The politics of Zestimate:

Merging technology and real estate industries

Masha Hupalo

Published in Issue 3.2 // Updates

Keywords: commodification, investment, platform economy, technology, real estate, house flipping, Zillow


This update centers the role of Zillow, an American real estate platform, and its home valuation tool, Zestimate, in the commodification of housing in the last decades. The massive amounts of data collected since 2006 has enabled Zillow to train its predictive algorithms that determine Zestimates and enter the real estate market as a house-flipper. Today, the company purchases homes in high-demand neighborhoods of 25 cities, carries out minor remodeling, and sells them within 90 days. In this update, I aim to illustrate the radical changes brought by the digitization of the housing marketplace and how they facilitate the transformation of homes into investment vehicles.

Masha Hupalo is a senior research associate and faculty at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). She is interested in the ways policy and big data inform planning and design, the legal construct of territory and borders, and new forms of urbanization.

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