Getting Zesty: Zillow’s Upgraded Zestimate

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 20 August 2019 04:38

What Is Zestimate?

Created by Zillow, an online real estate database company, Zestimate is the company’s home valuation model, which estimates a home’s market value based on public and user-submitted information. It considers several factors, including home features, location, and market conditions. Currently it’s the most commonly-used home valuation estimator online and, yet, has been at the center of controversy over the past couple years.

Zillow Zestimate

Predictions and Predicaments

Although Zillow points out that its Zestimate is not an appraisal, or an unbiased estimate of a home’s true market value determined by a qualified expert, Zillow’s proprietary tool has taken some heat for its shortcomings. From home sellers expecting to get more, home buyers expecting to pay less, and real estate professionals wishing they weren’t caught in the middle, the Zestimate has been a source of dispute for quite some time.

In fact, back in 2017, a group of homeowners in Illinois sued Zillow, alleging Zestimate’s inaccuracies made selling significantly more difficult. Ultimately, the United States Seventh Circuit of Appeals found that because the process is most accurate when “errors are not biased to favor sellers or buyers” Zillow has no obligation to change its home estimate values when they are not as high as homeowners expect.

Zillow Estimate

All About Accuracy

In an effort to rebrand its image with consumers and create a more accurate tool, Zillow has just upgraded Zestimate by improving how its viability is reported. In the past, Zillow simply showed the median errors for all Zestimate values combined in an area. Three years ago, the national median error hovered at 6.7%. Back in 2018, the figure stood at 4.6%.

Nowadays, however, Zillow differentiates its median error based on whether the home is listed for sale or not. This year, the median error is only 1.9% for homes that are listed for sale and 7.7% for homes that are not listed for sale. Thus, by being more transparent about the accuracy of the Zestimate, Zillow hopes to increase consumer confidence in its tool and assuage the concerns of the company’s critics.

Picture Perfect?

Perhaps most intriguing, Zillow has a new algorithm that uses photos to help decide the appeal and worth of any home. As explained by Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief analytics officer & economist, “We’ve taught the Zestimate to discern quality by [using] … millions of photos of homes on Zillow.” By programming the Zestimate to recognize certain visual cues as indicators of higher quality, Humphries states that, “if a kitchen has granite countertops, the Zestimate now knows that the home is likely going to sell for a little more.”

In other words, by using pictures provided by homeowners and real estate agents when a property is listed, and incorporating publicly available photos taken by a city or town assessor’s office, Zillow is transforming its Zestimate to eventually become the equivalent of a “live offer.” Of course, computer-generated photos used to stage homes have also been controversial since they are not necessarily accurately portraying the actual depiction of real estate. Zestimate’s new algorithm may be an upgrade, but it may still have credibility issues.

From The Trenches,

Roy Oppenheim

Oppenheim Law | Real Estate Attorneys
2500 Weston Rd, Suite 404
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33331
Originally posted on South Florida Law Blog: Getting Zesty: Zillow's Upgraded Zestimate
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Roy Oppenheim

From Wall Street to Main Street, Roy Oppenheim is a successful serial entrepreneur and attorney focusing on Florida real estate, foreclosure defense, loss mitigation and Internet ventures.

He founded Oppenheim Law in 1989 with his wife Ellen Pilelsky and uniquely positioned the Firm as one of Florida’s leading boutique law firms in Weston, Florida.

Serving national, international, and local clients, Mr. Oppenheim has the highest rating (A-V) conferred by Martindale Hubbell Law Directory, the most respected directory of lawyers and law firms in the U.S.

In 1989, Mr. Oppenheim also co-founded and served as general counsel to ShopSmart Corp., the company that originated and owned the GNC Gold Card Program, a program that continues to this day and was one of the first cross-promotional programs of its kind.

In addition, in 1994, he co-founded Weston Title & Escrow, the oldest title company in Weston, Florida, and he currently serves as its Vice President. In 1999, Mr. Oppenheim served a one-year term on the board of directors for Catalina Lighting, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

Growing up in the Bronx, Mr. Oppenheim learned to be focused on success and driven to always persevere for opportunity.

In 2009, he started the South Florida Law Blog, which was voted the best business and technology blog by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He also serves as an expert witness on title industry practices.

Mr. Oppenheim has also co-authored two law review articles, Deconstructing The Black Magic of Securitized Trusts, published in the Stetson University Law Review’s Spring 2012 Edition, and The Emperor’s New Clothes, published in the William & Mary Business Law Review Volume 6.

Today, Mr. Oppenheim is a sought-after legal expert on issues relating to the real estate crisis and beyond. In addition to his own blog, he also has been a contributor to Yahoo! Homes, and featured on HuffPost Live, FOX News, and Lifetime TV. In addition he has been quoted in prominent national publications, including USA Today, The New York Times and Huffington Post, among others. Mr. Oppenheim also understands the power of social media, and can be found on a variety of social media platforms.

Mr. Oppenheim also speaks fluent German.


  • Florida Bar, 1987; Member of the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section
  • New York Bar, 1987; United States District for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, 1987
  • U.S. District Court, Southern and Middle Districts of Florida, 1993


  • Princeton University, A.B., cum laude, 1982
  • Northwestern University School of Law, J.D., 1986
    • Member of the Northwestern University Law Review
    • Member of the National Moot Court Team

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