Every once in a while someone asks me about software companies to work for in the Seattle area that aren't Microsoft, Amazon or Google. This is the fourth in a series of weekly posts about startups in the Seattle area that I often mention to people when they ask me this question.

Zillow is a real-estate Web site that is slowly revolutionizing how people approach the home buying experience. The service caters to buyers, sellers, potential sellers and real estate professionals in the following ways

  1. For buyers: You can research a house and find out it's vital statistics (e.g. number of bedrooms, square footage, etc) it's current estimated value and how much it sold for when it was last sold. In addition, you can scope out homes that were recently sold in the neighborhood and get a good visual representation of the housing market in a particular area.
  2. For sellers and agents: Homes for sale can be listed on the service
  3. Potential sellers: You can post a Make Me Move™ price without having to actually list your home for sale.

I used Zillow when as part of the home buying process when I got my place and I think the service is fantastic. They also have the right level of buzz given recent high level poachings of Google employees and various profiles in the financial press.

The company was founded by Lloyd Frink and Richard Barton who are ex-Microsoft folks whose previous venture was Expedia, another Web site that revolutionized how people approached a common task.

Press: Fortune on Zillow

Number of Employees: 133

Location: Seattle, WA (Downtown)

Jobs: careers@zillow.hrmdirect.com, current open positions include a number of Software Development Engineer and Software Development Engineer in Test positions as well as a Systems Engineer and Program Manager position.


Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:06:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Zillow has some serious problems with its estimating algorithms. We had a house on the market for nearly two years before it sold this spring in the upper $300's, and in the year prior to its sale, its Zillow estimates ranged from $275K (less than what we paid for it 8 years previously) up to $380K and then back down to $320K. These values were substantially below local square footage valuations for unknown reasons, and also did not correctly value extensive renovations that had been done (the house was in absolutely pristine condition with granite countertops, tile floors and baths, new carpeting, top-of-the-line appliances, etc., etc., and was valued substantially below nearby unrenovated 1960's homes on a square footage basis). When we finally sold the house for $50,000 more than the Zillow estimate, the estimate jumped up over a couple of weeks to match the selling price, and has continued up from there. Because of the effect of the sale on the Zillow estimate, the house is now valued more than it was at the end of the real estate bubble in the spring of '05. In addition to not accurately valuing renovations, Zillow doesn't indicate to a potential buyer whether or not an estimate includes renovation information. One reason this is frustrating is Zillow's counter showed that several hundred people viewed our house and the offers we received over the time the house was on the market seemed to match Zillow valuations at the time the offers were made.

Zillow may be OK for taking a look at locations and recent sale information, but its estimates may be substantially above or below the actual value of the house.
Frustrated seller
Sunday, June 17, 2007 1:57:40 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hey Dare - thanks for the shoutout! Working @ Zillow is definitely a blast - like our bigger brothers in the area, we have a lot of talented people passionate about creating a great product. [Dare - if you ever want a tour of our digs, let me know :-) ]

Frustrated seller - we're continually striving to improve the way we value homes. It's a tough problem, especially since we can't go inside every home. But we do offer owners a fairly powerful tool, MyEstimator, allowing the ability to post your own estimate of your home's value. (Check out http://www.zillow.com/howto/MyZestimator.htm for more info).
Sunday, June 17, 2007 2:22:58 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
hey dare why don't you use your head and make an an aggregate of social networking sites?
Monday, June 18, 2007 4:35:18 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hey Dare! Great blog. I'm a regular reader.

I wanted to call your attention to another Seattle software company: The Cobalt Group (www.cobalt.com ... there's a jobs link at the bottom). I have worked there for about a year and it is a great workplace. They have a lot of nice startup perks like an onsite gym, free lunches (often), and other "team-building" events such as "beer-30" every friday...

Hours are extremely flexible, and everyone gets a lucrative seattle bus pass for free, along with other great perks. ;o)

They have been around for 12 years, (so are stable), but they offer stock options and are a very viable "pre-ipo" startup company, with over 500 employees.

Their software products include everything related to automobile dealership management--from websites to sales management, lead tracking, etc. The majority of the back-end code base is in Java (with some legacy Perl kicking around), and then a lot of front-end development for Websites.

The culture here is great. We are desperate for a good front-end html/css/javascript/flash person at the moment. Please take a look. And if any of your readers apply, reference me and I'll split the lucrative referral bonus with ya. ;o)

Monday, June 18, 2007 8:07:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
You had a house on the market for 2 years and it sold at the upper range of the Zillow estiamte for that same time period? And you have the nerve to complain?
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