If you're looking to save on realtor fees, you can list your home for free on Zillow. But while more than a third of sellers attempt to sell their homes themselves, only a handful end up closing a deal. Do the potential savings justify the drawbacks? Read on to learn more.
It’s free to list a home on Zillow for sale by owner (FSBO) or with an agent. That said, it’s important to remember that Zillow is, at its core, a massive real estate database, plain and simple.
When you list FSBO on Zillow, you're responsible for every aspect of the home selling process. That means creating your own listing, taking care of photos, communicating with buyers, scheduling showings, fielding offers, negotiating, handling paperwork, disclosures, and more.
You’ll also be competing with thousands of other local sellers. Most will be working with experienced agents who are pricing and marketing their homes aggressively — on Zillow and hundreds of other real estate sites.
Your best bet for getting a great offer quickly is to list with an experienced, local real estate agent.
If you're looking to save on listing fees, Clever's free service matches you with top local agents and negotiates low rates on your behalf, saving you up to 66%.
Read on to learn more about listing a home on Zillow: how it works, pros and cons, and alternatives you may want to consider.
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What is Zillow?
Zillow is the nation’s leading online real estate marketplace, based on monthly website traffic.
Today, Zillow offers a wide array of products and services; however, it’s first and foremost a massive real estate database, consisting of more than 110 million “living” U.S. properties for sale, rent, or listed as “off-the-market.”
Unlike many other real estate websites, Zillow is accessible to the public. Agents, buyers, sellers, casual browsers — really anyone who’s interested — can use the site to view listing information, look up estimated property values (which Zillow calls “Zestimates”), assess local market conditions, and more.
Absolutely. Zillow represents a clear opportunity to reach a massive potential audience of interested buyers in your area.
Zillow’s parent company, Zillow Group, owns a number of other popular real estate websites, including Trulia.com. Together, Zillow and Trulia represent an approximate 36% share of the entire online real estate market — or a combined total of 59 million website visitors per month.
Of course, just because millions of people are visiting these two websites every month, that certainly doesn’t mean millions of people are going to see your listing.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind about listing on Zillow for sale by owner:
- Only about 50% of Zillow’s traffic represents users who are actually interested in buying or selling property.
- Your qualified audience will be limited to buyers in your local market who are interested in your specific price range and property type.
- You’ll be competing with thousands of other Zillow listings for these buyers’ attention — and many of these sellers will be working with professional real estate agents who are leveraging other marketing channels (MLS, social media, brokerage websites, local papers, etc.) to give their clients the upper hand.
Listing on Zillow should be part of any home seller's marketing strategy; however, it certainly shouldn’t be the only thing you do.
The best realtors will not only list your home on hundreds of real estate websites — Zillow included — they’ll also run digital and print ad campaigns, send out flyers, tap into their local professional networks, and more.
Unlike you, they have the resources and expertise necessary to find highly qualified, motivated buyers quickly and negotiate the best deal possible on your behalf.
Pros of Listing Your Own Home on Zillow
- No need to work with a real estate agent — Zillow facilitates FSBO listings
- No fees — listing FSBO on Zillow is free for the seller
- When you list FSBO on Zillow, your listing is automatically syndicated to Trulia.com, the second most popular real estate site in the U.S.
Cons of Listing Your Own Home on Zillow
- You’ll have to compete with thousands of other local listings, most of whom will be working with experienced professionals, which gives them an upper hand.
- Millions of people browse Zillow each month and only a small sliver are motivated buyers. Without an agent screening inquiries on your behalf, expect to be fielding a ton of calls and emails from casual or unqualified parties.
- Zillow uses your listing to advertise for buyer’s agents in its Premier Agent Network, potentially snatching money directly out of your pocket (see the next section).
- Zillow will sell your information to its local Partner Agents and third-party lead generation companies — expect calls to start pouring in from listing agents trying to convince you to sell with them instead of FSBO (see the next section).
Zillow does not charge sellers to publish their own FSBO listings on its site.
As you might suspect, this isn’t because Zillow is feeling generous or doesn’t care about money. Just like many other “free,” online services — Google, Facebook, etc. — the reality is that YOU are the product!
How does Zillow make money?
Zillow primarily generates revenue through advertising across its extensive network of websites and apps. Property management companies, mortgage lenders, interior designers, home insurance agencies, and general contractors are just a few examples of the types of businesses that pay for ad space across Zillow Group’s numerous online properties.
More recently, Zillow officially entered the growing “iBuying” market with its launch of Zillow Offers. iBuyers are companies that use advanced algorithms and data to assess property property values and make cash offers, which they then turn around and resell for a profit.
Zillow also offers “Premier Services” for real estate agents, which include website design, customer relationship management systems (CRMs), and targeted, local advertising.
Importantly, when you list FSBO on Zillow, you can expect two things to happen:
- You’re going to start getting phone calls from local Zillow Premier listing agents trying to convince you to ditch FSBO and sign with them instead.
- On your listing, Zillow is going to advertise local buyer’s agents who are part of its Premier Network and direct interested buyers to them, not you.
But it’s not just Zillow’s Premier Agents you have to worry about — third-party lead generation companies like Vulcan 7 will be passing along your information to local real estate agents as well. When you put your home on Zillow as FSBO, rest assured, you will get plenty of calls — only they’ll be from realtors, not interested buyers.
The point is that Zillow knows that FSBO sales rarely work out (Vulcan 7 aptly points out that on its site that approximately 70% of FSBO sellers end up signing with a listing agent), and they’ve
In other words, the truth is that Zillow isn’t offering a free service — rather, when you enter your information, you’re simply turning yourself into a lead they (or a third-party) can turn around and sell to the highest bidder.
Here’s how to publish your FSBO listing for free on Zillow:
- Create a Zillow profile and/or log in
- Find your home by looking up your address on Zillow — yes, chances are it’s already in the database
- In the “Public” view, click “More” → “Post For Sale By Owner for Free.” If you haven’t already claimed this property as your own, you’ll be prompted to do so before continuing.
- On the FSBO Listing page, you’ll be able to set a list price, upload photos, write a listing description, edit home facts, and add your contact information.
- Once everything is ready, click “Post For Sale By Owner” and submit your listing for Zillow’s review.
- Before publishing your listing, Zillow will have to verify the information you provided — and that you actually own the property. This can take up to 72 hours. To learn more about the verification process, read Zillow’s guide here.
1. Invest in professional photos
In real estate, first impressions matter — especially online. Including great photos in your listing can help you sell up to 32% faster. Usually, the cost of hiring a pro with the right gear and expertise is well worth it.
2. Write a great listing description
Your listing description is one of the best opportunities you have to make a compelling pitch and sell people on the idea of your home. Be as descriptive as possible and highlight all of your home’s best features; make sure you’re being honest and describing your home accurately; and be sure to use your spell-checker or have someone proofread your work!
3. Home pricing strategy is key
As you may already know, getting a professional appraisal, comparative market analysis, or running your own “comps” is key in order to determine your home’s fair market value and set a competitive listing price. That said, you also need to consider that most people on Zillow search using price filters. When setting your list price, try to keep it right under common price thresholds — i.e., if you list at $300,000, you miss out on anyone that sets their threshold at < $300,000. A $299,999 price point will likely increase your audience substantially.
4. Only accept offers from pre-approved buyers
This is very important. One of the biggest problems with Zillow is that it’s open to the public. Unlike on an MLS, where buyers are working with licensed agents and are, therefore, presumably somewhat qualified, Zillow is effectively the wild west of real estate. There are countless horror stories from sellers who accepted an offer, got through all of the inspections, negotiations, and paperwork, only to have the deal fall through because of the buyer’s financial situation (Learn the difference between pre-approved and pre-qualified).
5. Don’t just rely on Zillow
Approximately 91% of sellers list their homes with a licensed real estate agent. That means most of your competitors’ listings are likely getting published across hundreds of other websites and advertising channels, which gives them a much better chance of capturing the attention of your ideal target buyer. If you’re trying to sell your home FSBO, you’ll need to hustle hard — that means posting on as many sites as possible; spreading the word on social media and among family, friends and co-workers; posting signs and passing out flyers; anything you can do to boost your visibility and attract local buyers.
While listing a home on Zillow for sale by owner is technically “free,” the truth is you’re probably not going to have much luck if that’s your only plan.
Most sellers who attempt a FSBO listing are looking to save on realtor fees. In a traditional real estate transaction, sellers are typically on the hook for a 6% commission, which is split between the two agents handling the transaction.
The good news is that there are ways you can get all the benefits of working with a full-service real estate without the high commission fee.
Clever negotiates discounted commission rates with top-rated, local agent from major brands or regional brokerages (Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, etc.) These agents have agreed to work for a flat fee of $3,000 — or 1% if your home sells for more than $350,000.
Importantly, Clever only partners with full-service agents. In other words, you get all of the same services you would expect from a traditional agent — pricing strategy, professional photography, your listing on the MLS, Zillow, and hundreds of other real estate sites, showings, negotiation support, help with closing, and more — all at a small fraction of the typical cost.
What is Zillow Make Me Move?
The decision to sell your house may not be final yet — and that’s okay! Zillow also offers a free listing option called Make Me Move. Sellers can list their home as a “potential listing” and give buyers the option to view the home and contact the seller directly with questions. These listings may get as much exposure as a home listed “For Sale,” but it gives buyers the option to further explore the local market.
How accurate are Zestimates?
According to Zillow, “the vast majority of Zestimates are within 10% of the selling price of the home.” However, Zillow’s algorithm that calculates estimated home value relies on what’s inputted, including square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms, and other data.
Remember, anyone can post a listing on Zillow with almost zero oversight or verification necessary. If any of the information in a listing is incorrect or inaccurate — which likely happens often — Zillow’s estimated fair market value could be off by much more than 10%.
Should you claim your home on Zillow?
If you’re planning on selling your home now or in the near future, claiming your home on Zillow is a good idea. Even if you plan on holding onto the property, claiming your home allows you to edit the property details, ensuring higher accuracy and a better Zestimate for when you are ready to list.