There’s no place like home.
With its database of 110 million homes in the U.S. and counting, it’s hard to remember what it was like shopping for a place to live before Zillow came along. If you do remember what it was like, then you know it was a hit and miss affair; hours spent combing the classifieds, making numerous calls and burning up tankfuls of gas looking for “for rent” and “for sale” signs. Even if you were working with a real estate agent, finding your dream home was hardly a joy.
If you’re a Zillow fan these days, you can write a thank you note to two former Microsoft employees, Richard Burton and Lloyd Fink. They had a better idea, taking raw data about the housing market and turning it to brightly colored listings that can be sorted, selected, compared and saved.
To say that Zillow’s rise was meteoric might be a bit of an understatement. The site went live Feb. 8, 2006 and within two days, it had welcomed its one millionth visitor. Within seven months, 25 million visitors had checked out their listings, though the company lightheartedly notes that it doesn’t know where all those people came from.
Today, millions of homeowners, home buyers, renters, sellers, property managers, landlords and real estate agents rely on the site for up-to-date information about homes, including their sales history, estimated value, the cost of similar homes in the neighborhood and estimated mortgage costs or rent payments.
That’s good news for Zillow.com, whose mission is to empower consumers with the information and tools they need to make smart decisions about homes, real estate and mortgages.
If you’re wondering about the name, the website was created out of the zillions of data points that make homes accessible to everyone. And since a home is more than just numbers – it’s a place where you lay your head at night – zillions and pillows were blended together and the name Zillow was formed.
Zillow.com isn’t just a listing service these days. The company has also added new features, including Zestimates, which combine a lot of raw data to create estimated values and rents for homes. Visitors can not only search for homes by address, locale, square footage or number of rooms, but also connect with mortgage professionals and real estate agents online to facilitate the purchase or rental process.
Unlike the classifieds of old, Zillow offers lots of great visuals to help visitors narrow their choices further. Visitors can zoom in and out on homes to get a lay of the land from the air or view seller, renter or real estate agent photos of the property so they not only get a description, but see what that “newly remodeled kitchen with a sub-zero freezer” actually looks like.
The company continues to reinvent itself with new offerings, including a mortgage marketplace, a mobile version of the app, a Q&A section where consumers can ask experts real estate questions and download and view market reports for 130 metropolitan areas.
Zillow.com is definitely one of Washington’s up and comers. And finding a home, rental or property will never be the same again. Thankfully.