Zillow to make cash offers from its Zestimate on some San Diego homes

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Online real-estate tracker Zillow says it will offer cash for some homes in San Diego County based on its well-known Zestimate formula, which estimates value.

Zillow introduced the formula in 2006, which allows buyers and sellers to quickly look up an estimate on a specific home price. In an announcement Thursday, Zillow said it will make offers for the Zestimate due its growth in reliability, and to show that its confidence in its proprietary formula. A news release says the formula has a median error of 1.9 percent off a property’s final sale price.

“For 15 years, homeowners and home shoppers have come to rely on the Zestimate as an essential first step,” said a statement from Zillow Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Wacksman. “Presenting the Zestimate as a cash offer to qualifying homes up front will save time, reduce friction and provide greater transparency – getting us closer to our vision of helping customers transact with the click of a button.”

Would-be sellers can see if their home is eligible by searching for their property on Zillow’s website and clicking on the green “get cash offer” button. Zillow says its service allows sellers a more hassle-free experience by eliminating time and resources to prepare and stage a home, including bypassing open houses and showings. They can also choose their closing date.

Still, that ease of transaction comes at a cost. According to its website, the company charges a convenience fee that averages 2.5 percent, but ranges from 1.5 to 7.9 percent. That’s on top of a 6 percent selling fee, which mirrors traditional but negotiable fees paid to a buyers and sellers agent.

“Zillow is actually trying to break even on buying and selling homes,” said company spokeswoman Amanda Pendleton. “Where Zillow makes its money is in that service fee, that convenience fee the fee you pay for not having to do those repairs, showings or open houses.”

Pendleton noted Zillow would plan to re-sell the homes it buys after making repairs, but would not rent them out permanently or temporarily as vacation homes.

David Spiewak, a San Diego realtor with Coldwell Banker, said the Zillow service could work for those who need to sell fast, such as if there is a death in a family. However, those who want top dollar, such as a move-up buyer, should go the traditional route in a market like San Diego, where multiple offers can bid-up prices.

“The more eyes on your property, the more money you’re going to make, bottom line, I think it’s no secret it’s pretty much a seller’s market,” he said.

In San Diego County, the median price for a single family home grew 13.8 percent over the year to $716,000, and the median price for a county grew 11 percent year-over-year to $480,000, according to CoreLogic.

Zillow says its Zestimate is available for 100 million homes nationwide. It says the formula relies on public records, listing services and artificial intelligence.

San Diego is one of 20 markets where Zesimates will be offered to a subset of homes.

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