Zillow API Gets FTCillowed

This past week the innovative real estate valuation site Zillow released their much anticipated API (see here for Programmable Web entry). A nicely designed API with two sets of functionality: home valuation and property details. On the valuations side, besides getting their trademarked Zestimate home valuations you can also get home valuation charts, market trend charts and comparable sales. Property details include historical price records, tax assessments and number of bedrooms and baths. The API gives you access to a big database containing 68 million property records. Below is a screenshot of Auction Cloud, a mashup that among creates tag clouds from eBay data and within their real estate section integrates Zillow graphs:

Auction Cloud

But no sooner did the API come-out than the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) filed a consumer protection complaint (PDF) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that "Internet financial services and real estate provider Zillow.com is misleading consumers, real estate professionals and financial service providers in on-line home valuations." They argue that Zillow accuracy is within 10 percent of the actual value less than one third of the time. For a very good report on the story see "Zillow gets FTCillowed" from Blanche Evans over at Realty Times. Because the API is used by affiliates and mashup developers it raises questions about trickle-down liability. NCRC asks the FTC to "act in the public interest and permanently enjoin and restrain Zillow.com from violating the FTC ACt in connection with offering its valuation services, and find Zillow jointly and severally liable for redress to all borrowers who were injured as a result of the company's violations of the FTC Act; and ensure that all affiliate sites, including Yahoo Real Estate and the Yahoo search engine, incorporate appropriate injunctive and consumer protection settlement terms as agreed upon by the parties." And on Friday, Zillow's president Lloyd Frink posted this response in their blog. Stay tuned.

John Musser

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[...] count. One of the early challenges Zillow had was an claim filed with the FTC about potentially misleading consumers with their valuations (a claim that ultimately wasn’t [...]