How does zillow know?

disykat

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 5, 2000
I was looking up our house on zillow and I notice they have added some upgrades to our home listing. How do they know? We put in an exercise/storage room under our house in a large crawl space area (we live on a hill) 15 years ago (no loan or refinancing that would have flagged it) and they recently added that we have a partially finished basement. We added a small front patio about 4 years ago (visible on the satellite view) and they added that as well.

We did permit the work under the house, but it took 15 years to show up. There was no permitting on the small patio and you can barely see it if you expand the satellite view. It seems like they would have really had to dig hard for that info.

It just seems weird to me. I probably look at it at least yearly and now it's updated and I'm so curious! Does anyone know how zillow gets it's info?
 
Last edited:

disykat

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 5, 2000
On the "basement," yes, but that was 15 years ago. The neighbor's house just sold, so maybe it somehow flagged mine for a reevaluation? It's just so weird that they were looking that closely. The patio barely shows on satellite and you cant see it from the road.
 
  • bananabean

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2014
    On the "basement," yes, but that was 15 years ago. The neighbor's house just sold, so maybe it somehow flagged mine for a reevaluation? It's just so weird that they were looking that closely. The patio barely shows on satellite and you cant see it from the road.
    It could be that your county just made those permits available online, which was picked up by Zillow's public scraping. Or it could be that those upgrades are accounted for and referenced on your county's public tax page and Zillow just got around to pulling that information. It's unlikely that it was a manual review and update as Zillow really only does that if they are contacted directly with new information.
     

    tvguy

    Question anything the facts don't support.
    Joined
    Dec 15, 2003
    I was looking up our house on zillow and I notice they have added some upgrades to our home listing. How do they know? We put in an exercise/storage room under our house in a large crawl space area (we live on a hill) 15 years ago (no loan or refinancing that would have flagged it) and they recently added that we have a partially finished basement. We added a small front patio about 4 years ago (visible on the satellite view) and they added that as well.

    We did permit the work under the house, but it took 15 years to show up. There was no permitting on the small patio and you can barely see it if you expand the satellite view. It seems like they would have really had to dig hard for that info.

    It just seems weird to me. I probably look at it at least yearly and now it's updated and I'm so curious! Does anyone know how zillow gets it's info?
    They get their information from public records. Things like building permits and information from the tax assessor. I guess it depends on the state but if your county actually has the assessor come by, they would spot that. In California they used to try and come by every few years for an eyes on assessment. That ended in 1978 when Prop 13 passed and set property taxes at 1% of what you paid for the house, and 1% of what you paid for permitted additions.
     

    disykat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2000
    If we were planning a move,we'd be updating the info ourselves because it adds value so I'm not upset about it just surprised. It just seems so weird that "suddenly" 15 years after an improvement is made it is added on. The patio being added also kind of creeps me out because it is not visible from the road and is barely visible on the satellite. It kind of seems like..... maybe my phone heard me mention my patio and exercise space and reported it to my computer, which then told the tax guy, who then told zillow... :crazy2:
     

    FigmentSpark

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 9, 2016
    It might be listed on your home appraisal for the tax assessment. Also, if someone did the work there would be permits. And if you have a neighbourhood group (forget what they're called), they might have reports on what you have in your back yard.

    Zillow may have just updated all their systems and been given access to information they didn't have before, which is why you're seeing a 15 year old upgrade suddenly listed.
     
  • Joined
    Oct 23, 2015
    Is the patio added to your county's website for information on your home? Such as part of the assessment, house plans, building permits, etc?

    I think you keep thinking Zillow is spying on you, going around and looking for information about your house when it's so much more likely the information is coming from your county's information even including the lag in time. As for why the lag in time who knows but some posters have given some good reasons.
     

    bcla

    On our rugged Eastern foothills.....
    Joined
    Nov 28, 2012
    They get their information from public records. Things like building permits and information from the tax assessor. I guess it depends on the state but if your county actually has the assessor come by, they would spot that. In California they used to try and come by every few years for an eyes on assessment. That ended in 1978 when Prop 13 passed and set property taxes at 1% of what you paid for the house, and 1% of what you paid for permitted additions.
    Zillow can be really weird sometimes. I have a home that I used to live in but currently rent out. For some reason Zillow showed that it sold for over $4 million. several years ago. If I could have sold it for that, I'd be retired and living off of investment income. Maybe partially retired and working a part time job where I would have insurance. I've tried informing Zillow that it was incorrect, but it's never been corrected.

    I did some research (the county records database) and found that the wrong parcel number (mine) was on the sale document for a commercial property.

    So yeah - they scour public documents. However, in this case the county no longer has an online database. I think it wouldn't require going down to the county recorder's office to search on their setup.
     

    _19disnA

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 8, 2018
    Most likely they got the information from some online database relating to issued permits. Obviously, it had to come from somewhere. On the other hand, those estimated home values on Zillow are fairly useless, since they would have NO way to know if you did any interior updates that potentially added significantly to the value (i.e. new/updated kitchen/bath/new appliances, etc.) if it didn't involve permits. Same with new roof or windows or new HVAC system. Big ticket items matter to the value of a home and it would make more sense for Zillow to show averages by neighborhood. Trying to estimate each home's current value isn't reliable.
     

    tvguy

    Question anything the facts don't support.
    Joined
    Dec 15, 2003
    Most likely they got the information from some online database relating to issued permits. Obviously, it had to come from somewhere. On the other hand, those estimated home values on Zillow are fairly useless, since they would have NO way to know if you did any interior updates that potentially added significantly to the value (i.e. new/updated kitchen/bath/new appliances, etc.) if it didn't involve permits. Same with new roof or windows or new HVAC system. Big ticket items matter to the value of a home and it would make more sense for Zillow to show averages by neighborhood. Trying to estimate each home's current value isn't reliable.
    At least here HVAC and roof replacement require permits. Of course, even a water heater requires a permit here.
     
  • disykat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2000
    I don't know that I think zillow is spying on me, I just think it's really weird that a 15 year old update suddenly gets put on our listing. There have been good possible explanations here for that. The patio, still just weird IMO. No permit, can't see it from the road or really any of the other houses, just barely on the satellite. It's pavers we put in. It's just one of those weird "how do they know?" moments. I'm not losing sleep over this, I just think it's odd.
     

    kaytieeldr

    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
    Joined
    Jun 11, 2005
    Nobody here knows why. Ask Zillow 206-470-7000. Be nice, because the person you speak with did not set the policy, make the changes, review your home's records, skulk around your house...
     

    disykat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2000
    ??? Sometimes we discuss things here that strike us as weird. I thought that's what I was doing. I'm not going to call zillow and yell at them. Sheesh! I don't consider it a bad thing that my zillow listing has changed, it just struck me as really curious how it changed. Not curious enough to start making phone calls to yell at people (though I'm not sure why a curious person would even yell at people?) but curious enough to make random small talk on a board where we talk about random stuff.
     

    kaytieeldr

    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
    Joined
    Jun 11, 2005
    A curious person wouldn't yell. A dissatisfied person might start attacking the person on the phone.

    Customer Service is a sucky job.
     

    disykat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 5, 2000
    Backing away slowly and vowing not to start any more idle conversation....

    Thanks to the people who were willing to speculate with me!
     





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