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Zillow Talk was written by the two founders of Zillow, Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries.  I was hoping that Zillow Talk would be a book about how Zillow was started, how the company was able to accumulate all the data, the growing pains, things the company has learned, and where it is going from here.  Basically, I was expecting a founder story, and I would have been happy if it included at least a few of those things.Book review of "Zillow Talk" by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries

Except the book went in a completely direction.  So what was Zillow Talk about?

Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate starts out from the point of view of the two men who started the company, who, coincidentally, are also the authors.  We learn that Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s CEO, co-founded Hotwire and made a bunch of money after Hotwire was sold to Expedia.  We also learn that Dr. Stan Humphries, the Chief Analytics Officer and Chief Economist of Zillow, has a PhD and is very analytical.

And the other half of the book is about the findings from all of the data that Zillow has on almost every property in the country and their values.  Zillow has an incredible amount of data like addresses, list prices, sales prices, days on market, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and more.

Unfortunately, when discussing the findings, the authors provide an extremely in depth, roundabout, and excruciation explanation of each result.   Another way to put it is that they include a lot of fluff to make sure the book hits their publisher’s requirement for the number of pages.  You learn that houses near a Starbucks increase in value at a higher rate than houses not near Starbucks, and then a bunch of fluff to explain how they got there.  You learn that houses near cities appreciate faster than houses not near cities.  You learn that if you get into a the next hot neighborhood, your house will eventually appreciate faster than houses not in that neighborhood.  I just replaced 45 minutes of reading “Zillow Talk” with 3 sentences.  You’re welcome.

The most impressive finding, in the authors’ opinions, is the “Zestimate”.  Zillow loves the Zestimate, and think it blows sliced bread out of the toaster.  However, ask any real estate agent or appraiser, and they will tell you that the Zestimate is the worst thing to hit the industry since people had to cut bread with a knife themselves.  So much of their book was selling the reader on the importance of Zestimate, and how it is such an amazing tool that everyone should use.  The authors lose credibility with their constant selling of the Zestimate.

The book is meant to help the home buyer and seller by telling them the secrets that Zillow’s data holds.  There may be some nuggets of valuable information in there.  There are a couple of interesting anecdotes.

Unfortunately, this book seemed to have three purposes: to make everyone believe that Zillow is a great website, to convince everyone that the Zestimate is an amazing tool, and to make money from book sales.  I think Zillow is a great online tool for researching real estate, but this book reflects negatively on their brand, and Zillow lost some credibility.