In Foreclosure? Zillow Knows About It and Wants to Share

Online real estate information marketplace Zillow (NASDAQ:Z) has added a “pre-market inventory” section to its home-search service. According to a press release, “Home shoppers on Zillow now are able to search for and find rich information on 1.2 million pre-foreclosure and foreclosed properties, for free.”

Companies like Zillow and Trulia (NYSE:TRLA) are providing an essential service that has aided in the slow, ongoing recovery of the housing market. Information is power in a buyer’s market, and Zillow has lowered the barrier of entry into the housing market. Information on foreclosed properties was particularly hard to come by. “Traditionally, only savvy investors knew where to find information on these types of properties,” reads the Zillow press release.

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However, the new section raises obvious privacy concerns. The new service will allow home buyers to see “foreclosure details including: timeline of the foreclosure process, foreclosing loan amount, unpaid balance, lender, and trustee and/or attorney information.” Understandably, homeowners going through the foreclosure process may not want their property listed in a free, public database.

But the benefits of having a more transparent housing marketplace outweigh privacy concerns — at least, so says Zillow CMO Amy Bohutinsky. “This helps buyers become smarter about their local market, and it also gives them access to potential inventory that they wouldn’t have been able to find,” she told The Los Angeles Times. “We think the benefits to buyers and the benefits to homeowners who may want their homes exposed to a much broader group of people other than a lot of savvy investors — we think that is a really big benefit and that benefit outweighs anything else.”

As it stands, Zillow will not pull down foreclosure listings on request, however, details may be challenged.

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