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Zillow differs from Assessor

Say, the # of bedrooms on my house is wrong. Zillow shows 2, but the county assessor shows 3, which is correct.

The assessor previously showed 2, but their data has been updated. Theirs has been that way (i.e. 3) for a couple weeks, but Zillow still shows the old data.

Since our home is up for sale, this is important to us. Could you pls correct it?
Our address is 724 NE 204th St, Shoreline, WA 98155

Here's the link to the assessor's records, so you can see it firsthand:
http://www5.metrokc.gov/r ... 187700045

Please call me if you have any questions: Thx! Jim Peak
  • July 11 2007 - US
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Answers (25)

JimPeak-
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I have to apologize, but we do not manually change the public facts on homes in our database. We rely on 3rd party data aggregators for our property data -- please note that assessor data is often only updated once a year at the county level, therefore, updates to your home may take awhile to filter from the county records to our data providers and on to our site. I apologize for the wait - we will be using owner facts as an input into the Zestimate algorithm later this year. Thanks for your patience.
  • July 11 2007
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Profile picture for jim855
I can't speak for the King County (WA) assessor but our property records in Kitsap County (WA) are updated daily based on new information from property owners or our own periodic inspections. When our records do not match zillow's it does cause problems for both of us. So I guess it begs the question: What do you require of your "data aggregators" when it comes to updating the data? Our public data, which includes a download website for data aggregators, is updated weekly.

Jim Avery
Kitsap County Assessor
  • July 12 2007
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Jim-
As you know, counties across the country differ in the way to operate & the frequency which they update their data.

Can you please elaborate on what you mean by "what do we require of our data aggregators?"
  • July 12 2007
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Drew,
1. First off, THANKS for the quick response- and it's neat that there's an actual human behind the interface! :) :)

2. I must say, though, that when your data is provably different than the official data at the county (I gave you the link), it seems a bit odd for you to sidestep that by saying you "rely on 3rd party data aggregators for our property data."
Suppose I, as a restaurant owner, sell pizza with spoiled ham. I am, nonetheless, responsible for handing that out to the public, even though I obtained it from a "3rd party." It is the quality of the supplier, and how OFTEN I choose to get ham from them that I am responsible for. Zillow, as a public website, should be correct.

3. Not trying to be rude, but just getting to the point- you bring up the point of county data SUPPOSEDLY being only updated in some places yearly. HOWEVER, clearly in King County, where I am, that is not the case, nor is it apparently the case in Kitsap County (see Mr. Avery's response above). So, first, even if that WAS pertinent, it doesn't apply in this case.
But, an even more important point is that pointing out how often THEY update their data is a "straw man" argument- i.e. a misdirection from the real issue. The actual point is that ZILLOW'S data, as a publicly-visible entity, should be up-to-date, and it is NOT. So, the issue is not how often the assessor updates their records, but how often Zillow does (or, in this case, does NOT).

4. Finally, you say that in the future, you will be using "owner facts" as input to the Zalgorithm. You SHOULD say "actual facts" or "current county records!" Again, this is a straw man- it's not whether you include what *I'M* saying that I'm worried about- it's that your data is verifiably NOT FACTUAL. So, you really need to consider feeding the Zalgorithm ACTUAL facts, as opposed to your data from your "third party aggregator"- which, as you say, may also be up to a year old.

Please update the non-FACTUAL data!
  • July 12 2007
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Profile picture for Jim Peak
BTW- a quick explanation. When you said "please note that assessor data is often only updated once a year at the county level" in your reply- I assume that belief presumably must affect how often Zillow or its "3rd party aggregator" choose to check the county data.

That's why I said that the data you're apparently using may be "up to a year old." I'm NOT saying that any assessor actually lags that far behind.

Rather, I'm just saying that if Zillow has that belief, you have presumably reduced your proactiveness in keeping your records updated to what you feel is an appropriate level. Given the apparent Zillow belief, I could see how you might wait up to a year before checking with the assessor, or your 3rd party aggregator.

Just wanted to clarify that...

Finally, I wanted to say that despite the direct words, I am not trying to be rude. Rather, I just wanted to tell you, as concisely as possible, why I think the answer you provided did not leave me with a very positive feeling about how responsible Zillow, and you, may feel about presenting correct data.

I know you're a PERSON, and you go home at the end of the day- and I don't have any beef with you as a PERSON.

The thing I do take exception to in your reply is that when Zillow is doing something that's not-so-cool (serving spoiled ham on the pizza), it's good to just say, "Yup, it's spoiled- we're not doing so good in serving fresh and high-quality product- we'll do better."

Certainly, if the person brings the pizza BACK to you, you MANUALLY (if needed) replace the ham, and preferably the whole pizza... see what I mean? You don't bring up the supplier... and you certainly don't blame the original source (the live animal)- i.e. in this case the counties' records.

I guess I am asking that you either:
A. update the incorrect data to
B. change the incorrect label: it's NOT the "Public Data"- it's just Zillow's
C. remove that data, and leave it blank

Thanks!
  • July 12 2007
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Profile picture for jim855
I'd be happy to elaborate on my question above. I am sure that zillow has a contractual relationship with one or many data aggregators and I am also assuming that that contract calls for some frequency for updating. I'm certainly mindful of the cost involved in this process. And I'm sure that drives the frequency of update decision making. Certainly as Mr. Peak points out the more frequent the update the better for all concerned. Perhaps a cheap solution would be to prominently display the date of last update from the public record along with all the other property characteristics for each property.

Btw I'm still awaiting a response from my post of yesterday regarding "Basement Area". That's important to me because folks see the wrong information on your site and call us thinking we have it wrong. We tend to hear more from those where you over state the size than the ones where you show less than the actual. Not a surprise I guess since with us it's all about property taxes.--jim
  • July 12 2007
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JimPeak-
Sorry for the misunderstanding. We are not hiding behind our data aggregators -- the issue is with how we built our data infrastructure in the 1st place. We are working on addressing this so that we can change the public property facts, sales transactions, and tax assessment data that we receive on a one-off basis (meaning manually), but it takes many, many man hours of development time to make these changes. Right now, if we made a change at the database level, that data would just be overwritten with the next data import.

I hope this explanation helps a little bit.
  • July 12 2007
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Jim Avery-
I certainly agree - the more frequent the data is updated, the better for everyone. And yes, cost is certainly part of the frequency equation. I do like your suggestion of placing the date that data was last updated -- I'll forward it on to our product team.

We opening up the Zillow database for users to correct/update their home facts back in September for this exact reason -- we know the owners ultimately know the most about the house they live in. More info on that release can be found on the Zillow Blog - http://www.zillowblog.com/zillows-database-is-now-open-tell-us-about-your-homes/2006/09/

That said, building tools to correct the "actual facts" is a very, very high priority for us.
  • July 12 2007
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Jim Avery-
I must be missing it, but what is the specific "basement area" question? Are you wondering if we include it in our square footage count?
  • July 12 2007
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Here's my post from yesterday, which I fear will drop off the site unanswered tomorrow:

Topic is titled: Basement Area problem

First let me introduce myself. I am the Kitsap County WA Assessor. For the most part I appreciate the way in which Zillow uses the data we work so hard to maintain. I've reported this to you sometime ago but the problem still contiunes. Your data provider for our county is doing something to cause finished basement area not to be included as living area while unfinished basement area is included. Because of our topography we have many daylight basement homes where you usually find the basement level finished off equal to the rest of the dwelling. As you can imagine this significantly affects the accuracy of your zestimate here in Kitsap County. A couple examples of the problem are:
2514 E. 16th St. 98310--unfinished basement area counted as living space
5741 E. Hillcrest 98366--finished basement area not included as living space.

We have as much interest as you do in seeing accurate zestimates out there. I hope you will look into this.
Jim Avery
Kitsap County Assessor
javery@co.kitsap.wa.us
  • July 12 2007
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Hey, Drew, thanks for the amiable response- especially since mine was rather pointed.

Now what you're saying DOES make sense- I can totally relate- and I understand what it's like to try to change data when the system isn't built for that.

So, on to "going forward." Has Zillow considered changing the TITLE on the info? I think if you changed it from "public info" to "last collected info," or "last uploaded info," you'd be covering yourselves, especially if you include the "date last updated," as Mr. Avery suggests.

I honestly think this should be a change made, like, yesterday. For the sake of both property owners and the government who get the calls, I'd like to suggest in the strongest possible way that this not be done as a suggestion, but rather as a "let's change the column title THIS week."

I would argue that the entire flavor of the site leaves people with the impression that you are presenting current and accurate data from public sources. But, as in the case of my home, that's not necessarily true.

I feel strongly enough about this that further down, I ask you to contact me, so I can elaborate offline. I don't want to be too pointed online- as though I were trying to make a big stink about something. Rather, I just honestly think that Zillow is exposing itself to a possibly substantial legal risk, should their presentation be challenged...

Again- nothing personal- and no vendetta against Zillow. The trick is to match people's expectations to what you can deliver. So, you can either offer real-time data, or you can offer obvious disclaimers that the data is NOT necessarily current, and title the presentation of the data to show that it's just a conglomeration of data points, not necessarily current...

And, it's only in this area that I think there is a shortcoming...

Once you explained to me the practical limitations of your database- that makes total sense. Anyway, pls call 206-794-1550, so I can follow up offline, OK?
  • July 12 2007
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Drew, pls follow up with me offline, OK?

Jim Peak 206-794-1550
jimp@featureStrainer.com

Please contact me prior to 5p on Wed 7/18. I have sent you a similar msg via your "Contact me" tool.

I feel very strongly about this issue (not my house in particular, but the whole issue of Zillow info accuracy in general). In addition, I see this is a common thread among a number of people.

I want to make sure that someone inside Zillow is taking this issue seriously enough that I can receive some definite information about a timetable for change. I believe that it is imperative that we see some substantial changes in either the info, or the manner in which it is labeled and presented.

Thanks!

Jim Peak
  • July 13 2007
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I am seeing the same problem as other's in this post. My finished basement facts which are on the county assesor's records are being ignored (however the county does have the number of bedrooms wrong).

In the meantime I think you should update the property details page to show the edited facts along with the "public" facts that are at the *top* of the page. You should also include a note using language that states that the zestimate value is based on the "public" facts from your database and not the edited facts which the owner feels more accurately describes the property and may significantly alter the true value of the property.

I am currently trying to sell my home and what people are currently seeing on your site is a tiny house that is way overpriced for the area.
  • July 16 2007
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Jim Avery:

Thanks for your two examples of square footage issues in Kitsap.

The issue typified by the Hillcrest example has been fixed and changes should be visible on the site this Friday (7/20). Thanks so much to you and others for bringing it to our attention.

The issue typified by the 16th Street example apparently involves an Kitsap-specific problem with our data provider which results from unfinished basement area being passed to us in an incorrect field. We're working with our partner in this area to get this data fixed as soon as possible.

Also, in the coming months, our valuation algorithms will begin to incorporate user-edited information so any incorrect data can be updated by the owner and will then be reflected in the Zillow Zestimate. We’ve already had almost 900,000 homes claimed by Zillow users so user-edited data is an increasingly valuable resource both for valuation and for informing other visitors of the latest up-to-date information about homes.

That's a great idea about including an update date next to the Public Facts shown on the site. I've added the suggestion to our list of future enhancements. It doesn't seem too thorny to implement but I can't tell you right now when the change will hit the live site.

Don't know if you'll be at the IAAO Conference in Atlanta in September but would love to meet you there if you're going.
  • July 16 2007
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Thanks Stan. I look forward to these problems being solved. As you can imagine it is causing us problems with folks calling or emailing us to fix a problem that really wasn't there. In addition to upsetting house sellers it has to adversely affect your valuation algorithms when they look at sales where homes aren't sized correctly.

I'm not going to the IAAO conference but I will be at the Washington State Assessors annual conference Aug 6-9 in Walla Walla. I'm sure you would be welcome to attend and display as a vendor should you so desire. If so send me an email and I will get you more particulars. javery@co.kitsap.wa.us
  • July 17 2007
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Hey, since it looks like things are wrapping up on the different threads here, just wanted to apologize to the Zillow folks for the strong tone I was using earlier.

Sometimes I lose sight of the forest by looking too long at one tree... and reading back over the posts, I see I did that... sorry...

So, in retrospect, the fact that the data may not always be in synch is an irritation to me as a seller, sure- but what about the fact that they even managed to coalesce all the data from the assessors, etc, howEVER often they do it, and then display it... from an IT perspective, it's a STUNNING feet... and I totally missed THAT point in my earlier posts...

So, anyway- sorry about the tone... sounded like I was prosecuting a federal narcotics case, as opposed to talking about some numbers on a screen on a little device on my desk that I and others use occasionally... sorry about that, Drew, and others...

And, also- it really IS an amazing thing you're doing, behind the scenes- so kudos to you for even being able to pull it off... and thanks for fielding my rather over-sharp comments/questions...

Jim Peak
  • July 17 2007
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Drew,

My home is in the Village of Sagaponack, NY (zip 11962) - but Zillow lists it as being in the Village of Sag Harbor (zip 11963).  It used to be correct in Zillow, but changed to the incorrect zip and village a few months ago.  This is a significant error on Zillow's part, as Sagaponack NY (zip 11962) is often cited as the single most expensive zipcode in the United States.   The correct address for my home is 99 Parsonage Ln, Sagaponack, NY 11962.  For proof, please see the 3rd listing on page 51 (numbered page 977) of the Town of Southampton Assessment Roll at: http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/DeptDirectorygallery/Assessor/2007_assessment/sagaponack_final.pdf

Can Zillow please correct this error.

 

Thank you,

Adam

 

 

  • March 05 2008
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Drew,

 

In my prior post, the link to the Town of Southampton Assessment Roll was cut off.  The correct link is: http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/DeptDirectorygallery/Assessor/2007_assessment/sagaponack_final.pdf

 

Thank you,

Adam

  • March 05 2008
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I've been looking at the values of various Hamptons (Long Island New York) properties on Zillow.  Over the past 2-3months they have risen around 40-50%.  As this is not representative of the current property market, nor a reflection of the value of these properties, how is this possible on Zillow?

  • March 31 2008
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I'd like to resurrect this thread as I don't see much progress over the past six months.  The finisished basement problem still exists.  At least here in Kitsap County zillow is not including finished basement square feet as living area.  I am sure this results in low zestimates in addtion to flawed algorithms when using data extracted from sales houses configured with finished basement living area.  Two examples are:

5741 E. Hillcrest, 98366, zsqft = 1244'.  Actual living area per county records = 2488'

8275 OFarrell, 98366,  zsqft = 1355'.  Actual living area per county records = 2483'

 

Also you all agreed last year that adding a "last updated date" to the data shown on each parcel would be a good idea.  And as stated above by stanh @ zillow on 7/16/07 "it doesn't seem too thorny".  Are we getting any closer to including this this important bit of information?

 

Jim Avery

Kitsap County Assessor

 

  • July 07 2008
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I must say I am concerned that my house is on Zillow and while it has given me good info, I know for a fact that our local town tax assessors are using Zillow, as well as mortgage companies....so an increase in taxes even in a down market...I expect my taxes will rise this year yet my property value has declined.  I am worried that Zillow is now crossing a line that I'm not feeling very good about...perhaps when the housing boom happened, it was a good thing for all...I hope/believe Zillow will re-assess what they are doing here...who are you supporting?  The home owners or the tax assessors and mortgage companies?  If you say both, I will be disappointed that you are sitting on the fence vs disclosing the real purpose of your website because it shows up/down trends but just doesn't seem to work with tax assessments that are being done on previous years' inflated $.  Thank you from an avid Zillow customer who is getting very squeamish now about all of this....yet it seems now I can't remove my  house from Zillow?  That alone worries me ALOT!  THE BIG BROTHER STUFF is not quite what I thought living in the USA was about...so I will have to control it myself and not offer any more info here.


JT from Connecticut

  • July 07 2008
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Dear Jim Peak,  I would like to have my home removed from zillow.  I see nothing that allows me to do that.  I am a very disgusted home owner that this web shows completely bogus values on homes!!!!!  Im surprised no one has sued this company or maybe they have and its covered up!  Please remove address 12511 228th st ne Arlington, wa 98223 asap thanks Brenda
  • October 26 2011
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I understand your desire for privacy and why you want to remove your house. Zillow does not remove houses from the site as far as I know because the most of the information posted is public information. They have more information in the video "Can I remove my home from Zillow?".

About the best you can do is make sure your house information is accurate and up to date. You can also make a Zestimate comment as the owner.
  • October 27 2011
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Thanks Sunnyview for your reply and the video that answered my immediate question. But that doesnt help the fact that the web site is bogus with its numbers.  Maybe i can better understand that the values could be based soley on the home only?  What they dont seam to do is accurately have a value on the entire estate.  Based on my zestimate that is obviously the case and im unhappy to see that $ set on my estate. i think the company needs to have a better program for setting these values. Who is responsible for this!!!! of course no one its the  internet!
  • October 27 2011
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@Brenda;  You can get a list of the management team at Zillow in the "about us" section on this web page at the very bottom of this page. 
  • October 27 2011
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