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Zillow sued for concealing Zestimates on certain listings

(BUSINESS NEWS) Zillow being sued for Zestimates is nothing new, but they’re now being accused of concealing Zestimates on “Co-Conspirator Broker” listings, violating federal Antitrust laws.

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From our real estate section, The Real Daily:

The latest Zillow legal troubles again surround their Zestimates; this time they are being sued for their Zestimates violating federal Antitrust laws. The company has allegedly violated and continue to violate Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 and the New Jersey Antitrust Act, N.J.S.A. 56:9-3.

Plaintiff, EJ MGT LLC, based in New Jersey, filed suit again Zillow Group Inc. and Zillow Inc. today. In a 21-point legal brief outlining their specific violations, two things become immediately clear (assuming of course there is truth in these allegations): Zillow is giving preferential treatment to preferred brokerages (labeled ‘co-conspirator Broker[s] in the lawsuit) and Zestimates are wildly inaccurate (as many have adamantly stated since Zestimates’ conception).

The first few points of the brief explain exactly what Zillow is being accused of doing: “this antitrust action arises from Zillow’s conspiracy with certain real-estate brokerage companies to selectively conceal ‘Zestimates.’” Zillow’s estimate of a residential property’s “fair market value” which the lawsuit states they know “to be inaccurate,” have allowed “only select brokers to conceal the display of Zestimates on their listings to the exclusion of the general public.”

The lawsuit goes on to state that “these agreements between Zillow and certain co-conspirator brokers of residential real estate restrain trade (read: the agents/brokers being allowed to conceal unwanted Zestimates, henceforth referred to as ‘Co-conspirator Brokers’) and deprive Plaintiff and the public in general of the benefits of open and robust competition in two markets: the residential real estate market and the residential real estate brokerage market.”

In essence, Zillow and the Co-conspirators Brokers have made an illegal agreement regarding the display of Zestimates on Zillow’s site.

Zillow has long touted their Zestimates as a “user-friendly format to promote transparent real-estate markets and allow people to make informed decisions;” except Zestimates are often believed to be inaccurate and now they’re being concealed at the request of a select group of Co-conspirator Brokers – a far cry from making real estate more transparent.

If the lawsuit’s claims have any validity behind them, it seems as though Zillow may be in for a bumpy ride. Item 10 in the suit states, “Zillow has acknowledged that it conceals Zestimates as a result of agreements with only ‘certain brokers’ who receive ‘certain treatment’” and uses a message screenshotted from Zillow’s Help Center as proof these words were in fact used to explain why some listings had prominent Zestimates while others did not:

You may be wondering what brought about this lawsuit; it seems Plaintiff, EJ MGT LLC, owns and is marketing a property located in Cresskill, New Jersey, through an agent unaffiliated with Zillow (not a Co-Conspirator Broker). Therefore, their listing contains a prominently displayed Zestimate, while a similar listing in nearby Alpine, New Jersey, which is listed through a “Co-conspirator Broker,” conceals the Zestimate:

The above example is not the only one outlined in the case, however. Item 12 of the lawsuit states that further evidence can be seen by comparing a residence page for a property while it was listed with a Co-conspirator Broker versus the same residence page once the property was off the market. One clearly conceals the Zestimate, while the latter displays it clearly underneath the listing price.

For reference, the Co-conspirator Broker listing was screenshot on December 26, 2017 and the screenshot after it was taken off the market with the Zestimate was taken on January 2, 2018. Merely a week in between images, and yet the difference of how the ad is displayed is quite apparent:

In essence, Zillow has violated the very transparency they claimed to create.

Zillow is allegedly promoting misleading and inaccurate information while using their marketing power to charge brokers to hide this information which could negatively impact a sale, and which Zillow itself has acknowledged is sometimes inaccurate.

Also, general members of the public have no way to prevent Zillow from obtaining and posting information in this way, and it cannot be altered without hiring a Co-conspirator Broker, as Zillow has explicitly refused to offer the option to hide information to individual home owners, further deepening the dependency on Co-conspirator Brokers.

Because of their alleged refusal to treat everyone equally and “empower homebuyers with information,” they have potentially restrained trade in connection with the exchange of information regarding home valuation and offered anti-competitive benefits to only those brokers chosen to purchase that ‘special’ service package from Zillow that removes Zestimates from listings.

Therefore, brokers are not on even footing: when a seller attempts to price check; the brokers without it could be losing out to those who have the ‘special’ package and removal of Zestimates alongside listing prices.

So far, each individual Co-conspirator Broker has not been named; they have been named as a group: Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc., Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC, Century 21 Real Estate LLC, The Corcoran Group ERA, and Weichert Realty, according to court documents. It is unlikely that any action would ever impact the brokerages, rather Zillow Group itself.

Zillow is being sued for five counts: two counts of conspiracy to restrain trade, one count of violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, one count of slander of title/product disparagement, and one count of interference with prospective economic advantage. A jury trial has been requested.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

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  6. Jeddie Busch

    February 4, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Oh Zillow!.., What can we say about this? The recent changes to the Google algorithm have pushed them out of the top spots on search engine rankings so no they are looking at being more creative — However they are taking money from large brokerages and must make them happy too. Will be interesting to see how this continues to play out.

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Even Myers-Briggs creators say not to use the test in the workplace

(BUSINESS) The Myers-Briggs test is fascinating, no question, but it should never be used to screen candidates.

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Personality tests are some of the most popular posts on social media. At least once every day, I see “What Sauce Are You?” or “What Disney Princess Are You?” on my Facebook feed. Millions of people take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test each year, a more professional personality test. When you take the MBTI, you’re presented with a personality type, based on four characteristics, extrovert-introvert (E/I); sensing -intuition (S/N); thinking-feeling (T-F); and judging – perceiving (J/P).

Many organizations use the MBTI in the workplace to group people into teams or to select candidates for employment. After all, wouldn’t you want an extrovert over an introvert for a sales position? But using the MBTI to make serious business decisions may not be a good idea. Here’s why.

It’s unethical to use the MBTI in certain cases.

According to the creators of the MBTI, “It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants. The administrator should not counsel a person to, or away from, a particular career, personal relationship or activity based solely upon type information.”

Personality type does not imply competence or preference.

The creators of MBTI also state this in their ethical position on the personality test. I am an introvert. I will always be an introvert. But I just found out that some of my colleagues believe I am an extrovert. I can adapt to a social or business situation to get the job done. If a job used the MBTI to place me on a team, they may see that I don’t always behave like an introvert. Similarly, a job may overlook me for a position based on my MBTI type. Either way, it’s kind of unfair.

How can you use the MBTI?

The MBTI can be beneficial to help people understand their own tendencies. I remember one thing from the test, a question about whether you base your decisions on how they impact others. Years ago, I would have answered that totally in the positive. I always considered others in making my decisions, whether I should or shouldn’t have. Today, I would answer that question much differently. My understanding of boundaries is much better.

Your MBTI type can be a great communication starter, especially in teams. But it shouldn’t typecast you into a particular position on the team. Employers should not be using the MBTI to pigeonhole their employees.

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How to talk your boss into letting you work from home

(BUSINESS NEWS) Remote working is increasingly more common here are some tips on how to ask your boss for flexibility.

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You ain’t gotta go to work, work, work

To some people, “working remotely” sounds like a code word for sitting around in your PJs watching Netflix all day.

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But many professionals, managers and otherwise, recognize the value of the flexibility and independence that comes with working from home occasionally.

Pros of remote work

Depending on your role, your commute, and your personal life, benefits of working from home could include:
Reallocating commute time into productivity. 45 minutes each way means an hour and a half of wasted time – and you’re probably already tired by the time you get to work.
Uninterrupted periods of focused work. Coworkers are a wonderful resource for collaboration, and even friendship, but even the most awesome people can be annoying when you really, really, really need to focus.
Energizing quiet time. Introverts often underestimate how much they mentally need this, and everyone can use a reset once in a while.
More time to spend with kids/spouse/friends. Again, you can save time on your commute, and often you can rearrange your schedule to work a few hours after the kids have gone to bed/the movie is over/etc.

If you’ve already made that list of benefits in your head a thousand times while knocking your head against your office desk, a work arrangement that includes remote work days is definitely something you should try, if your organization and your manager will agree to it.

What’s between you and your home office?

But for many potential remote workers, getting the boss onboard seems like an unsurmountable barrier, and they may have even made the request in the past but been denied. This article is designed to help all those interested in remote work successfully navigate that daunting process.

Before we get into the details of potential concerns your boss may have, you should establish a clear reason (or reasons) why you’d like to transition to a schedule that includes working from home.

If you can’t articulate this fundamental point, your boss will be much more likely to suspect that your motives are less than pure. Both personal and professional reasons are totally valid, but being totally open is the only way to set yourself up for success.

The game plan

With these motivations in mind, develop a proposal for your boss that focuses on how working from home will benefit your organization, not you. Your boss knows that you’re asking for this flexibility for yourself, but a happier and more productive you is way better for the company than a miserable, exhausted you.

Your proposal should include a schedule or plan, and you should probably start slow with the work from home days.

If your goal is to work from home two days a week, suggest spending one day at home every two weeks for a set period, like two or three months, so that your boss will have a built in trial period to agree to.

A couple of pro tips: aside from ensuring that you’re in the office on important regular meeting days, you should avoid Friday as your work from home day to be sure it doesn’t look like you’re after three day weekends. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are ideal, because they’re in the middle of the week, and you may often have a lot of tasks and projects coming to a head on these days that you’ll need to focus on for completion.

You also need to go out of your way to make sure your boss understands that your flexible schedule would work both ways; that is, even if you’re scheduled to work from home this Wednesday, you’ll come into the office for an important meeting or check in.

Go the extra mile without being asked and your boss will have no reason to worry about flexibility.

Finally, the best way to prove the value of remote work is to actually work better remotely. That means you’re in regular contact with your team and your boss, whether you’re asking questions or just sending status updates on your projects a couple of times a day.

Over-communicating is important here.

It also means accomplishing a little more than you might at the office, or digging a little deeper. If you finish something early, ask coworkers over chat or phone if they could use your help for an hour. Make yourself available, just as you would in the office, and no one will be left wondering what you do all day.

A dedicated workspace in your home can do wonders for your productivity – it’s hard for anyone to do hard, concentrated work on their sofa with a lap desk.

Let your boss know it worked

As the end of the established trial period approaches, it would be prudent to present your boss with a summary of your remote accomplishments over the past few months.

If you’re sending regular updates, this should be easy to determine.

And no matter how sure you are that you’ll love working remotely, you should be mindful of any loneliness or feelings of isolation, and address them by staying in contact with coworker friends over chat, or scheduling lunches with them once in awhile, especially if you work from home the majority of the time.

Try again

If, after careful preparation and thoughtful presentation, your boss still isn’t having it, don’t be afraid to ask again in a few months. And in the meantime, you could bolster your case by taking a day or two of unscheduled time off and just working from home unasked.

If you can show your boss what the company gets out of it, they’ll be hard pressed to say no.

#Remote

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Business News

Teens replaced by senior citizens at fast food chains

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Teens replaced by senior citizens at fast food chains

A new trend is emerging as more fast-food restaurants are turning toward senior citizens to join their workforce rather than teens, per Bloomberg.

Walmart has been hiring older workers for years and taking a lot of scrutiny over it, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the labor force is changing.

In the last 30 years of the 20th century, the number of workers aged 55 and older was the smallest segment of the workforce. Around 2003, this group was no longer the smallest share.

Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are now living longer and working longer. The BLS estimates that the number of older Americans who will keep working after the age of 65 will grow by 4.5 percent through 2024. On the other hand, the number of teenagers expected to enter the workforce is expected to drop by 1.4 percent.

Many workers in their prime are decreasing, due to the opioid epidemic, unaffordable childcare, and the incarceration rate, which some experts say is beginning to creating a labor shortage.

In addition, seniors often have soft skills that teenagers just don’t have. After years in any industry, older Americans know how to be on time, deal with customers and navigate the ins and outs of working. Managers have to teach these skills to teenagers entering the job market. For seniors seeking work in fast food, they aren’t typically interested in moving up the corporate ladder.

Financially, it can make sense for a business to hire an older worker over a teenager. A business gets the experience of age without having to pay any more for it.

Would your business benefit?

We recently reported on the litigation regarding the word “overqualified” being a code word for “too old to hire.” There’s also a concern that older Americans will carry a higher cost or not stay in a position for a long time, but it’s time to kick those stereotypes out. The labor force is changing and fast food chains are leading the charge.

Will businesses keep up? Or will employers disregard candidates who will bring much more to the job than just being a body who shows up?

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