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Zillow Zestimate and Mr Humphries Go To Washington

Stan Humphries Zillow government dataZillow’s data aggregation prowess has pushed its chief economist into a new position as a member of the federal government’s open data advisory council.

Stan Humphries will take a position as an advisor on the Department of Commerce’s panel intended to help government make better decisions based on open data.

The move will undoubtedly generate criticism, so let’s get that out of the way.  Zillow’s research projects are vast, but the zestimate is still the most iconic piece of data–and it’s notoriously inaccurate.

That ironic coupling will spawn some great jokes.  I’ll get back to that at the end.

Competitive objections aside, this kind of project is what Zillow does best.  Applying zillions of data points to guesstimate a single home’s value is mildly rewarding, but using that data to create macro-scale insights creates real value.

Zillow, and Humphries, are at their best in this space.  They have been been beating Case-Shiller to the punch for years already.

Public records are available to any forecaster, but Zillow acquires them and processes them faster.  Add in agent-generated listing data that Zillow can use to predict inventory changes far more quickly than its think-tank competitors in the data forecasting world.  Then imagine what the trends in actual user traffic analytics could do to help evaluate real-time changes in buyer motivation, geographic shifts, and changes in the kind of housing that consumers are seeking.

Zillow was built on the idea that they could do real estate data better, and while many real estate professionals feel that hasn’t been delivered on a home-by-home basis, their large-scale data forecasting may have already become the best in the country.

So, good luck to Humphries and Zillow on this project, the choice was a good one.  In the meantime, keep your sense of humor switched on, because we’re not going to let you off that easily.

Zillow zestimate meme

About Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord is a former management consultant and web developer who writes for for Inman News and REALTOR® Magazine. He is Managing Broker for Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and 2016 President-Elect of Seattle King County REALTORS®. His team sells Seattle homes, condos, and Bellevue homes.

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