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Denver named second worst selling market, Zillow data questioned

Forbes’ top ten worst selling markets

downtown denver skylineJust over a week ago, we shared with you Forbes’ top ten worst selling markets, listing Denver, Colorado as the second worst market, noting 42,000 homes on the market, a 27% increase over the year.

In comments on the AG post, Denver Realtor, Kristal Kraft said, “Somebody is smoking funny weed at According to my figures Denver has 18,869 units (combined single family detached and attached) on the market. At end of February 2010. At same time last year we had 20,059. In my arithmetic book that is MINUS 5.93% not 27% more than last year.”

Kristal wasn’t alone in her sentiment that the stats listed by Forbes didn’t match data on the ground, there has been a public outcry by many Denver area practitioners.

Forbes author, Francesca Levy listed as her data source for examining a ten county area (Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Elbert, Gilpin, Clear Creek, and Park), and according to, Katie Curnette of believes the figure to be accurate. reports that “her story had stirred so much response, that [Levy] is ‘tempted to do a whole story’ on what is going on in the Denver market.”

Conflicting data

The Denver Business Journal notes that just 10 months ago, Forbes named Denver as the best place to buy a home in America, pointing out the conflict in data reporting. Colorado Realtor, Suzanne Alvarez reported “a 12 percent year over year surge in March for Denver. Sales skyrocketed 47 percent higher from February as buyers greeted warmer weather with sales.”

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Calling for an explanation

On the heels of this conflict, current Denver mayor and Gubernatorial candidate, John Hickenlooper has stated he intends on calling for a correction and explanation of the Forbes data. Hickenlooper told, “I’ll send them a letter. I’ll call them and demand that they justify where their data came through and walk us through it, or write a correction. If they can’t justify it, it is just plain reckless and can have very serious consequences.”

We at AgentGenius think it’s fair to say that Forbes has been a trusted news source for quite a long time. We’re not going to distrust Forbes going forward, but we will verify their data sources prior to publication.

It seems that the problem here may not be with the Forbes journalist, rather with the data, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out as Zillow (Zillow response)/Forbes explains such a disparity in the numbers.

Image courtesy of Flickr, CC Licensed.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Jason L

    April 15, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    The fact that Forbes is relying on Zillow data in any way is also scary, although not as scary as the automated valuation tools that banks use to make decisions.

  2. Jonathan Benya

    April 15, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    How can any journalist/reporter claim they get their real estate data from Zillow with a straight face? Isn’t the local MLS a better resource? Shame on them if their reporting standards include using data that’s siphoned second hand from the originating source!

  3. Kristal Kraft

    April 16, 2010 at 12:32 am

    This whole story is so out of whack. We have consulted with members of the MLS’s along the Front Range of Colorado and there are less than 40,000 listings in the system.

    Now maybe the folks in New York City think of Metro Denver encompassing the entire Front Range, but folks here certainly don’t. Specifically which “metro areas” do these numbers encompass? Is Francesca talking the same language to Zillow?

    How can one ever know? As of this afternoon she had not responded to John Rebchook, a long-time Denver Reporter, guess professional courtesy isn’t taught to interns in NYC.

    Where’s the Accountability in reporting?

    Readers look to sources like Forbes for their news. Consumers rely on their “news” to make buying and selling decisions. When the market looks awful, people retreat, prices fall, values fall. Families lose their homes. Unverified stats published without verifying a second source in addition to the arrogant absence of stating specifics of the data, is suspect.

    Is this not Blockbusting at the city level? Isn’t Blockbusting a Federal Offense?

    If I as a REALTOR were to spread such crap, I’d soon be serving time in the Federal Pen.

    Shame on Forbes for allowing irresponsible reporting.

    Kristal Kraft

  4. Katie Curnutte

    April 16, 2010 at 1:18 am

    Hi — Katie Curnutte from Zillow here. Lots of controversy here, and many details I’d like to clear up specific to Zillow’s data.

    Most importantly is to point out that the data Forbes used in the story came from Zillow’s Web site and represented the number of all homes for sale on Zillow at the end of January, in the entire Denver metropolitan statistical area (not just Denver city, but the entire 10-county MSA). We labeled that number on our Web site as “Homes For Sale on Zillow.”

    Another point, which I was quoted on in, is that changes in the number of homes listed on Zillow can be influenced by new partners, such as brokerages, who feed us listings. If we get more partners, the number of homes for sale on Zillow may rise because of this, rather than because of market influences. So the 27% increase over a year did, indeed, represent a 27% increase in homes for sale on Zillow; it may or may not have represented an increase in all homes on the market. Also important to note is that our data contains not just MLS listings, but FSBO listings and foreclosure listings.

    Forbes based their rankings on data from several sources. Here’s their methodology, copied and pasted from the story:

    “To find America’s worst-selling cities, we started with all the Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the U.S. with populations over 1 million. Next we further narrowed the list to the MSAs with the biggest two-year sales price drops for single-family homes, based on data from the National Association of Realtors.

    “Two cities we left out were Detroit (which would have likely ranked highly), and Nashville. For these cities, sale price data was not readily available.

    ‘Then we looked at the change in the number of single-family home sales between 2008 and 2009, with data from Moody’s ( MCO – news – people ), and cities where inventory was rising–a worrying sign that homes are increasingly stagnating on the market–using data from Zillow. The cities were ranked according to the biggest inventory increases and biggest drop in home sale numbers between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009. Those two metrics were then averaged for each city to determine our top 10.”

    But probably the most important point I’d like to make is that looking at any one statistic in a vacuum will not give you an accurate picture of what’s happening in a market. It’s much better to look at an index that was designed to represent the overall health of an area. We have the Zillow Home Value Index for just that reason — it measures the median value of all homes in an area. In February 2010, the Denver metropolitan statistical area’s Index fell 0.4% compared to the same time period last year. This compares with a national change of -5.4%. Denver’s median home value peaked in May 2006, and since then, home values have fallen 10.8 percent. Compare that with the U.S. as a whole: Home values peaked in June 2006, and have since fallen 23.8 percent.

    I hope this clears up any confusion about Zillow data and how it was used in this story.

  5. Susie Blackmon

    April 16, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Wow. There are so many ways to interpret RE numbers. 😉

    Speaking of Zillow:

  6. Maureen McCabe

    April 16, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Go KK!!!!!!

    This is so odd Katie wrote “Another point, which I was quoted on in, is that changes in the number of homes listed on Zillow can be influenced by new partners, such as brokerages, who feed us listings. If we get more partners, the number of homes for sale on Zillow may rise because of this, rather than because of market influences. So the 27% increase over a year did, indeed, represent a 27% increase in homes for sale on Zillow; it may or may not have represented an increase in all homes on the market.”

    That is NOT the same thing as a market NOT selling. What other markets on Forbes list are there more homes on Zillow…. because Zillow landed a big new client? What other Forbes stories are flawed because the information is misrepresented?

    Is that good reporting? No. Forbes should make that very, very clear. Or should Zillow should make that very, very clear to Forbes??? That they don’t know how much is on the market, they just have a handle on what is on their site now vs. what was on their site. Makes for a less interesting story.

  7. teresa boardman

    April 16, 2010 at 8:50 am

    It is about time that people started questioning data from sources that will not show their math so to speak. We can write anything on the internet and people just believe it. It is irresponsible to publish numbers without being able to back them up and without using reliable data for reporting. You go!

  8. Kristal Kraft

    April 16, 2010 at 8:55 am

    So this would mean if Zillow doesn’t partner with all the brokers in an area, the number of listings in an area would not reflect an ACTUAL number. It seems to me this fact alone would cause a responsible person looking for the TRUTH not to use Zillow as a credible source.

    Of course Zillow has statistics based on their own inventory, just like I have my numbers. Both sets of data are correct for us as units but certainly not a reflection of the entire market.

    I’ve been wondering how the other 9 markets are taking Ms. Francesca Levy’s frivolous reporting? }

    I bet a savvy attorney could define some serious damages here amongst the cities named. Let’s hold Forbes accountable for damages.

    Maybe next time a news agency decides to publish facts they will actually check their sources first.

  9. Linda Davis

    April 16, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I’d always trust Kristal over Forbes and Zillow on most any topic.

  10. teresa boardman

    April 16, 2010 at 9:58 am

    . . I think Forbes is the culprit. I see Zillow as freedom of speech and anyone who uses the data should understand that there are no guarantees of reliability. It has me wondering how many other Forbes articles are built on information or data from unreliable sources.

  11. Maureen McCabe

    April 16, 2010 at 11:23 am

    do you think other cities should be concerned? Milwaukee? Number one worst selling housing market according to

    Columbus is on a list did in February 2010 of ‘America’s Best Housing Markets’ along with other cities like Minneapolis, St. Louis Mo., etc. strangely St. Louis is on this worst list too, two months later.. No the two reports are not the exact opposites and who knows what either really means. Pittsburgh PA is on that list. I think it was number one on the BEST list in February. Just today? Yesterday there was an announcement that Howard Hanna is feeding their listings to Zillow. Would that mean the Western PA markets would make a worst list because of increased inventory? I believe HH is the biggest brokerage in Cleveland now… it has to be. Would that boost Cleveland on their worst list?

    Some of the data in the report that has Denver #2 is from NAR. Wouldn’t the numbers about increased inventory be available from NAR too? Why would Forbes use Zillow for that?

  12. Kristal Kraft

    April 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Maureen – Guess the question would be “what is Forbes’ intent?” Are they interested in publishing the truth or is this just a headline to draw eyeballs as they pitch whatever wears they are selling on the site?

    If Francesca Levy had taken the time to qualify where and what she was accounting for it might have been different, but no she didn’t do that. She has taken bloated numbers from Zillow and attributed them as being real.

    Sadly this impacts consumers in a negative way. That’s way I feel Forbes should be held accountable, as well as every other media outlet.

    Why should they have free license to devalue property? There are laws restricting this, why isn’t the media held accountable too?

  13. Harriman Real Estate

    April 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    To paraphrase Twain, “There are 3 kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and (Zillow) statistics.” And if not the statistics, then at least the methodology used in analyzing and reporting them.

  14. Kevin Cottrell

    April 16, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    We have detailed analysis for the St Louis market and can definitively state that the Forbes article is patently inaccurate on each and every account. For them to, as was noted above, place the market in their top market based on some nebulous data in Feb, then reverse with yet another article later borders on making them a financial tabloid completely devoid of editorial standards.

    Its so bad that several reporters in town, including the St Louis Post Dispatch, will not source or reference anything from Forbes – and entirely due to inaccurate data and lack of credibility.

    Its a shame, they used to be a valid and reliable source. AG, you may want to reconsider the point noted above – their articles are not to be trusted and for AG to even repeat the nonsense gives it ‘legs’ and validity.

  15. Melissa O

    April 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    The Denver real estate community cries, “Foul”, on the characterization of our housing market being among the top worst markets in the U.S. based on Zillow figures. Through aggressive media outreach efforts, we’ve been able to get the writer to take another look at the use of Zillow statistics and possibly offer up a new version of our local market. Kudos to the Denver Realtors and Forbes in working together to get accurate information in front of the public.

  16. Maureen McCabe

    April 17, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Kudos to Denver Realtors (including but not limited to Kristal Kraft ;- ), Metrolist, the mayor of Denver,John Hickenlooper , John Rebchook of , Denver economist Patty Silverstein and all the other locals who spoke out about this article. It would have been easy to just hope no one saw the article and it would not have any effect and go on about their business.

    Of course that 42,000 number is kinda hard NOT to notice being double what Metrolist shows… Is Forbes going to look at the other markets named in the article too? You gotta wonder if people in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cinci, etc. looked at what Forbes is saying about their housing market whether they would say “horse pucky” too.

  17. Kristal Kraft

    April 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Thanks MM! You are so right, it is hard to ignore such an aggregious mistake: I gave Francesca Levy the opportunity to check her numbers, but instead she blew me off with a “yes, I checked the numbers and they are correct. thanks for reading” tweet.

    Guess it’s time for Francesca Levy to do some RESEARCH. Maybe talk to the people who actually can validate their numbers.

    Just saying…

    P.S. This is not a slam against Zillow. They have their place in the market, it just isn’t a benchmark location for numbers.

  18. Gretchen Faber

    April 20, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks to Kristal, Peter Niederman – COO of my company, John Rebchook, Mayor Hickenlooper and Patty Silverstein for grabbing hold of this issue and not letting go. The most valuable statistical comparisons use a composite or index data or they analyze the same data sets month-over-month or year-over-year.

    Forbes published an article several months ago citing the Case Schiller report as evidence that Denver was a quickly recovering market. Now this article cites Denver as the second worst using Zillow? It should have been obvious to the author that she needed to dig deeper.

    While the local MLS (Metrolist) data does not include some bank-owned properties and also omits FSBO’s, it’s consistent in how it counts available, under contract and sold properties. As of the end of April, there were 20,030 available properties in Metro Denver, down nearly 3% from last year. There is so much pent-up demand that properties are bidding up over asking with multiple offers in some cases. Average days on market is down by over 18 days since last April and average price is up 7%.

    If Denver is the second worst market, looking at those numbers, then the rest of the country must be on fire!

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