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Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate Paperback – January 26, 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars 214 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book is fantastic. I am making every single person I know read it. Drawing upon an enormous database of housing trends and prices, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and Chief Economist Stan Humphries arm would-be home buyers and real estate addicts like me with the information and data they need to understand the new world of real estate. Smart, empowering, surprising, and a little bit addictive, Zillow Talk is a guidebook for any would-be home buyer or seller. It's also an awful lot of fun."
-Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, University of Toronto


"I thought I knew it all when it came to making money in real estate, but ZILLOW TALK proved me wrong. This book is a game changer for both buyers and sellers."
--Barbara Corcoran, Real Estate Mogul and star of ABC's Shark Tank

"Spencer is one of the sharpest executives I've come to know, and fortunately for you, dear reader, he's in the residential real estate business. This book provides you with the breadth and depth of his knowledge on the subject, wide and deep as it is."
--Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter

"ZILLOW TALK is an indispensable playbook for anyone interested in the new rules of 21st century real estate. Written by Spencer and Stan, the creators of the largest online database of housing information in the world, the authors transpose a wealth of statistics that only Zillow could provide, into an easy-to-read, jargon free guide to understanding the ever-evolving real estate market of the new millennium. Whether you're buying, selling, an industry professional, or you just love real estate, ZILLOW TALK is a must-read."
--Dottie Herman, CEO of Douglas Elliman

"A fun and engaging must-read for home buyers, sellers, and renters looking to make sense of the ever-changing real estate landscape as they plot their moves."
--Vera Gibbons, Personal Finance Expert and TV Commentator

About the Author

Zillow's CEO Spencer Rascoff was listed as one of America's most powerful CEOs under 40 by both Fortune and Forbes. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University and is an alumnus of Goldman Sachs and TPG Capital. He founded Hotwire, which he sold to Expedia at age 24, and was one of the founders of Zillow in 2005. He currently lives in Seattle with his wife (a pediatrician), three young children and their dog, Fido.

Stan Humphries is Zillow's chief economist and the creator of the Zestimate. Stan has built out the industry-leading economics and analytical team at Zillow and is a frequent commentator on housing trends for CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Fox Business News. Stan has a B.A. from Davidson College, a Masters of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in government from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining Zillow, he worked with NASA and the Peace Corps.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (January 26, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455574759
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455574759
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I am one of those people who are on zillow obsessively and was REALLY looking forward to this book. I found it incredibly unsatisfying, filled with datamined correlations with no analysis of true causality, frequent conflations of cause and effect, and no meaningful takeaways for what to do differently as either a seller or a buyer.

For example, the early parts of the book deals with identifying areas of faster than normal price appreciation. The authors conclude that the cliche that one should buy near downtown for the best price appreciation is invalid because in many cities, areas 20-30 miles outside of downtown (farther suburbs) often appreciated faster than downtown areas. It is blatantly obvious to me that as a city grows, formerly remote, uninhabitated suburbs become developed and commutable, which increase land values. However, the driving factor of suburban appreciation is the main city's growth, and so to know if a surburban area will appreciate, you have to determine the growth prospects of the city itself. This was not mentioned in the book at all. Instead, the authors looked at the data and said basically "it looks like some suburbs appreciate faster than downtown areas, therefore buy in suburbs, except this is not always true." The last caveat was the most frustrating of all, because of course this data pattern is not always true because the authors never got to the underlying cause of suburban appreciation.

Another example cited in the book is that houses within 0.25 miles of a starbucks appreciate more quickly than houses farther from a starbucks. The appreciation seemed to happen after the starbucks entered an area. Ergo, argue the authors, starbucks CAUSED the price appreciation. Why is this? Authors shrug and say they don't know.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Spencer and Stan lost me when they say their data centric method of valuing homes is more accurate than a person using comparable sales. They called using comparable sales a 'guestimate'. Ultimately a property is worth what a typical buyer is willing to pay for it. The best way to gauge this is to see what buyers have recently paid for similar homes in the same location ( comparable sales ). If you spot check their zestimate with homes you have a general idea what they are worth ( recently sold etc. ), you will most likely find, like I did, that their zestimates are way off. If the main results of their data mining ( zestimates ) are so far off, it calls into question all their data mining conclusions.

Even if you accept their data mining conclusions are accurate, they are based on data for the whole country. Even different neighborhoods in a particular city can be vastly different. Maybe, on average for the whole country, renovating a bathroom adds more value than renovating a kitchen, but that has little relevance to the home you own in your neighborhood.

I admit, it's a catchy title. Who wouldn't want insider information on buying or selling your home. But the information in this book falls way short of this. Don't waste your time or money.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some of the sections were much better than others. I like the data driven approach to real estate, but still feel the data is locked up for only a few to see, so really no progress has been made to shine the light into this industry. Like I would love to know the supply demand aspects in play while buying or selling, but how (other than get a job at Zillow to query the DB directly).

All in all, I think the back half discussions of public policy and real estate were the most interesting and potentially impactful, which the middle filler content on street names, price numbers, and such much less interesting. Thanks for taking the time to write it, I just thought it was going to be more insightful like Freakonomics.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I almost didn't download this book because of a couple reviews. I'm glad I second guessed those reviewers! This book is a very light and easy read. The stories and anecdotes they use make it feel like you are sitting at a table talking to the two authors in person.

I thought for sure they were going to say that with Zillow people won't need realtors any more. They said just the opposite actually! They likened it to doctors: With Google, a patient can almost diagnose what ailment they have. However, the doctor is needed to walk them through all the steps to recovery, etc. Similar for the real estate world. Although I can search for any house in an area on my own, I still want a professional negotiator on my side who can walk me through the process of buying/selling a home.

I think you take this book for what it is - a book that shows a lot of corresponding statistics between subjects (some unlikely ones, too). They do point out frequently that they are not necessarily linking one to the other, nor showing "causation". Instead they point out some unusual parallels in our society.

If you are interested in real estate, work in real estate, are thinking of selling or buying a house, then it's well worth your while reading this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Humphries and Rascoff are fans of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics, calling it “one of our favorite books.” If you read Freakonomics, you’ll immediately recognize the genre here. Rather than a monotonous recitation of economic stats, each chapter picks a commonly-held belief or frequently-asked question about real estate. The authors geek out on statistics about the topic and then give us an “aha” moment that either sheds light on something we haven’t thought about or debunks conventional wisdom. While not as provocative or incendiary as Freakonomics, the style works well for real estate and makes for a fun and educational read.

The book is filled with useful topics. Should your buy or rent? Turns out it depends on which city you live in and how long you plan to stay there. Buying a home in Seattle, for example, makes financial sense after 1.9 years, while in Boston it takes 4.0 years. Or did you know that home prices appreciate faster when there is a Starbucks nearby? Apparently homes near these latte vendors appreciate faster. And what about street names? Suprisingly street name suffixes like “Way”, “Place” or “Court” correspond to higher home values than if you live on a “Street” or “Road.”

There are some must-read chapters in here for homeowners, as well. Real estate agents know first-hand that overpricing a home leads to negative results, but it is the most common mistake in real estate. Stan and Spencer crunch the numbers and show you why you’re not “leaving money on the table” by pricing it right, and the best strategy to follow when you do overprice your home. Anyone with a mortgage should read the section on fixed-rate versus adjustable-rate mortgages. Despite what you may think, the 30-year fixed mortgage isn’t the best option for everyone.
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