How to Use Zillow as a Real Estate Investor
In today’s guide, I’m going to share tutorial videos on How to Use Zillow.
Zillow is a powerful research tool for home buyers, home sellers, and real estate investors. Real estate agents don’t like it on the other hand because it creates problems with the Zestimate feature (which is often not accurate).
But for most other purposes, I love using Zillow in my real estate business and believe it can be a helpful real estate investor tool worth using.
Here are ways you can use Zillow as a real estate investing tool for your business:
- To create different searches and set up email alerts for new properties that match your criteria
- To look up recently sold homes in certain neighborhoods you’re looking to invest in to help you gather pricing information
- To look up information about a specific property (public info Zillow pulls from tax records saving you time)
In the following tutorial video below, I share some tips on how to use Zillow in your real estate investing business. Check it out.
What is Zillow
Zillow.com is a free website that home buyers, home sellers, investors, and renters can use to perform market research on real estate. It’s a good alternative tool if you don’t have access to the MLS.
You can either visit their website, Zillow.com, direct or download their mobile app which is available to iPhone, Android, and Microsoft users.
Here is a brief intro on Zillow from Wikipedia:
Zillow is an online real estate database that was founded in 2005 by Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, former Microsoft executives and founders of Microsoft spin-off Expedia.
Zillow has data on 100 million homes across the United States, not just those homes currently for sale. In addition to giving value estimates of homes, it offers several features including value changes of each home in a given time frame (such as one, five, or 10 years), aerial views of homes, and prices of comparable homes in the area.
Where it can access appropriate public data, it also provides basic information on a given home, such as square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Users can also get current estimates of homes if there was a significant change made, such as a recently remodeled kitchen. Zillow provides an application programming interface (API) and developer support network.
Zillow Search Options
On Zillow’s home page, you’re going to see a layout similar to this on desktop with the ability to search for a home by typing in the address.
You can also navigate between buying, renting, selling, and their Zestimate tool.
Let’s first talk about the home buying search bar and how to set filters to screen for properties.
Zillow Home Search Tutorial
Enter an address into the search bar, and Zillow will take you on the map to that specific city and address. It will then pop up a property listing page showing all publicly available information about the home.
You can click out of it and then Zillow will display a map view of the city will hundreds of small circles indicating properties for sale, for rent, and recently sold. They even have blue circles representing possible foreclosure homes.
Along the menu bar, you can adjust filters to set up your own search with custom criteria.
- Listing Type: Choose between For Sale, Potential Listings, For Rent, and Recently Sold
- Any Price: Set the price range you’d like to search for that meets your budget
- Beds: Set how many bedrooms you want
- Home Type: Select all the property types you want, from houses, to apartments, to land and mobile homes
- More: Fill out additional criteria like bathrooms, square footage, HOA fees, days on market
Zillow also has a keyword box under the “More” tab if you want to search specifics like “pool” or “fixer upper”. Then Zillow will analyze all the listings, including the listing description looking for those keywords.
Property Listing Page
After playing around on the search map, click into a property to pull up the property listing page with all the information Zillow has on that property.
You’ll be able to see a quick summary at the top of things like:
- If the property is for sale or off-market
- Current price or recently sold price
- Zestimate price
- Mortgage estimate
- Property description from real estate agent
If you keep scrolling down the page, you’ll find the Facts and Features section highlighting a long list of things like:
- Property type
- Year built
- Heating & A/C
- How many days it’s been on Zillow
- HOA fees
- Price per square foot
- Interior features
- Construction features
- Neighborhood Information
Keep scrolling and you’ll find drop down tabs with more important information every home buyer and real estate investor should see.
I like to click into the Sales History tab and see what price the property last sold for as well as the year.
In addition, I’ll check out the property taxes tab to see what the assessed value and taxes are on the property which I assume Zillow is pulling from a public data resource and syndicating the information into their website.
You can also access your city’s property tax website and enter your address to find tax information in greater detail.
Zillow Zestimate Tool
The home value section on a property listing page gives Zillow’s Zestimate which is basically Zillow’s opinion of value of that property.
It takes into account data Zillow has on other homes nearby similar to how a realtor would use the MLS to pull up comparable homes nearby.
The issue with the Zestimate is that not all information on Zillow is accurate to begin with. Homeowners and listing agents can change property information on the site manually.
Additionally, not all the public information Zillow pulls from the records is accurate. Sometimes the public records information is outdated or flat out inaccurate.
Your best resource for getting an accurate estimate of value for your property you’re thinking about selling would be to contact a real estate agent and let them use the MLS to create a valuation analysis.
Zillow Mortgage Calculator
In the top menu bar on desktop and mobile, find the mortgage calculator section and it will present a drop down of 5 different calculators you can use:
- Mortgage Calculator
- Refinance Calculator
- Affordability Calculator
- Amortization Calculator
- Debt to Income Calculator
They’re pretty straight forward, just plug in your numbers and they’ll return results for you.
If you find a specific property on Zillow that you’re thinking about buying, click on the property so that the listing page pops up.
Then scroll down the property listing page and there is a built in calculator section that plugs in the numbers automatically for that home including current interest rates for 30 year fixed loans.
This tool helps you quickly analyze what your monthly mortgage payment will be in total as it includes an estimate for property taxes and property insurance in addition to principal and interest payments.
You can also access the Full Report page and print out a PDF report.
On the Full Report page, you will get a chart like this…
It breaks down all the data about your mortgage you’d potentially be getting so you can quickly see the numbers in an easy digestible table.
It also breaks down your payment into the four categories; principal, interest, taxes, and insurance in this pie chart:
If you’re a visual person, you can see on this chart how much money you’re paying each year of the mortgage towards principal and interest.
And lastly, they break down the amortization schedule which is a great resource I love about the Zillow Mortgage Full Report page.
Zillow Agent Finder
If you don’t have a real estate agent to worth with yet for buying or selling a property, Zillow has an Agent Finder Tool.
Start off by entering your zip code into the search box and then Zillow will populate a list of agents serving your local area.
You can review their profile to learn more about the agents, see what properties they currently have listed, and see past client reviews.
Zillow also has a “Recent Sales” section for the agent profile where you can see all the properties they have sold in the last 12 months.
But not all agents update their properties sold information on their profiles, so don’t count it against them. They could have sold lots of properties and haven’t added the data to Zillow yet, so take this metric with a grain of salt.
Zillow Saved Searches & Property Alerts
One of the final features we will talk about today is the Saved Search & Alerts feature.
Anytime you set up a home search, filling out different criteria, you have the option of saving this search so you can quickly access it the next time you get on the Zillow app or website.
This is a great tool for both home buyers and real estate investors who have specific criteria they want to use to screen properties for sale.
In addition, you can create an email alert so that Zillow will send out an instant email anytime a new property comes on the market for sale that meets your buying criteria.
How I Use the Zillow Saved Search Feature:
I like to fill out all of my criteria first, and then use the map draw tool and outline a specific neighborhood as it’s own search alert.
I’ll repeat this a few times for the different parts of town and different neighborhoods I want to target for fix and flips and rental properties.
This way when I receive the alerts, I quickly know what neighborhood or part of town that the property is in, prior to pulling up the listing page and map.
It helps keep me organized if I’m screening hundreds of deals but more importantly it helps me quickly know if the asking price is reasonable since I know the sales history of the neighborhood area I’ve drawn my map tool around.
You can set up separate searches for:
- Property Types (Single Family Homes vs Apartments)
- Strategy Types (Rental neighborhoods vs Fix & Flip neighborhoods)
- Cities & Zip Codes
More Real Estate Resources to Check Out
Thanks so much for being here today to consume my content and giving me time out of your day.
If you have a few extra minutes to spare, I’ve linked to some additional articles I think you’ll find valuable as well as my real estate investing course that has been getting great reviews from hundreds of students.
Additional Articles to Read:
- How to Flip Apartment Complexes for Big Bucks
- How to Value Single Family Homes (Sold Comps)
- Ultimate Guide to Creating a Real Estate Business Plan
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