Real estate website zillow.com gets 5 million unique users every month. A large appeal of the website is the large amount of detail they have on nearly every city, village, or township in the country.
One of the most distinct features of the website is the section on people who reside in that area. According to Sarah Mann, an employee of zillow.com, the characterizations are done by a computer analysis, based on the 2000 census. Mann admits the information is a “bit outdated and should be taken with a grain of salt.”
Zillow.com, she said, employs only 150 people and surely cannot take an in-depth look at every place on a United States map. Yet even solely based on the numbers that appear on the 2000 census, some of the characterizations of Oak Park citizens are a bit off.
The most glaring inaccuracy states that many Oak Parkers “did not complete high school.” After being told 94.4% of Oak Parkers had a high school diploma, Mann still defended her website’s analysis, maintaining the characterization does not speak to absolute percentage of people who graduated from high school but rather the percentage of Oak Parkers who graduated high school relative to the percentage of surrounding areas.
Even under this method of analyzing the data, however, the characterization remains inaccurate. Brookfield, Chicago, Forest Park, Maywood, North Riverside and Riverside all have high school graduation rates lower than Oak Park’s. The numbers are 71.8%, 88.5%, 81.4%, 88.3%, 87.7%, and 74.5% respectively.
Zillow.com also claims Oak Park has a large number of people who speak Spanish relative to the surrounding areas. The 2000 census reveals Brookfield, Chicago, Forest Park, Maywood, North Riverside, River Forest, and Riverside all have a larger percentage of people who speak Spanish.
Other characterizations of Oak Park’s citizenry-such as a large percentage hailing from the South-should make people who know Oak Park skeptical about this website.
These characterizations of Oak Park are not inherently bad, but one assumes a major real estate website would be more careful about accuracy in their portrayal of every place they detail.
Mann detailed a myriad of other information the website utilized for their real estate pages, but she never gave a source other than the 2000 census for how they describe people in each town.
Gary Mancuso, an Oak Park real estate agent was not surprised at all to hear about the skewed facts on zillow.com. “The agents in the field, we all find Zillow to be very unreliable.”
Mancuso is not familiar with Oak Park’s people page on zillow.com but said there are other places on the website where he has seen terrible inaccuracies, noting that “the information they give doesn’t take into consideration the actual condition of the property.”
When asked about the effect such misinformation, posted on a national real estate website, would have on prospective buyers, Mancuso said, “I would hope they know better than to believe it all. If you are thinking about moving into a community, visit the village website, go seek the true information.”
In addition to his distaste for what he described as the “irresponsible” information the Seattle based zillow.com offers prospective buyers, Mancuso also questioned the whole concept of a national real estate website.
“I know Oak Park well, but I could never advise someone one in San Diego. In real estate, you always need that personal touch.”