Chicago Real Estate!  

Looking for an interesting or informative read?  Check out our blog posts to catch a good story, gain a new perspective, or learn about real estate in a way that's fun and relatable.  I love writing, and so I aim to share knowledge, funnies, and more, all with you in mind.

Interested to learn about a specific real estate concept?  Just let me know - and I'll absolutely throw down an article that is sure to inform, entertain and make you think!




Oct. 13, 2020

2020 Home Financing Programs - Home Buyers You Can Get Help!

Looking for Home Buyer Programs?  We Have Them!

It's the Covid, and winter is coming, and people are worried about our November this year - with all that may change in our world as we know it ... again.  But as things often change, they also stay the same!  People still move! People still have babies and outgrow their homes!  Babies grow up and have to leave the nest!  And people pass.  It's our cycle of live, and all of the "funk" that has us tuned to our news channels these days, well, it's not going to change ANY of that!  So for some news you can use on this slightly cloudy Tuesday in October, I'd like to pass along some tried and true program information, that we can help you with (on top of finding a really great property!).  Let's examine...


You've heard of it, but perhaps you are unsure how it works.  So let's look!  The Illinois Housing Development Authority offers a bunch of mortgage and downpayment assistance programs for Illinois buyers!  Here are a few:

  • Access Forgiveable:  Up to $6000 in down payment assistance
  • Access Deferred:  Up to $7500 in down payment assistance
  • Access Repayable:  Up to $10,000 in down payment assistance
  • 1st Home of Illinois:  Available to first-time home buyers in Cook Marion, St. Claire and Winnebago counties only (buyers get $7500 in down payment assistance)


This program, offered by the Illinois State Treasurer, helps Illinois buyers who might not qualify for a traditional loan purchase under "conventional" standards, and also refinancing owners!  This program guarantees up to 10% of a qualifying loan!


Fannie Mae offers a mortgage with a 3% down payment (very similar to FHA), for low-income, first-time and repeat buyers.  They are able to consider additional income sources and co-borrowers, who do NOT have to live in the home (this is called a "non-occupying co-borrower").


Freddie Mac (that's Fannie Mae's little sister!) offers a slightly different version of the 3% down payment - which is open to  very low income borrowers who are first-time or repeat buyers.  A credit score is not necessary and the source of the down payment is flexible.


Freddie Mac again - offers a first-time buyer solution with 3% down and maximum financing allowed without any geographic borders/requirements or income limits for borrowers.



So! Do you think any of these seem interesting?  I can help you find a place to consider, a loan to examine, and a home to move into - all we need is your readiness to have some fun, grab your fall/winter gear and get ready!  I remain at your service, with all of this, and more.

Have a great Tuesday and rest of your week!  



Posted in Real Estate Blog
June 3, 2020

Is it Safe to See Homes? YES YES and YES

Are You Ready To See Some Real Estate?  Get Your Fresh Air Game On and Let's GO!

The Covid has made us all feel trapped, kept us from shedding our winterish skin, and in general, made us all well more than cranky.  Now that Spring has Sprung, and we're in the "new Phase 3" of the pandemic, it's safe to emerge from your homes, get some fresh air and a ice-latte, and let's go see some houses!

Aren't sure where to start?  Well, call me!  I will help stoke the fire of real estate love and get you going with some ideas for how you can spice up your weekends, with some showings or open houses, and I'll throw you a great recipe for some fantastic weekend brunch ideas!  In fact, I'm hosting a few opens this weekend, and the only rules are that we are observing the following:

  • Face Coverings

  • Social Distancing where feasible

  • Limit of 10 people per property

  • Rented or occupied real estate requires express owner or tenant permission

If you think about it - that's not so bad at all!  But if you need to move, enlarge your space, or downsize, now is the perfect time to evaluate your needs, especially after being trapped at home for weeks on end!  I remain here to help you narrow down best choices, get yourself ready to move, and into a new space.

Ready to chat?  Call me any time!

Alisa Levin



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Posted in Real Estate Blog
March 30, 2020

A High-Yield Savings? Answer is YES

Real Estate in the Time of the Covid.....  

What to Do?  Let's Make Some Money

It sounds like the name of a catchy novel, but it's my life - and perhaps yours?  At a point in our world when everything seems topsy-turvy, we tend to want to stay still, find what foundation we can, and stay put.  That's sound advice, and makes a ton of sense.  But I will say this - if I didn't think we'd recover fully and have a more robust economy after this worldwide "shift" then I'd be a sad bunny with no purpose.

And... it behooves me to tell you - I am NO SAD BUNNY!  We are all going to be ok.  But in the meantime, it's ok to horde your TP and cans of tuna (or if you are like me, canned chicken - and Menards has some really good canned chicken in buffalo sauce that is actually quite good).... and then when you are more relaxed, caught up with your Netflix and cleaning, we can consider getting down to business.  Here is a tip I was thinking of yesterday - that honestly could be great for your bottom line!

Got Some Money In Savings?  Transfer To a High-Yield Savings (You'll Make A LOT More Money)

Ever heard of a high-yield savings?  They are not new, but their popularity has surged in recent years.   If you think about it, it's free to make such a change, and you are likely to earn a ton more interest.  There's truly no downside.  Here's all you need to do.  


Looks to me - like the best rates are in the range of 1.7-1.8% if you look around!   THat's WAY MORE money than your bank pays, so if you are inclined to keep your bucks in a bank, then definitely consider finding something that pays you better.

Once you find something that you like, then you simply open up an account, link your regular bank account to facilitate transfers, and then you move the money into the account.  

Need any additional information?  Just let me know.  I can do virtual showings, get you connected with mortgage professionals, and more.  

Be well.



Posted in Real Estate Blog
Jan. 25, 2020

Winter Real Estate Blues? Turn to the Color of WOW

Hi!  It's snowing and cold and most of us would really rather be under a blanket with something warm to drink.  However, what you may not know, is that winter is also the "bees-knees" when it comes to home-buying.  You've likely heard that warmer months are the the best time to make major house-change.  Why not?  It's possibly more fun to be out and about when temps are more manageable! Certainly it's warmer, and properties look better when the flowers are out. Despite that, there is a lot of evidence to show that winter-cold-weather buying is also, something to consider.

Here is some News You Can Use, about shopping for home, winter-wonderland style:

1 - BRRRRR, Hey, It's COLD.  

Yes.  I understand that.  But, if you bundle up, grab a coffee, and come along with me in my very well heated car, then you'd know we can have some fun while 4-Wheeling the streets of Chicago.  I have a car that really handles snow, some great tunes on the jam, and I aim to make driving around both fun and informative.  Since I am more or less an expert multi-talker, while we drive around and see cool things, I will educate you on lending and different ways to make real estate decisions (i.e. how different kinds of properties may help you reach your $ goals), as well as explaining the buying process.  Yes, it's cold.  But inside, it's WARM.

2 - All of The Other Buyers Are HOME!  Because.  Winter.

So here, because most people are home, doing inside-home things, you'll see fewer buyers vying for YOUR house.  While there are also other "renegades" heading out to make sense of great opportunity, the bottom line is that there are fewer people around, because of hibernation.  Thus, we have fewer reasons to fight over parking spots, and who grabs deals first.  Kapish?  Kapish.

3 - Can You Say Price Drop?

SO there was this guy, Alfred Marshall, and sometime in the 1700s (long before I was born), wrote this thing about "Supply and Demand."  If the New York Times had its "best seller" list, he'd have hit that.  Supply and Demand is a HUGE concept in real estate.  In winter, supply is lower than demand, and therefore, you have good opportunity to drop pricing to make a deal, to undercut other properties.  Let market forces be your guide!

4 - Motivated Sellers 

The rumors might be true:  sellers aren't thrilled to put their places on the home in the winter, because they are convinced that they will not sell.  But one other way to examine this, is that YOU can make their happy-place a reality, because yes, indeed - there are buyers in the winter.  Sellers who sell in winterland have places to be, deals to make and lives to get on with.  You can indulge them so that whatever their next chapter, you got the deal and they got the deal, and everyone wins.  Furthermore, there are the circumstances hinted at above when sellers are forced to sell during the winter. Whether they are moving , downsizing, finding a new spouse or adopting a child, the seller's situation plays a role in timing and pricing. Use that to your advantage!  

5 - Real Estate Agents/Brokers Who Are Hungry!  

One thing about a successful broker/realtor who is hungry, is that they not only WANT to help you, their desire to make a deal can absolutely propel them into greatness (which translates to YOU, the buyer, into some amazing real estate love).  A hungry broker has fire in her belly, answers the call of duty, does brave the winter (and fights with key-lock-boxes in sub-zero temps), and does so with a smile.  We go above and beyond, because that is what you the CLIENT deserve.  Because there is less food in winter, realtors worth their gold know that Winter-Cold-Brr-Weather Deals need a warm hand, a soft touch, and a healthy dose of motivation.


Looking for all of that?  I'm right here.  Call, Text, Carrier Pigeon.  Oh, and I do design/interiors as well.  Gal Friday, Winter-Style.




Posted in Real Estate Blog
Dec. 29, 2019

Earnest Money and Closing Fees - How Much Is Enough?

Buying A House?  Prepare Your Checkbook!

When buying a home, it seems obvious that you'll be spending some money, right?  But many people do not realize that it actually takes CASH, to close a deal in most cases.  So, today's blog post is all about giving you some news you can use, about the various costs you ought to expect, when buying a home.  The information here is based upon Chicago, Illinois practice, but these concepts are applicable in most of the United States.  Ask your real estate professional (or call ME!) for any specific questions.  I will get you the answers!  Ready?  Let's GO!


Earnest Money is an up-front and usually refundable portion of your down payment, which is held by the seller (or their agent), until the closing of the transaction.  In Chicago, it is common practice that a buyer - as soon as an offer to purchase is accepted by the seller - to deposit something around $1000 with the list-agent's brokerage, as "initial earnest money."  That is the first of usually two earnest money payments.  The buyer deposits a check or money order, and then provides a copy of that check to their lender for the mortgage file.  Then, as "Part 2" after the inspection and attorney review, if the buyer is moving forward with the transaction, then the buyer deposits the remainder of the earnest money funds - same as before - to the list agent's office.  These funds are PART OF the buyer's down payment, and the buyer is given credit for those funds on the closing paperwork.  The list-broker holds them usually for the duration of the transaction, and applies those funds (at closing) to the agency's commission, or delivers the appropriate balance to the title company or closing team.  

Main idea of earnest money?  It's to show the seller that you are serious!  Really?  Yes.  If you don't have $1000 then you really aren't in a position to buy a home.  In most cases, if you don't have money for a down payment of SOME kind, then you aren't in a financial position to close the deal - and so the earnest money is designed to protect the seller, who takes the property off the market for the buyer, to protect them in case the buyer does not close, and they've lost market time, and potential other buyers.  This suggests then, that earnest money can be lost or forfeited? YES.  IT can.  The best way to protect earnest money is to work with appropriate agents and lawyers, to observe deadlines, and to be serious about what you are doing.  If a deal requires earnest money, the buyer is going to be expected to deliver the funds, on time, and to the right place.  


Most people, in buying homes and land, aren't really thinking about title and taxes and ancillary fees that are necessary to close a deal - but there are usually plenty of fees to go around, paid by both parties.  A few of them are as follows:  title insurance, recordation fees, municipal transfer taxes, appraisal and lender fees, among others.  While every municipality and locale is different, one can expect 1.5-2% of the purchase price for the closing costs.  Transfer taxes are literally just that: taxes.  The city/county in which the real estate is located earns a fee for allowing the transaction, and allowing the deed to be recorded in the county.  The lender in the deal makes money through loan administration and origination fees, and the appraiser (who is usually independent from the lender) gets paid to perform an appraisal for the bank (to help the bank make sure the property is worth the price, to protect the lenders risk).  Title fees are imposed by the title company that oversees the transaction, acting as a settlement agent, hosting the actual closing, and providing title search functions, and title insurance policies (both to sellers and the lender).  Buyers and sellers both buy title insurance usually, and the purpose is to protect against claims against the real estate itself (of liens, ownership, etc).  These fees are required, non-negotiable in most cases, and a standard part of the deal.  Funds for closing comprise the remainder of the down payment (making up the difference from the prior earnest money already deposited) to fill the gap between the loan and the purchase price.  The buyer pays these funds on the day of closing in certified funds or by way of a bank wire.  Cash or personal checks are not allowed.  When contemplating a purchase, use the base of 2% for closing costs, and then estimate from there.  


Real estate legal fees are a typical part of closing a real estate transaction here in Illinois.  I've heard from reliable sources that many states do not use lawyers - and that there are "lawyer states" and "non-lawyer-states" when it comes to deals.  So here in the Chicagoland area, real estate lawyers handle the buyer and seller sides of a real estate deal, and their jobs are to ensure that title, paperwork and negotiations over the transaction are handled and completed before closing.  Lawyers make sure that what the buyer intends to buy, they actually buy - and seller's counsel clears title, oversees the transaction and prepares the majority of the conveyance documents.  The seller's lawyer affiliates with a particular title company, processes and performs title searches, clears any mortgages or liens or judgments against the seller or property, and cross-references all of the necessary documents, in order to facilitate the transaction.  Legal fees are necessary and a traditional part of the deal.  

As the buyer is nearing the end of the deal, preparing for closing - the buyer has to collect these funds in the form of a cashier's check or wire transfer and provide those closing funds to the title company, who will disburse all of the necessary funds.  All of these costs are a normal part of all real estate deals, and something a buyer must understand and be familiar with.  

Have any questions?  Be sure to ask!  A seasoned broker and real estate professional will have answers by the ready, and be able to help you.   Your lender/loan officer is also an amazing resource.  We are here to help and ready with information, hand-holding, and making your deal smooth and seamless.  

Reach out any time!




Posted in Real Estate Blog
Dec. 3, 2019

To Pre-Approve or Not? One Broker's Mantra Against Forcing It

Are you ready?  I know you ... or I know OF YOU.... and we've all heard about people calling up realtors asking to see a property, only to be declined, because they are not pre-approved with a letter in hand.  I write to call it out!  I think it's offensive, and silly, to require it, and I've got some good reasons why... SO strap in, grab your favorite drink and let's review - the reasons why!

In no particular order, here are my top 3 reasons for why a pre-approval can wait, and going out and having fun should be the priority:

  1. I CAN MAKE SURE YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED QUICKLY - WHEN YOU ARE READY.  I can get you pre-approved, quickly, if you are ready, and you want it.  What?  I can do it?  Yes.  Sort of.  I work with a phenomenal lending partner, and I know a lot more mortgage professionals who can lend nationwide.  So - when I say I can get it handled, I'm really serious. I can call up or email any one of my colleagues, provide a quick introduction and they'll jump all over the file, on my honor.  You see, mortgage lending is a VERY hungry and winner-take-all industry.  Those who are up early, hitting the ground, are those who eat that day.  So unlike your local banker vying for new checking accounts, a mortgage broker or loan officer makes his/her money not on a traditional salary, but on the actual loans closed.  Thus, if they can write your business, they want to.  As such, when their referral partners (people like me) send messages that say "jump", the good ones ask "how high?"  This is why, if we are together, and your income/credit are in good shape, we are in business.  I've got it.  We'll close it, and as a result, I don't find myself worrying about "if" we'll get you pre-approved and closed - but rather, WHEN.  I think positively, and you should too!
  2. IF YOU FIND THE PLACE YOU WANT FIRST, THEN YOU WILL BE IN A GREAT POSITION TO DO EVERYTHING NECESSARY, AT ONCE, TO GET IT.   I need you to be excited about real estate.  Especially in Chicago if you fly a paper airplane in any direction, you are likely to hit someone in the real estate industry!  So amongst your choices, you've picked me (a lovely and fine selection) and we are going to check out some homes.  What is important to me, is that you walk away feeling like you could be excited about a new place, that you have not only some direction in the process, but you feel you'll have help and information along the way, and you are interested to and excited about having some fun.  While there's lots of paperwork and money, and nerves to boot, buying and selling doesn't have to be that stressful if you know what to expect.  My role is to navigate, from beginning to end, so that you are focused on the fun stuff (where's the tv going to be hung and what color should that wall be?).  I aim to provide information before you think to ask, so that you are always informed, ready, and rarin' to go!  So, checking out some homes is a fantastic way to get you to that place of readiness. 
  3. WHAT IS YOUR MONTHLY BUDGET?  I CAN WORK WITH THAT IN MOST CASES.  Once I know what your monthly budget is, I can figure out purchase power, so that a pre-approval isn't needed by ME, to do a showing.  Realtors often use them to screen serious vs. non-serious buyers and tire-kickers.  I think that's insulting!  You may not know what you want to do until you get out there.  While preapproval process isn't hard, people get nervous.  My thoughts are that while having a pre-approval demonstrates readiness and excitement - both of those things can be generated later.  

In addition to the above reasons, I just like looking at real estate, so I feel like every client interaction is an opportunity to see more, learn more about the city, and my client - and I'll take that opportunity (it's super helpful!).  Not only that, but going on adventures bonds people together, so if I were to decline, then I'd lose your interest, your trust, and your curiosity (and that would be some other brokers gain!).  Instead, I accept all invites where scheduling permits, and we go and check things out.  While this is how I make my living, my thoughts are that I'm not really "selling real estate". Instead, I'm selling Alisa Levin - and what that means, is that if you like and trust and want to accompany me on your journey, then you are choosing ME, fun and a ton of helpful information along the way.  

So, we can handle the banking.  We can handle the questions..  We can tackle the City of Chicago and beyond.  What do you need?  I'm here, 24-7/365.  Call, text or carrier-pigeon. I love those....



Posted in Real Estate Blog
Nov. 10, 2019

Ask, Believe, Receive - In Real Estate Deals

Buying a New Place?  Finding Your Groove With Inspection Items

Are you buying a new place and wondering how to put all of the inspection items, contract details and fix-it list items together to get to closing?  I can't tell you how many overwhelmed buyers I've helped to narrow all of this down - so I thought I'd break down some things to look for in buying a new place, and "asks" that you should do in every deal, no matter what!

Inspection Items:  

  • HVAC Service - Depending on the season you will want to test the A/C or the heater - and regardless of whether the air in the property seems to be comfortable, ask the seller to provide an annual HVAC service call.  It's around $100, and it will provide peace of mind for you!
  • Run the Garbage Disposal with Water - One never knows how such a small under sink machine can make so much noise!  If the garbage disposal runs well, it may be loud, but the sound should not be frightening!  I cannot tell you how many times I have found garbage in a disposal that someone "accidentally" put in there!  So do a quick check at inspection time!
  • Appliance Warranty Date Renewal - If your seller has installed new appliances, chances are that they were purchased months before closing. So!  You need to call the appliance manufacturer and ask them if you can adjust "beginning" service date to the date of your closing, rather than the date the seller bought the items (You would just offer to send them your closing statement) - therefore, to get the ONE YEAR warranty, you have to tell them when the appliance is "placed into service" so that they can honor the warranty. 

Contract To-Do List:

     So when you first see a place with your realtor, be sure that you (or your realtor) take note of things you see that need repair or inquiry - so that they are notated in the contract as part of the deal

  • Open and close drawers in the kitchens and bathrooms so if there's a broken drawer
  • Look in the HVAC/Furnace Closet for any rust, broken or loose connections, and examine the filter to see if it's been recently changed - if not, then ask for service
  • Look under all sinks - any evidence of leaking? If so, ask seller to hire a plumber to repair things
  • Look to see if the toilet and any bathroom fixtures are loose
  • Check all windows to see if they open, close and lock
  • Look behind refrigerator - do you see dust, grime and trash?  Check things out - you want to know what kind of seller 
  • Rugs and furniture - move things to see what's there - so you can notate things in the contract before you inspect!

What's the bottom line?  You'd be surprised what a seller would agree to in order to get a deal done.  Take down/notate repair items in the contract, so they are agreed upon up front.  During inspection, pick the big-ticket repair items to focus on - but still ask for small repairs if they will provide you confidence in the deal.  One way to get around large repair items is to ask for a home warranty (note- they are only about $600!), so that future repair costs are lessened.  

Need help?  Hire a seasoned broker to guide you along the way!  If you asked me to help - I'd use my 25+ years of construction and legal experience to help you see things that you might not catch!  Need ideas?  I'm here 24/7/365.



Posted in Real Estate Blog
Sept. 6, 2019

Why Bronzeville?

I get asked all the time - WHY BRONZEVILLE?  

It's easy.  Bronzeville has it all: beauty, history, space, location, ease of transit, community, architecture, community investment and more.... There's a lot to love about Bronzeville.  What I like about it, other than the list above, is that it has so much potential to be a "hub" of Chicago development, and I am excited to be a part of that.  What people see when they tour the area, is usually the unique "Chicago architecture" and the potential of the vast open spaces that will soon be swept up by the development boom - that I just can't wait to see the next new thing to come!

Why should you like Bronzeville, other than the obvious?  Well its rich history as a destination for industry, culture, music and architecture, there's a lot from the past to love, and also look forward to.  Bronzeville is a host for up-and-coming artists, architects, real estate developers, space-planners, nature enthusiasts, and has plenty coming down it's path (what with the Obama Presidential Library, Tiger Woods Golf Course and other amazing projects coming down the pike which are crazy-close to Bronzeville), I know I am hardly the only one super excited about opportunities.

In addition to these reasons, Bronzeville has a ton of real estate potential, with vast parcels of land ripe for development in residential, commercial and industrial applications.  I'm super passionate about the area, and you'll find me poking around almost daily!  

Got questions, comments, real estate dreams?  Reach out.  I'd love to hear from you about this, that or the other!

Enjoy the weekend!



Posted in Real Estate Blog
Sept. 1, 2019

So Much to See - So Little Time?

So Much to See? So Little Time?  

Not always - if you do it right! 

Are you like me, and you make lists to do and see, and then you can't find time to get to them all?  In life, like in real estate searches, the ins and outs of getting to everything can seem daunting.  But - if you team with the right realtor, then  not only can we narrow down using my second set of eyes and ears, we can streamline things much more easily and narrowly.  How you ask?  We use knowledge, gut feelings, and importantly - data.  One thing that I don't say often to my clients is "I'm watching."  I don't want to freak anyone out!  BUT what is important, is me watching your reactions, and trying to find the SMILE - which tells me you are having fun and into the journey.  I watch and listen and try to learn what makes a client tick - so that I can become their second set of hands, to find the best place for them!  

When searching for properties, often one block makes a difference.  So does going up or down a few thousand.  So does adding and taking away parameters - all in all - accounting for the different ways that properties are listed.  We try going up and down and diagonal, so that when the time comes to send properties to clients, we're sure that we've covered the inventory fast and slow, high or low.  So, how do we tie all of this into the "so much to see and so little time to see it?"  Well that's where we come back in - to organize the search, and to coordinate showings on days/times and routes that make the most of the client's schedule, the path toward finding a suitable property, and the map.  

It may be that seeing 20 properties in a day sounds amazing.  What I can tell you - is that for every client that I've ever done an "omnibus" tour like that - they are tired, hungry, irritable and overwhelmed, and seeing even more than 10 in a day always turns out to be a terrible idea.  WHY?  Because.  People are human and they get cranky - and because honestly - things start to blend together after about 4 places.  When I guide a client - I usually limit to 6 maximum in one outing, so that the client can stay on track, focus on having fun, and they actually remember which place was which.  After all - it's both a search and an adventure. Also, I like happy clients.  I like to drop people off while they are having fun and smiling, rather than exhausted and irritable and wishing they'd found a bathroom 3 hours ago.  I can do both, but always the fun and smiling parts are what bring me back time after time.

So how can I guide you?  What can we find?  What interesting things will we see?  You've got to call me to find out.  I make this process fun.  I'll buy the coffee, and for good behavior, I'll even be chauffeur.  But what is guaranteed, is a great outing seeing some cool places, and the hunt for real estate being educational and enjoyable.  

Ready?  Let's go!  

Chat soon!




Posted in Real Estate Blog
Aug. 18, 2019

Zillow Who? What Brokers Would Like You To Understand About Zillow

We know.  It's tough navigating the internet to find the PERFECT home.  You have to sift through bad ad and posting after bad ad and posting, just to find something decent in your area that is affordable.  You believe the Zillow Zestimate brings good news for a place you've been eyeing, and it may be the perfect time to make a move.  Or is it?

Well, maybe it's not.  One thing about Zillow, is that for all it's bright colors and ease of use, the site doesn't do much to actually help people understand it.  As a former Zillow Premier Agent, I can say that not only have I invested many thousands of dollars into and onto their platform, the longer I was affiliated with it, the more I realized that the customers who use Zillow do not understand how it works.  SO, a primer on Zillow (with the caveat, that most of the other similar sites, are well.... similar).  

In the first place, in 95% of cases, if you are seeing something on Zillow, it's because it's a property that is listed on the MLS with a realtor.  Therefore, if you can find it on Zillow, it's because a realtor put it there essentially.  More specifically, Zillow stole it from the MLS feed, and uses realtor's listings on the website.  The difference is, with a realtor, you will see a lot more information than on Zillow typically.  Second, when you click "contact broker" on Zillow, you will NEVER (and I mean NEVER) be directed to the listing agent.  This is for two reasons: a) the list agents aren't the ones who pay Zillow - it's buyer's agents, who are the advertisers on Zillow.  SO, as a result, the top 3 agents you see, are the ones who have paid often thousands of dollars per month (I paid almost $4k to be top in a zip code once) to be there, and THOSE are the only agents you'll get.  b) the list-agent represents the seller and cannot ethically help you out anyway as they already have a client.  As a result, when you want to reach the list agent, the ONLY person who could reasonably get you there, is through the services of a buyer's agent.  

Lastly, one thing Zillow does, and it does not advertise this, is that it does NOT update it's information and it is NOT necessarily current or in "real time."  I know this, because hundreds of times people called me for something they saw online, and I had to bear the bad news: it had been sold long ago, was never on the market, or was under contract, and therefore not available.  See?  What you find on Zillow may not even be for sale! So why all this mess?  It's because Zillow is not a real estate company.  They are NOT there to serve the customer.  In fact, Zillow's customers are realtors.  Zillow and, and other sites - their SOLE CUSTOMER BASE is realtors.  

Here's how it REALLY WORKS:

  1. We input listings as list agents, for a seller.
  2. Zillow and other websites steal that data.
  3. Zillow advertises the properties it steals from the MLS boards across the country, and world.
  4. Zillow makes you (the customer) think that it's helping you.
  5. Zillow gives realtors/real estate agents the opportunity to "buy into zip codes" at exorbitant prices (thousands of dollars per month per zip code).  Best to be in the "top 3 for visibility".
  6. Zillow charges real estate agents for the zip code, and then shows the general public the listings, with the advertised agents showing on the listing.  
  7. Zillow gives the customer the chance to connect with a realtor who has advertised on the site (don't forget those THOUSANDS of dollars), and the realtor agrees to this, because in exchange for the thousands of dollars paid, "LEADS" come in from texts, emails and phone calls regarding the properties in the zip code. 
  8. If a realtor/agent helps a buyer close on a deal, when they've paid for the lead, but made a commission on the sale.

So.  All of this doesn't sound terrible.  And for me, it wasn't really.  I made good money using Zillow, and it was easy.  The problem was, and part of the reason why I created, is because transparency is the name of the game in real estate, and customers should know that while I've spent some money to get in front of them, my goal is to serve them, and I can do that better, if I'm not cash-poor every month owing all my deals to the lead source.  With this site, having lower overhead helps me serve clients better.  With Zillow, the pressure was on, which translated into me stressfully pushing people - which can backfire!  

People seem to love Zillow-type sites, and they'll be around for a long time. They are easy to use, easy to find places, and easy to connect with a broker there.  But one thing perhaps to know:  Anything that can be found on Zillow, can be found with a broker.  Buyer brokerage services are FREE, and it's ALWAYS in a client's best interest to have representation.  Not only that, as mentioned above, a customer will absolutely unequivocally not get in touch with a list-agent using zillow.  It's just not designed that way!  

Anyway, this is by all means, not a Zillow bash!  I love them for some of what they do!  But one thing has always been true:  they don't advise the customer of their true platform - and their true goal (which is to make shameless money off of realtor's backs!).  Zillow does NOT aim to help you find real estate.  It's sole purposes in life are to get more realtors to pay them as marketing and advertising becomes more competitive.  As a customer, you are being duped.  You should know!  

So what to do?  Well - naturally I'm saying, connect with a relatable and knowledgeable realtor.  There are thousands of them in every direction.  For your most necessary purchase of your life - all you need is someone trustworthy and competent.  Yes, I can help.  But so can a ton of other amazing and lovely brokers out there.  We are all here to help, and in this ever-changing and competitive real estate landscape, all I wanted you to know, is that believing everything online about real estate is what the big Zillows of the world want you to do.  They don't give you all the facts for a reason.  If you EVER want the real deal, then best to approach "boots on the ground."  We always know the 4-1-1 on real estate.

Need more insights? I'm here 24-7-365. Call, text, PM or snail mail me - any way you like. 




Posted in Real Estate Blog