Some Zillow Listings Are Not For Sale

Some Homes in Zillow Are Not For SaleWhen you perform a search on Zillow for homes for sale, the results you get may include some homes that are not actually for sale! In a strange situation that is becoming increasingly frustrating for Realtors, Zillow includes listings that are considered in “pre-foreclosure” status, listings that are not actually for sale and may never be for sale.

These results are misleading to potential home buyers and leave real estate agents explaining what is, and what is not, available from the search results produced by Zillow. While Zillow provides some excellent real estate data points and offers a pleasing presentation for buyers on their site, having inaccurate information quite frankly sucks!

Just like inaccurate Zillow estimates of value, having information that is misleading on their site offers little value to consumers. Real Estate agents know all too well it can be frustrating to have to explain over and over to both buyers and sellers why you cannot possibly expect an online tool to accurately predict the value of millions of homes around the country.

In fact that is a preposterous notion. You have better odds of seeing Big Foot than an accurate Zillow home value. Zillow pre-foreclosure listings are also misleading to buyers and should be done away with. There is ZERO value in this.

Zillow Homes Not Really For Sale

As a Realtor, I get calls all the time from excited buyers about homes they have found on Zillow. I want to help the buyer out, so I quickly search through the multiple listing service (MLS) to take a look at the property the buyer is talking about. The only problem is, the property does not show up. The buyer found a pre-foreclosure home on Zillow – which for some reason is a search option on the site – and of course thinks that the home is for sale. The home isn’t actually for sale, and I am left trying to explain why this has happened. The situation comes up more than you can imagine.

When buyers are searching Zillow, they can include pre-foreclosure homes in their search. When the buyer sees the option for pre-foreclosures, they probably think it is just one more option for available homes. Everyone has heard about all the foreclosures that have happened over the previous years, and everyone imagines a good deal from a foreclosure. But the problem is, most of these homes are not for sale. Nor will they ever be for sale. The data Zillow collects on these homes comes from a company known as Realty Trac. Realty Trac specializes in providing data centered around foreclosures.

Whenever a home owner misses a payment on his or her mortgage and the lender sends a notice to the owner, Zillow takes this public record and lists the home in pre-foreclosure status on their site from the data provided to them by Realty Trac. They go so far as to add an image from Google street view and some identifying details about the property. The home owner doesn’t even have the option to avoid this. Once the notice is sent, the home goes up on Zillow.

Of course, if the home owner gets caught up on the mortgage, the home won’t go into foreclosure. Even if the home does go into foreclosure, it can take over a year for it to actually be available for sale. Either way, the listings under pre-foreclosure found on Zillow are not useful for the average home buyer. They are actually misleading and tend to create frustrating situations. The buyer sees a really great deal on Zillow and gets his or her hopes up, only to be dashed by the real estate agent that explains what is happening.

Low Inventory Leading to Pre-Foreclosure Searches

Part of the problem is the fact that there have been fewer houses available for sale. When home buyers search Zillow and they don’t find many options in their area, they may as Zillow to search everything, including the pre-foreclosure listings. Zillow does have a disclaimer that lets people know that pre-foreclosure homes may not actually be for sale, but this is a disclaimer that many users of the site don’t notice. They find a listing and they contact their real estate agent, ready to buy the home they found.

This is just one issue when it comes to listing accuracy with Zillow. Given the fact that Zillow collects their homes for sale information from third party sites, often times the information provided is old. It can be really frustrating for a buyer to go onto Zillow to look at homes posted for sale that have already been under agreement for weeks. In a hot real estate market properties come and go like a fart in the wind. This unfortunately is an all to common scenario with Zillow. Real Estate agents are left with the job of explaining why it happens to their clients.

More Accurate Search Options

Zillow Zestimates Ideally, Zillow should make it more difficult to search pre-foreclosure properties, so the average buyer does not get confused. But Zillow will do what it wants to do, and there is not guarantee that it will change things based on the frustrations of real estate agents and home buyers. This is certainly evident from how much public dismay expressed from real estate agents on the “Zestimate of value” previously mentioned. You would think that after years of public dissatisfaction this would have been eliminated.

Instead Zillow continuously makes excuses stating things like it is just a starting point. What exactly does that mean? When someone wants to know the value of their home they expect accuracy not a number tens of thousands off the mark!

Instead of using Zillow as a home search tool buyers and sellers have better options including finding a local real estate agent who can provide them direct access to the local multiple listing service (MLS). For example here in Massachusetts one of the popular search tools is MLS Property Finder. This gives consumers direct access to properties for sale that comes right from the MLS.

Feel free to sign up and see every home available for sale in Massachusetts! One of the additional benefits of MLS Property Finder is the ability to get notified the minute a home gets listed in a community and price point you are looking in. In a competitive real estate market this is a fantastic tool.

Another excellent option is using the National Association of Realtors site known as This site has up to the minute information on all homes for sale that are entered in the MLS. According to the data in their site is updated every fifteen minutes. A far cry from what Zillow offers.

Zillow is a third party aggregator, which means it pulls information from a variety of sources to populate its site. Zillow can be useful in certain circumstances, but it can also be misleading in others – particularly when it comes to the pre-foreclosure option.

Does Zillow show all homes for sale? The short answer to this is NO!

In the near future there could be an even further disconnect between what is for sale and what is shown in Zillow. There are a number of large real estate organizations and even entire MLS boards that have distanced themselves from Zillow. They have decided to distance themselves from Zillow not to share their data anymore. This means that homes they have listed for sale do not show up in the site.

My suggestion would be to use some other search tool. Once you have located a few homes you are interested in you can always look at these homes on Zillow to get any information you feel Zillow offers over and above other sites.

If you want more accurate search results for your area, you would be better off going through your Realtor’s MLS search. Your real estate agent wants you to find a home that is ideal for your needs, and more importantly, one that is actually for sale. He or she can give you access to the same search tools used by professional real estate agents, especially if your Realtor has a website. All you have to do is go to your agent’s site and conduct a search. Everything you find on the site should be for sale. Just like understanding the costs of buying a home, nobody wants to be mislead down a path that gets them nowhere.

Dealing With The Market

If the housing supply is low enough that you are not finding the home you want during your search, there is really only a few things you can do. First, you can let your real estate agent know what you are looking for, and ask that he or she keep an eye out. No one pays more attention to the changes in the housing market and new inventory than a Realtor. Second, you can perform your own searches. Who knows, you may catch something that just came on the market.

Sometimes a buyer may beat you to the punch on a home you really love. If this happens you can always ask your real estate agent to put in a back up offer on the property for you. Who knows the sale may fall apart because of a home inspection or some other reason. This will give you the opportunity to jump to the head of the line so to speak for a home you really had your heart set on!

Above all else do not forget that many of the homes you see for sale on Zillow are not really for sale. Find another search tool with more accurate data so you don’t become frustrated during your quest to find a dream home. This will only lead to disappointment and other buyers beating you to properties that should be on your radar.

Additional Helpful Home Buying Articles

Use these additional articles to help in the process of finding your dream home. Best of luck in your home search!



About the Author: The above Real Estate information on some Zillow listings are not for sale was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 28+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.


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  1. says

    We can probably agree that bad things happen to good people. One of the bad things is that some good person, or whatever reason, has fallen behind or missed mortgage payments.

    This causes Zillow to have this good person’s home to appear as a “Pre-Foreclosure”.

    This person’s friends, family coworkers and maybe even their employer see this.

    It could cause an embarrassing situation for this home owner.

    I could go on and on with other scenarios about how and why “Pre Foreclosures” on Zillow are bad.

    Not that it matters to Zillow.

    The nice thing is that I am hearing more and more consumers that have realized just how full of crap Zillow is.

  2. says

    Bill, This does seem to be very bizarre behavior as people (companies) rarely do something without a financial incentive. If you then try to consider what is behind Zillow listing pre-foreclosures, it gets really interesting:

    – Does Zillow want more listings than, and this is an easy way to accomplish this?
    – Does Zillow get paid by RealtyTrac to post their listings, as someone is carrying the cost of grabbing photos from Google?
    – Is the data from these pre-foreclosure listings influencing the automated zestimates in a way that Zillow finds favorable?
    – … and if this data is part of their automated calculations, they may not want to invest in the programming to remove the data, a common problem?

    My last guess is it’s possible that being naughty gets lots of Realtors writing about Zillow, driving up their page rank? If this were even a remote possibility, it would be good to misspell the name to throw the search engines off the trail.

    • says

      Tina it is hard to understand why Zillow does some of the things it does. I suspect you are right about the free press thing. Good or bad Zillow is written about a lot. Everyone knows their Zestimate is a bunch of crap but yet they continue to mislead the public by having it on their site.

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