2019 Jul 16th

The Right Way to Use Zillow to Buy a Condo in Hoboken

Times have changed.  Today, buyers go straight to Zillow to see what’s for sale and Zillow has done an outstanding job of creating a user-friendly, informative, timely app to keep buyers in-the-know.  If I’m interested in a certain neighborhood, all I have to do is go to Zillow, search for homes for sale, and ‘save’ a few that I like by clicking on the little heart (just like on Instragram – certainly by design).  Next thing I know, Zillow pings me when there is an open house, when the price is reduced and when anything similar hits the market.  I’m sorry, but no broker website comes or ever came close.  Redfin tries but I like the Zillow interface better.  Redfin sends me properties that are dissimilar to those I’ve searched.  If I am looking at $800k homes in the Garden District of New Orleans, or $500k farm house homes near the river in Narrowsburg, NY, or $500k 1 Bedroom condos in Hoboken that is what I want to see.  Zillow nails it.

Here is where the trouble starts.  If I see a property I like and I just click on or fill out the big “Contact Agent”  field, Zillow routes me to what they call a “Premier Agent”.  That is an agent who has spent an inordinate amount of money with Zillow to be on the roster for those leads.  The agent may have little to no experience in the given geographic market or price range.  I click on a lovely riverfront home with beautiful views and a separate garage listed for $449k.   Two seconds later, I get a text from “Alex” asking if I’m free to talk.  I text back asking for a floor plan.  No reply.  Finally, Alex texts that he will have an agent follow up with me.  I’m sorry – I thought I clicked on “Contact Agent” but Alex is not an agent.  He fields calls for Zillow and its Premier Agents, screening them in advance.  After a bunch of back and forth with Alex, I get connected to an agent, “Barry”, but Barry has no idea which property I inquired about.  So we are back to square one!  Barry is not even a specialist in the area where the house is located.

So what is a buyer to do?  By all means, use Zillow!  Search for homes, “like” the ones which are of interest.  Then note the addresses and find a local agent in the market with whom you would like to work.  How do you choose an agent?  Well, here is a list of what I’d want to know:

Assuming all those questions are answered to my satisfaction (I’m looking for a local, who works in real estate full-time, with significant experience who has done numerous transactions and knows the market inside and out), then I ask myself – do I like this person and communicate well enough with them to have them represent me on one of the biggest asset purchases I am likely to ever make?  There needs to be good chemistry between you!

So now I’ve interviewed a bunch of agents, have found one I feel good about, and I give them my list compiled from Zillow and let them set up the showings for me as my buyer’s agent.  It takes a little work but it’s worth it.  Would you have surgery without getting second opinion?  I bet most people spend more time picking out a cell phone plan than they do deciding with whom they should purchase a home.

Bravo, Zillow.  You’ve got a great system that finds the homes, evaluates pricing, provides data and keeps us up-to-date with great tech.  But your system of pairing me with a local agent leaves much to be desired.  Fortunately, there is a work around and buyers can make use of your strengths and the knowledge of a truly local, educated, experienced agent.  If you’re looking for such an agent in the Hoboken market, the Turoff Team is here and ready to work with you.  30-plus years of full-time, combined experience in this market buy a team that lives and owns property in Hoboken, at your service.

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