Speaking of Zillow

Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate
by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries.  Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.  New York and Boston.  2015, Zillow, Inc.

Over the past decade, the company Zillow and its eponymous website expanded across the real estate scene, augmenting and facilitating the ages-old systemic marketing of homes for sale and rent.  With their book, Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate, CEO Spencer Rascoff and Chief Economist Stan Humphries encapsulate the company’s philosophy of bringing elements of transparency to residential information. 

Early in Zillow Talk, the co-authors reflect on their respective journeys working through the travel industry, an industry which reformed vis-à-vis the Internet.  Knowing what was possible with transformation and disintermediation at the macro level, and having made their own complicated housing decisions, both Rascoff and Humphries had a shared opportunity to underscore Zillow’s vast efforts to collect, calculate, and present retrievable data that can inform as a guide for buying, selling, financing, and renting.  “Real estate,” they write, “is a lens on society.”

More than contemporary dispatches of what they see happening in U.S. markets, it’s fair to conclude Zillow Talk is also a functional resource for helping make sense of real estate.  One component of the company’s research is their breakeven horizon, which educates on the buying versus renting decision and applying how long you forecast to stay put.  “What the breakeven horizon does,” they point out, “is figure out where those two paths cross to pinpoint the number of years it would take to make buying economically preferable to renting the same home.” 

Zillow Talk addresses bubbles, walkability of neighborhoods, “why real estate agents are more important than ever,” and the mortgage interest deduction on federal income taxes.

- August 2015