Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff sold home for much LESS than his own Zestimate!!!!!

You know we Realtors out there are thrilled with this news story. After so many difficult conversations explaining why¬†a zestimate is not accurate ‚Äď for the CEO to sell his home below his own zestimate ‚Äď well it does leave us smiling ear to ear. There is a reason why online, automated home values do not work. In theory ‚Äď they are a great tool and should work. But in actuality ‚Äď they are often very inaccurate and set the bar for disappointment. If you are curious about the worth of your home, contact your Realtor ‚Äď or The Caton Team. We‚Äôd be happy to prepare a custom, accurate and local snapshot of what your home is worth in today‚Äôs dynamic Real Estate market. Thank you for reading ‚Äď Sabrina 650.586.5522 info@TheCatonTeam.com


Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff sold home for much less than Zestimate

Clients putting Zestimates on a pedestal? Point them toward this sale

Key Takeaways

  • Agents can demonstrate the Zestimate’s shortcomings by showing the discrepancy between the sales price of a home formerly owned by Zilow CEO Spencer Rascoff and its Zestimates.
  • Luxury home Zestimates are more likely to be off than others due to ‘non-quantifiable facts.’
  • Irregular lot sizes or proximity to ‘arterial’ roads can sometimes throw off Zestimates.


Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff may have recently given real estate agents a gift they won’t soon forget: a sure-fire way to show that Zestimates can miss by a mile.

How? By selling a property for much less than its Zestimate.

On February 29, Rascoff sold a Seattle home for $1.05 million, 40 percent less than the Zestimate of $1.75 million shown on its property page a day later.

The gap between the Zestimate of Rascoff’s former property and its sales price has decreased only modestly since then.

Zillow readily acknowledges that Zestimates can be inaccurate, but some consumers can still take them at face value, causing headaches for agents.

Citing the chasm between the sales price of Rascoff’s former home and the property’s Zestimate may be one way for real estate professionals to show clients that Zestimates are, as Zillow says, only a conversation starter for pricing a home, not the final word on its value.


Zillow CEO sold his home for way less than Zestimate.


Philip¬†Gray, a¬†San Leandro, California-based appraiser, is taking this approach. Bringing up the Zestimate of the property Rascoff recently offloaded will¬†help him deal with¬†the frequent pushback he receives from homeowners ‚Äúwho¬†think Zillow is the magic 8-ball,‚ÄĚ he said.

‚ÄėWe missed‚Äô¬†

Zestimates on Rascoff’s former home have certainly been overstating the property’s value, said Zillow Chief Analytics Officer Stan Humphries.

‚ÄúThe fact that we missed and there are empirical reasons we missed ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs a great conversation that real estate agents should have‚ÄĚ with consumers, he said, citing the property‚Äôs irregular lot and location¬†on a¬†busy¬†road as partly responsible for its Zestimate‚Äôs inaccuracy.

But he¬†expressed hope that, in the same discussion, agents¬†also won‚Äôt¬†instill ‚Äúdata nihilism‚ÄĚ in consumers, and¬†that they acknowledge¬†that humans¬†also can miss the mark.

Smaller gap at start

In July, the Zestimate of Rascoff’s former property wouldn’t have raised the eyebrows of anyone who’s familiar with automated valuation models (AVMs). At $1.388 million, the property’s Zestimate was 7.3 percent higher than its listing price of $1.295 million at the time.

Since Zillow only shows revised historical Zestimate data on property pages, the home’s property page currently indicates that the property’s Zestimate was around $1.6 million in July 2015, somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 more than the Zestimate that actually appeared on its property page on July 17, 2015. For all anyone knew in July 2015, the property might have eventually sold at a price closer to its Zestimate than its listing price.

But that didn’t happen. The home later sold for $1.05 million, 19 percent below its July listing price. Undergoing a number of price cuts, the property was listed and de-listed several times between when it was originally listed on July 7, 2015 and when it sold on February 29, 2016.

If Rascoff thought his home was worth its July listing price, the outcome of the sale might have come as a disappointment. But if the success of the transaction were judged by the property’s Zestimate, it was a failure.

The home’s Zestimate was $1,750,405 on March 1, the day after the property sold for $1,050,000.

If that Zestimate were accurate, it¬†would mean the chief of the biggest name in real estate and the recent¬†co-author¬†of a book about ‚Äúthe new rules of real estate‚Ä̬†would have¬†sold his home for 40 percent less than it was worth.

Automated valuations vary

In addition to highlighting the shortcomings of Zestimates, the Zestimate of Rascoff’s home also brings into focus the potential for some automated valuations to be more accurate than others.

Unlike Zillow‚Äôs property page on the home the day after it sold, Redfin‚Äôs page on the home showed that the sale had occurred. At the time, it displayed a valuation of $1.1 million¬†‚ÄĒ¬†much closer to¬†the¬†property‚Äôs sales price of $1.05 million.


On Thursday, May 5, Redfin’s estimate of the home’s value was $1.3 million.

So while Zillow’s estimate had come down by around $140,000 since the home sold, Redfin’s had increased by about $200,000. Both differed from the price the home sold for a little over two months ago by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Zillow has since added the sales price of Rascoff’s former home to its property page.

The property’s Zestimate had slipped from $1,750,405 the day after it sold to $1,608,670 on May 5, but its Zestimate on May 5 still only represented 65 percent of what the home sold for a little over two months before.

To judge the Zestimate’s accuracy based solely on the gap between the sales price of Rascoff’s former home and its Zestimate would probably be unfair. The discrepancy is unusually wide, according to what Zillow says is the Zestimate’s median error rate.

Zillow puts the Zestimate’s national median error rate at 7.9 percent, meaning half of Zestimates nationwide are within 7.9 percent of a home’s sales price and half are off by more than 7.9 percent. The listing portal claims an even higher level of accuracy in Seattle, where Rascoff’s former home is located.

There, Zestimates for half of homes are supposed to be within 6.1 percent of their sales price, while half are supposed to be off by more than 6.1 percent. This suggests that the Zestimate of Rascoff’s home missed by much more than normal in Seattle.

Why was that?

One reason is that the home’s Zestimate was comparing Rascoff’s former home, which is located on a triangular lot, to recently sold homes located on rectangular lots, according to Humphries.

Since rectangular lots provide more utility than triangular lots, he said, that meant the Zestimate was overvaluing the plot of Rascoff’s home.

Another reason was that Rascoff‚Äôs home was located on an ‚Äúarterial‚ÄĚ road while nearby recently sold homes sat on quieter streets.

Zillow continues to research how to program Zestimates to account for such factors, but¬†‚Äúwe haven‚Äôt fully cracked the nut on that one‚ÄĚ yet, Humphries said.

‚ÄėThe classic luxury homes problem‚Äô

Zillow Senior Economist Skylar Olsen added that the Zestimate of Rascoff‚Äôs home represents ‚Äúthe classic luxury homes problem.‚ÄĚ

Zestimates can‚Äôt take into account ‚Äúnon-quantifiable facts,‚ÄĚ such as layout design or lighting, and these facts can have much¬†more of an effect on the values of luxury homes than less expensive¬†properties, she said.

Real¬†estate agents can see how¬†special features impact a property‚Äôs¬†value, but the ‚ÄúZestimate algorithm can‚Äôt know‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúat this point in time, it‚Äôs not designed to know,‚Ä̬†she said.

The reason why the Zestimate of Rascoff‚Äôs former property hasn‚Äôt dropped dramatically since selling at a much lower price than Zestimates leading up to the sale is that the Zestimates have a ‚Äúsmoothing function‚Ä̬†designed to keep them¬†from¬†overreacting to recent property sales.

The Zestimate on the Rascoff’s former property will gradually come down to more closely resemble its sales price. And upcoming updates to the Zestimate’s algorithms will adjust the smoothing function so that the Zestimate of a home that sells will come to more closely mirror its sales price much faster.

Also worth noting is that Zillow does not have access to sold listing data from the¬†Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the MLS that covers Seattle. Automated valuation models (AVMs)¬†that crunch¬†sold MLS data¬†can have an advantage over AVMs that only use public sales records ‚ÄĒ¬†which are the only sales records used by Zestimates covering Seattle.

While Zillow says on its website that¬†most consumers understand that Zestimates truly are only estimates, the listing portal concedes that, sometimes, ‚Äúsomeone will come along that insists on setting the price they are willing to buy or sell for based solely on the Zestimate.‚ÄĚ

Zillow goes on to say¬†that ‚Äúeducation is the key‚ÄĚ and that, armed with knowledge of how Zestimates are calculated¬†along with their local median error rate, agents can¬†explain ‚Äúwhy the Zestimate is a good starting point as well as a historical reference, but it should not be used for pricing a home.‚ÄĚ

While¬†Zestimates can¬†create¬†hassles for agents, some agents would certainly agree with Zillow‚Äôs assertion¬†that¬†understanding how a Zestimate is¬†calculated,¬†along with its strengths and weaknesses, ‚Äúcan¬†provide the real estate pro with an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise.‚ÄĚ

The gap between the Zestimate of Rascoff’s former property and its sales price may have made it easier for agents to seize that opportunity.

Zillow‚Äôs Humphries‚Äô hopes¬†that, when putting Zestimates in perspective for consumers, agents¬†will also acknowledge¬†that Zestimates do have a scientific basis, and that¬†nobody‚Äôs perfect ‚ÄĒ even trained professionals.

He noted that a study¬†released by Zillow in 2012 showed that the typical¬†gap between a home‚Äôs Zestimate and its sales price wasn‚Äôt that much larger¬†than the typical gap between a home‚Äôs initial list price ‚ÄĒ¬†which is often set based on a¬†real estate agent‚Äôs recommendation ‚ÄĒ and its sales price.

‚ÄúWe acknowledge humans¬†are great at this, and we‚Äôre great too ‚ÄĒ but they‚Äôre greater,‚Ä̬†Humphries said.


I read this article at: https://www.inman.com/2016/05/18/zillow-ceo-spencer-rascoff-sold-home-for-much-less-than-zestimate/?utm_source=20160521&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklyheadlines

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