HomeGain Cries Flattery On Zillow!

Posted by: Louis Cammarosano on April 3rd, 2008

Zillow Becomes a Lead Vendor

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, those Zany folks at Zillow are at it again.

First they borrow HomeGain’s concept of the web-based instant Home Values tool, a product HomeGain first launched back in 2000.

From HomeGain’s March 9, 2000 press release: “HomeGain’s highly popular valuation tool, for example, gives home sellers an estimated home price value range of their home for free in just 10 seconds, including comparable sales figures for homes in their neighborhood.”

Six years later Zillow introduces “the Zestimate” and wraps it in a big “Z” to much fanfare, press notices and blogging adoration.

Today we learn that Zillow has taken another page out of HomeGain’s book with their launch of the Zillow Mortgage MarketPlace.

Take a look: the concept looks suspiciously like HomeGain’s AgentEvaluator program originally launched in 1999. The major difference being that Zillow’s lead generation program is for mortgage lenders.

Thank you, Zillow, we are truly flattered….. (as I suppose the people over at Hot or Not are about your “new” dueling digs feature, too).

What’s next for Zillow?:

  • A move of their corporate headquarters to Zemeryville?
  • The creation of BuyerZink?
  • Or the adoption of a corporate mascot – perhaps they can call him Zach the Zilla Gorrilla!

Try the HomeGain Instant Home Prices tool.

Louis Cammarosano




60 Comments on “HomeGain Cries Flattery On Zillow!”

Kevin Boer

Indeed, indeed. What’s even more ironic is that while the Zestimate really popularized the notion of an automated home valuation (which, sadly, Homegain wasn’t quite able to do), here in their mortgage product they’ve gone away from using automated algorithms and back towards using real live human beings to give the quotes. Very ironic.

Louis Cammarosano

Russell Didn’t you know:
Zillow is Reinventing Capitalism?
More like Recycling….

Greg Swann

Louis, when you’re counting all the from “no cost” to “free leads”, where are you getting lost? ;)

Louis Cammarosano

I suppose I am getting lost in running a business for a profit.

Louis Cammarosano

Kevin you are right.

We took down our instant homevaluation in 2001 after it made no money selling ads around it and we chose to focus on Agent Evaluator instead, which led us to profitability.

Seems like Zillow is taking a similar path

We brought our original homevaluation tool back in early 2007. (but we’ve got bigger plans behind it than just selling ads-to be revealed in the coming months….)

Russell Shaw

Zis is Zgreat.

Steven Stearns

Well, Zlap me. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – maybe we can get some out-of-work mortgage brokers back to work opening email and answering phones – unless the unemployed travel agents will work for less, of course.
Or free.

Mike Farmer


Louis Cammarosano


Zillow isn’t Zimitating HomeGain they are Zinnovating.

If their free leads supported by ad model works maybe they can license it to Real Estate Agents who want to forego their commissions and replace them with ad revenue.

Let the ad Zevolution begin



Rob Lawrence

Very interesting. I never knew about any of this.
Rob Lawrence


You might be right in having some beef with their Mortgage marketplace. Agents not being able to see your information is an innovative feature.

But the concept of getting an instant estimate on your house’s price isn’t an innovative concept. It’s probably the first thing any real estate site would want to do to attract visitors. It’s executing it well that’s difficult.

Guy Creese

I suspect Zillow is getting the credit because their implementation is better. For example, Andover, MA has both a River Street and a River Road. I looked up an address on River Street on HomeGain and while the map location was correct, the nearby houses listed were all on River Road, and claimed the River Street house was sold in 2004 when it wasn’t. Zillow got everything right: both the map and the facts. Sorry, I prefer Zillow.


The solution is simple, make better products and steal the thunder from Zillow… complaining on a blog does absolutely no good

Louis Cammarosano


Good advice.You are absolutely correct-our main focus is and should be on our products and customers.

But we have to have a sense of humor from time to time too.


Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Think of it this way, HomeGain comes up with very innovative ideas. I’m new here and have enjoyed what I have read.

Jonathan C

I think its time to out innovate them. If your strength is in your business model and you truly believe in it, then get agile and start releasing more innovative products and solutions for Realtors©. Take back your share of the PR pie. And then patent any proprietary methods/processes/interfaces, etc. that are unique to the new, innovative, HomeGain. Then you can Zock it to em’ and see just how deep their VC’s are willing to go… Or you can just try to squeeze them until it hurts and then snap them up for “fair value” when they beg.

Louis Cammarosano

Good advice Jonathan
On its way, on its way…

jonathan c

That’s what I hear… How about a sneak preview or at least an overview of the highlights?

Louis Cammarosano

The second of three new features out in less than two weeks will score higher on the Innovation-O-Meter than our last release.


Paul Francis

Personally, I’m waiting for somebody to offer a seamless integration (without links to their site)of some of these cool tools on agent websites.

Louis cammarosano

How timely. Next week we will be launching the second of a planned trilogy of features that will do just that.
At Homegain the real estate agent is not a side show around which to sell ads.
There are not ads on HomeGain-the realtor is featured prominently and exclusively.
If you are interested in a demo of the second feature, email me at Louis@homegain.com

Mary Mcknight

I’m late to this party but still I showed up. I don’t get it. I just don’t – I have this idea that a business is supposed to make money and provide some sort of valuable service… can someone remind me what Zillow’s rev model and their value proposition is?

But fear not, I think I may need to take a bite out of Zillow very soon. I really have acquired a taste for REtech companies lately – Trulia was kinda like Chinese food, I was hungry for more after only an hour but I think Zillow can provide me with so many more vitamins and minerals to keep my growing disdain for business stupidity sustained for a while.

Barry Brickel

I am confused who started this concept of property estimates anyway?

Louis Cammarosano

Barry HomeGain had the first online instant home valuation tool in 1999. It was taken down in 2001 for various reasons. Zillow then launched it in 2006 named online estimates Zestimates and started the myth making around how they innovated and created it

Concetta Pepenella

I think Homegain has a much more organic approach to Broker – Customer relations.

Shannon Lefevre

Is imitation really flattering? When people take my ideas and use them as their own, I am not flattered. I’m disgusted. Imitation in writing is called plagiarism. Feels the same when it’s about an idea. Now innovation and imagination…that’s something completely different.

Sheila Kraemer

I have yet to see Zillow’s estimates of home value be accurate! The house across the street from mine sold for $128,500 after ten months on the market. It originally listed at $145,900. Zillow valued the house at $178,000!! When I did the CMA for my neighbor, I told him it would sell for between $128,000 and $132,000. He didn’t like my valuation, and listed with a competitor (though the listing agent knew from the start he had taken the listing too high!) The house is very nice, in very good condition. That’s just the correct market value for it. Zillow was just as off target on the value of every other home in my neighborhood. Our market has NOT, repeat NOT, had any bubbles to burst, and the market has remained stable but relatively flat for the past few years, so the value differences have nothing to do with “the economy.” I hope Home Gain has a better valuation system. As for Zillow – what I think of it is Zilch!

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Kennewick Joe

“First they borrow HomeGain’s concept of the web-based instant Home Values tool…”

HomeGain is too kind! I think I would have used another term other than ‘borrow!’ :)


With flattery like that…. :P

Have to agree with Joe, I can do without that kind of flattery. I’ve had enough of it in the past.

Atlanta Real Estate

I like HomeGain and think Zillow is a joke. However, claiming they stole that idea is like saying someone invented searching for homes on the net and then everyone else stole it.


Louis Cammarosano

HI Rob
Thanks for droppgin by.Good analogy. I think however, we said Zillow “borrowed” the idea :-)

Atlanta Real Estate

Good point. Sorry about that.



Can you tell me how many views you are getting on HomeGain vs Zillow.
Also I just visted both Zillow and your site to compare. Ran a test on value which was way off on both sites. Zillow has a three year old sat pic and your data base only had the cottage and not the house. Updated on your site (which I really liked) however your estimate was 600K under what is really selling on my street ….

Catherine Willikers

Atlanta Real Estate Rob got it right the first time, and was also gentlemanly enough not to push. I have never heard of HomeGain, but have been watching Zillow for a few years now, and heard about it from a customer. I found this page because I was intrigued by the phrase linking Zillow with flattery. I have long suspected this. On the other hand, you can’t beat knowing what the current owner paid for the house. I have had two bad experiences with real estate agents NOT following the homeowners instructions to accept an offer. I have been on BOTH sides of the situation, and BOTH TIMES it infuriated me.

Real Estate Agent manipulation of buyers and sellers is my number one reason for using a website like Zillow. I would have a hard time trusting anything a real estate agent tells me.

I am a homeowner, not an agent. It is interesting to read this website.

Rob McCance


It’s too bad you have had those experiences. I always fully represent my client, whether it’s the seller or, most commonly, the buyer.

As soon as one of my buyers shows any interest in a property, I provide:

–original purchase price and date
–original mortgage amount
–any 2nd and it’s amount

Then if they are more interested, we go into:

–monthly operating costs
–monthly maintenance costs

Then, I advise, listen, the do what they TELL me to do with regards to offers, stipulations, etc.

I operate north of $1M normally and my clients are executive types and would have it no other way.

Of course, I also do my share of the other price ranges and I give the same level of service.

Rob in Atlanta

Gainesville Real Estate

LOL. Yeah, that the free market for you. If it makes homegain feel better, we stopped using zillow’s api and simply made our own with data from public records in our county.

Eden Prairie Real Estate

I have watched Zillow since they first came out. I remember when my best friend called me and said, Joe, I found this really cool site called Zillow that gives your homes values. He then went on to say, “The house I’m selling is worth 100k less then what it is listed for and the home I just bought is worth 200k more then I paid for it.”
This seemed strange so I investigated and it looks like zillow was taking tax value that the county had given and multiplying by some factor. His home he was selling had a low tax value and the home he bought had a high tax value. Over the next two years, I saw this play out over and over. Unfortunate that the big media outlets were willing to spend so much air time on it.

Eden Prairie Real Estate

Joe Niece in Eden Prairie
HomeGain Diamond Agent


Rob McCance

Yep, and if we thought Zillow was WAY off back then, think how bad their data must be TODAY!

Even local people with feet on the street are differing in great amounts from what Zillow says.

Rob in Atlanta

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Trade Show Displays

Hello Louis,
Great post!The Home gain concept is really good chosen for title. Welcome to the new launched for homegain2000.Thanks for sharing.
What is Zillow????

Atlanta Homes

I don’t think zillow home value is good. I is ok but for lokal real estate market it doesn’t provide that good estimate

Robert Worthington

Louis, I love your post on gabbing Zillow to basically stop copying your fresh ideas. Even though I’m a years late on this post, did you forward your press release to Z-corporate? ha.

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Lyrr Descy

A property purchased in late 2008 for $102,500, which appraised for $105,000, is now valued by HomeGain between $173,700 and $204,000 — at a time when property values have fallen pretty much everywhere. Huh?

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Pt Washington Buyer

I’d not pat yourself on the back quite so enthusiastically. Zillow might have started out aping homegain, but they’ve clearly surpassed homegain by now. I’ve been poring over Pt. Washington, NY real estate for about a year now, and I can say with certainty that homegain’s valuations for properties are substantially off FMV, much more so than zillow’s estimates are. As for rating real estate agents – you do that by getting feet on the ground and visiting them. Visiting open houses is a good way to find out how dedicated the showing agent is to marketing the properties s/he is showing, and that is one of the primary requisites for a good agent.

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Tom Aikins

It’s pretty difficult to stay quiet when your competitor “borrows” an idea like that but , ultimately, what can you do? Only do something better, so I’ll be interested in what you have up your sleeve that you’ll be unveiling in the coming months.


I have a lot (80′ X 250′) located at lakewood ranchettes lot 743 Rocky Ridge CT. It does not have utilities. It is wooded. I not been out to see it in years. Do you have any ideal what it would sell for.


Unless you copyright something or get a patent on something, its free game unfortunately….

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