The Expansion of Real Estate Listings

High foreclosure rates and the rapid overall growth of the real estate-owned property market are fueling the expansion of online real estate broker communities such as Zillow.com, a provider of free national housing information to homeowners, buyers, sellers, real estate agents and mortgage professionals.

The newest Zillow partner is Weichert Realtors of Morris Plains, N.J., whose 40,000 listings nationwide will be automatically posted to the Zillow Listings Feed program on a regular basis.

To date, Zillow said, its website contains over 3.2 million listings. Weichert joins hundreds of new Zillow.com partners since its creation in 2006, including the recent addition of the Houston Association of Realtors. HAR alone has expanded the Zillow database with over 70,000 listings in the Greater Houston area, as well as links to HAR.com. The HAR-Zillow partnership enables HAR's Houston MLS to automatically feed all for-sale listings to Zillow.com. At the same time, it provides free marketing for the listings of 26,000 HAR members, which is the second-largest local association of Realtors in the country.

A Zillow spokesperson told NMN the company expects to finalize additional partnerships and is in conversation "with multiple MLS and brokerages."

Upon the announcement, Weichert Lead Network president Michael Montsko said the partnership is in line with Weichert's effort to maximize marketing exposure to its associates and listings.

"The Zillow Listings Feed program offers a tremendous marketing opportunity for our agents and their sellers," he said. "By syndicating our listings to Zillow, we are able to expose our clients to Zillow's 5.5 million visitor's each month."

Listings posted include a description of the property with multiple photos and contact information for the listing agent.

In addition partners have the opportunity to provide links to their specific websites. For instance, links to the Weichert website enable Zillow users to retrieve additional information. Users also have the option to connect with a Weichert sales associate if they need guidance through the home buying or home selling process.

Weichert Realtors represents 18,000 sales associates operating through over 500 company-owned and franchised sales offices nationwide.

"We're excited to have a company of Weichert's size and stature join our listings feed program," said Zillow's chief operating officer, Spencer Rascoff. "Weichert has more than 500 company-owned and franchised sales offices in key markets throughout the U.S. We believe this partnership will be extremely beneficial to our users nationwide."

In addition to for sale listings from MLS and brokerages, Zillow offers a wide variety of listings users searching for a home can search under three main categories: for sale by owner, new construction and foreclosures.

While numbers of REO properties are not posted as a separate group, the overall foreclosure data, Zillow said, are retrieved from specialized sites. One such source is the Foreclosure.com database, which contains pre-foreclosures, foreclosure auction properties, bankruptcies, REO and properties from HUD, VA, Fannie Mae and other government agencies. It also includes properties from over 100 corporate sellers, the spokesperson said.

"All of their information comes directly from these sources on a daily basis and is fed to Zillow. That said REO properties are a part of our user search experience on Zillow."

The Zillow Listings Feed program allows listing providers to automatically gain free marketing exposure for their data on one of the country's most popular real estate sites. Advantages include allowing real estate brokerages to post for-sale listings directly to the site in a bulk feed and giving the homes a virtual for-sale sign at no cost, Zillow said.

Plus, individual agents have the option to enhance exposure by creating a free profile page with photos, contact information and more details about themselves, linked directly from each listing.

Zillow's Zestimate tool has provided home price data on millions of properties, along with a website with community input, local information and user dialogue. Its stated goal is to educate about all stages of real estate ownership starting with buying, selling, home improvement and financing through Zillow.com, Zillow and Zestimate, which are registered trademarks of Zillow Inc.

Persistent home value depreciation and new data show one-third of Americans who sold their home in the past year lost money, and experts say the trend will continue in 2009.

Zillow's third-quarter 2008 Real Estate Market Reports indicate almost three-quarters, or 74%, of all homes lost value in the past year. An unknown fact to 49% of homeowners who think their own home's value either increased or stayed the same over the past year, Zillow's Homeowner Confidence Survey found.

"It's clear we are at a unique point in history," said Zillow vice president of data and analytics, Stan Humphries. "We've had seven consecutive quarters of decline, and we expect that to continue until at least the middle of next year. Most markets are still seeing five-year annualized returns, but we will see more markets slip into flat or negative long-term change as the economy continues to suffer, factors like job losses begin to further affect foreclosure rates and home values continue to decline."

According to the third-quarter report, the decline in home values was at 9.7% year-over-year with the Zillow Home Value Index at $202,966. (The index is the median estimate valuation of all single-family residences, condominiums and cooperatives for a given geographic area.)

Over the past 12 months, 30.2% of homes sold for a loss, up from 23.7% at the end of the second quarter. The situation appears to be worse in California since of the 17 markets where over 50% of homes sold in the past year were sold for a loss, 14 such markets were in that state.

Data show, however, that "the percentage of homeowners with negative equity remained fairly steady" from the second to the third quarter while more foreclosures were completed and median downpayments rose in 61 markets. The report found one in seven, or 14.3%, of all homeowners across the country has negative equity. Similarly almost one-third, or 29.5%, homeowners who bought in the last five years are underwater.

Nationally, five-year annualized change for the third quarter is 3.4% and 10-year annualized change is 6.1%. Detroit reported the worst overall long-term depreciation, with five-year annualized change at -3.1% and 10-year annualized change at 0.9%.

Most affected by long-term depreciation were hard-hit areas in California's Central Valley, like Stockton, where the five-year annualized change is -3.8%, followed by the Greater Boston area where the five-year annualized change is -1% and the Cleveland area where the change is -0.8%.