I’m not thinking of buying a house, but if was, I’d refer to
Zillow.com, a site layered with maps,
orthophoto aerial images, residential housing data and tax-assessed valuations.
I delivered my final "mini-briefing" of the semester in GEO781 yesterday, touted
Zillow’s finer points. I find it interesting because it aspires to aggregate
the cadastre data from multiple municipalities in a single database while tying
into Navteq maps (like Google) and
GlobeXplorer aerials
and the impressive bird’s-eye views from
. Most of the description and assessment data is available
for specific cities and counties, but it’s often listed in a table without
dynamic mapping interfaces to make reading across multiple properties efficient
or easy. We should expect Zillow to expand, too, because it’s growing the
information side of the real estate market; the bird’s-eye stuff was added just
two weeks ago. And ultimately, for me, therein lies the treat of the site. The
cadastre data is fine (even if it’s not searchable by the owner’s name like it
is at many city/county web sites), but the twin-view of the maps/photos/hybrids
and the bird’s-eye views of properties are nice to look at. And the two frames
are synched; click-n-drag action in one frame has the same effect in the
adjacent frame. The same applies to directional rotation. Bird’s-eye from the
east? Select it and the same turn happens in the map view. The compass-dial in
the upper left is smooth, too. It’s not limited to four or eight directions
like so many others.

Market comparisons for recent home sales aren’t yet available in CNY, and
when I checked them out for our former house in KC, the comps were negligible. I
suspect it to be a condition of a project in its infancy. Someone in class
yesterday said Zillow will spell the end of the real estate agent. Maybe.
What good is an agent when you have agency? Or zagency. That’s the other
thing. Zillow.com runs the risk of going wild with the reasoning that goes
"people remember z-words" (they say their favorite letter is z). Where
market-data supports it (tracking county-wide trends in sales), Zillow.com
offers what they’ve coined as a "zestimate." A happy collision of
zest+estimate? There’s also a trade-marked "Zestimator." Here’s hoping there’s
not too much more of ZatTM.
Still, the interface design and mapping uses are cool.


  1. Information on Zillow is so outdated that my house doesn’t show and it has been lived in for a year and construction started over 6 months prior to that. Zillow says that the address doesn’t exist. This leads me to believe that they have information on my neighborhood that has to be old.

  2. Old information sounds like the right conclusion. All municipal data takes time to update, including lot specs for new homes. The photos/aerials, too, take time and only cover certain areas, as noted on the site. But you can let them know about your concerns by submitting feedback. I also wonder whether it’s still better than any comparable *free* resources available online.

    I’m more interested in it as an ambitious (and new) use of layered information tied to mapping.

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