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Industry disruptor Zillow leverages data about residential real estate and makes it available to the general public. The company’s senior director of data science and engineering shares the secrets behind Zillow’s data stack.
Residential real estate site Zillow stormed onto the market in the 2000s, letting consumers check on the property value of their own homes and those of all their friends, family members, and acquaintances, too, much to the dismay of real estate professionals.
Founded by a couple of former Microsoft executives who went on to start travel site Expedia and then Zillow, this site threatened to disrupt the real estate market when it debuted in 2006. It gave people access to information that had previously only been available through real estate pros.
Ten years later Zillow has proven it has staying power. Built on the idea of ingesting, processing, and serving data from multiple sources to consumers, the company has made a name for its “Zestimate” — its secret data-driven formula for predicting the value of a piece of real estate. But none of this happens without a sophisticated IT department and data operation behind the scenes.
Jasjeet Thind, senior director of data science and engineering at Zillow, says that Zestimate is one of the ways Zillow uses machine learning. This real estate value estimate was the first available home valuation model, and it’s composed of hundreds of models behind the scenes — linear models, decision trees, deep learning, and more — to predict values for every single home in the country, Thind said.
Thind gave IT and data professionals an inside view of what is under the hood at Zillow during a presentation at September’s Strata + Hadoop event in New York.
“Zillow Group’s mission is to build the largest, most trusted, and vibrant home-related marketplace,” he said during the session. Zillow Group refers to the company that Zillow has grown into in the decade since its launch. Now a publicly held company, Zillow owns several brands, including Trulia, HotPads, StreetEasy, Naked Apartments, Mortech, dotloop, and Retsly.