,  Zillow or Realtor.com, displays a listing. You would think, or at least I did when I first discovered this process, that only the agent who is actually contractually listing that home would be allowed to advertise next to it, right? I mean, who knows the listing better than the actual listing agent?

Wrong: any licensed agent can buy the spot for lead generation.

I learned of this process when I first started writing about real estate listings at D Magazine. I’d surf the web looking for homes, amazed at how many beauties I could find out there. I’d find one, then move over to see who the listing agent was to call for more information and photo permission, etc.  Nine times out of ten I called someone who was not listing the house, and knew nothing about it for my editorial purposes. Surely they were sorely disappointed I was an editor, not an online millionaire from New Zealand wanting to invest in Dallas real estate. This bugged me — because I’d have to scroll forever to find the actual agent — until I learned what was going on. Right from the getgo, I said, I don’t think this is fair to the consumer. If they are really interested in a property, why shouldn’t they or their agent have direct access to the listing agent, not a go-between?

Apparently the state of New York thinks the same thing. (more…)

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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