Don’t Let Zillow Guide Your Home Search

Buying Homes in Colorado

More of Libby’s secrets for buying your first home

Green blogs on beige background. Text says, "Zillow may break your heart. learn how to search for local homes, accessing the latest data!"

Here’s the thing: I don’t want you searching on Zillow for your first home. Zillow is like the cool girl in high school: beautiful, seems to know everything and everyone, and fun to be around.

But searching for your first home on Zillow, especially since you have not been “in the market” before can leave you heartbroken.

They generally fit into one of two buckets:

But, that house over on Something Street is still for sale! Can I see it tomorrow?!”


Zillow tells me I can sell my house for $1 million.

Y’all need to hear this! Zillow is fun: truly, deeply fun. I could not agree more! Who among us has not browsed homes for sale in a state we have never visited? Who among us has not wondered wondered why in the world someone put a swimming pool on a roof? And who has not considered retiring early to a cornfield in Iowa after selling their home in Boulder County? I’ve thought all those things after browsing Zillow!

I’d like to think that only real estate geeks like me delight in such things, but that’s not the case. So many clients ask about what they see on Zillow that I want to clarify some things.

I don’t want my beloved buyers get caught up in the hope of an opportunity that may have already passed. (I cover why sellers should be wary about Zillow on this parallel post.)

Allow me to explain: Zillow is not an MLS for searching homes

An MLS, or multiple listing service, is how real estate professionals communicate with one another about the local real estate market. MLS databases are what agents use to list new properties for sale, and to communicate with one another regarding the status of those listings. Only licensed professionals can see the detailed data, but they publish a public-ready version on searchable websites.

As a consumer, this means that you need to use a website like or to see listings in northern Colorado. They each represent a separate database, but they also share data so you can choose which interface you like better. Therein lies the difference: they are both MLS databases, and they share data.

Zillow is not an MLS. I’m not going to guess how Zillow does its magic to find local listings, but I can assure you: their data is not live. They are not “plugged in” to the database directly, so there is a lag in showing the status of a listing.

If you’re using Zillow to search listings, the lag time in updating their site means you’ll see houses that are still “for sale”…that may have already sold, or are at least under contract.

Use or, not Zillow, on the Front Range

While I know it would be hard to go cold-turkey and leave Zillow entirely, might a suggest some middle ground?

If you find something on Zillow that you love, take a deep breath, then head over to or to double check that the house is not already under contract to be purchased. Unless the status is “for sale” or “coming soon” someone is already under contract to purchase it, and you’d be best-served to look elsewhere.

And don’t worry, I’m not judging you. I use Zillow sometimes, too. I love their layout…I just don’t assume the data is entirely up-to-date, and I fact-check back on my MLS!

If you need more help with your search, contact me anytime.

Hi, there!

I'm Libby Earthman. I specialize in helping first-time buyers and sellers on Colorado’s northern Front Range. I want you to know HOW to make well-reasoned real estate decisions, and I assertively protect your interests during the transaction. 

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402 Main Street
Longmont, CO 80501

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