Book Review: Zillow Talk by Spencer Rascoff

Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate provides the reader with all the information they need to purchase, sell, or rent a home. 

This book sheds light on the perennially important dilemmas of real estate – the biggest investment of your life – including topics like whether to rent or buy, when to sell, and how to increase the value of your property.

You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

At the end of this book review, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Lesson 1: Rather than buying the worst house in the best neighborhood, buy the worst house in the hottest neighborhood

Did anyone ever tell you that investing in a rundown house in a bad neighborhood is a good idea? You’d be surprised to learn what a disastrous decision that can be.

Purchasing the worst house in a wealthy neighborhood is equivalent to purchasing the house with the least potential for appreciation in value.

It is possible that the surrounding properties will increase the value of your property. Being the cheapest house in the neighborhood, on the other hand, will only raise concerns among potential buyers.


If the house is significantly less expensive than the surrounding ones, they will assume something is wrong.

Consider the Marcus family. Their small bungalow was in the bottom ten percent of the value range for Fort Worth’s Eagle Ranch neighborhood. All other houses increased in value, but the Marcuses’ house fell four percentage points behind.

However, if you buy a bad house in a gentrifying neighborhood and research which neighborhoods are gentrifying, you can make a great investment.

What exactly are they?

Young people and artists are moving into gentrifying, run-down neighborhoods. As the cultural climate changes, more wealthy people are drawn to these areas, and property values rise as renovations are carried out.

Manchester, for example, was the home of wealthy steel barons at the turn of the twentieth century but fell into disrepair after they relocated to the suburbs.

However, as young people move into low-cost inner-city housing, gentrification occurs, raising property values.

So, the next time you’re looking to buy a home, keep in mind that the area’s future is critical when selecting a prime investment location.

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Lesson 2: Decide if owning a home is the right choice for you before buying

Remember when George W. Bush took steps to increase low-income Americans’ homeownership in 2002? Home ownership, in his opinion, is an essential component of the American Dream and should be available to all. However, for some, it has turned into a nightmare.

Home ownership may not be suitable for everyone for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, government incentives for banks to provide low-income families with mortgages harm those who should benefit from them.

Darrin West, a police officer in Atlanta, is a good example. West’s $130,000 townhouse was purchased with a $20,000 government-backed loan. When the housing bubble burst in 2008, thousands of Americans with government-backed mortgages were unable to make payments. They missed payments on their loans and now own their homes.

Another reason homeownership may not be for everyone is the added difficulty of dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

When you own your home, you have an incentive to stay in it. This requires you to keep up with your mortgage payments for decades. What if you unexpectedly incur a large expense or relocate?

Consider the following scenario: your child becomes ill and you are hit with a $10,000 bill. Because your home is your only asset, how will you pay for it?

Would you be able to continue working if your company relocated? You could be forced to choose between your home and your job.

Renting can thus be a good option for those whose finances necessitate frequent relocation.

It is not necessary to own a home to live a happy life. Many people do not think it is desirable.

Lesson 3: Renovations are not guaranteed to increase the value of your property

It is assumed that high-end remodeling will increase the value of a home. After all, expensive items increase in value, right?

A high-end renovation typically yields a lower ROI than a mid-range renovation.


Your investment returns will decrease over time due to the law of diminishing returns.

An upscale remodel is more functional than a mid-range remodel. Functionality is appealing.

When viewing a property, the first question prospective buyers ask is, “Does it have all the necessities?”

As a result, a house that has been pragmatically renovated is more marketable than one that has luxury amenities.

Take a look at a bathroom that is in disrepair. The mirror is cracked, the sink drips, and the toilet won’t flush. A mid-range renovation will significantly increase the space’s desirability by making it more usable.

Going the extra mile with the renovation, on the other hand, would not change the functionality of the space and thus would not increase its value.

So, while a basic remodel is a better investment than a costly one, should you remodel at all?

Before making a decision, keep in mind that the value of your renovations will decrease over time.

Some facilities, for example, lose value as technology advances or new things come into fashion.

If you decide to remodel, you must consider the value lost due to depreciation.

For example, suppose you completely remodel your home and increase the property value by $24,310. If the increase drops to $22,000, your investment will depreciate by $2,310 in one year.

Choose the mid-range option the next time you remodel to maximize your return on investment.

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Lesson 4: List your property at the right time and describe it carefully to get the most out of it

Listing your home and then waiting for offers isn’t the best way to sell it. Getting the best price for your home requires preparation and timing.

Certain seasons are more likely to sell real estate than others.

Summer is the best time to sell a house in many areas. It makes sense because no one wants to move during the winter.

Summer is a great time to sell because of the weather.

Children who will be out of school during the summer are more likely to purchase a new home.

Keep track of time and list your property early in the year to capitalize on the peak selling season.

Homes listed at the end of March in 2011 and 2012 sold faster and for more than 2% more than the average for houses listed all year.

List your home at the right time, but don’t expect a high price. The way you describe your property is also important.

Take a look at the term “modern.” Many people believe that a modern home has all of the latest upgrades, but a modern house actually refers to houses built in the 1950s and 1960s, which can be a detriment to buyers.

Other adjectives such as “cosy,” “cute,” or “charming” aren’t concrete enough because they have different meanings for different people.

In any case, listing your home with a longer description will usually result in a higher sale price because buyers will look at detailed listings more often.

When you list your home the next time, make sure to do so during the peak selling season and include as many details as possible.

About the Author

Hotwire, a discount travel website, was founded by Spencer Rascoff. He helped launch Zillow in 2005 after selling his previous venture to Expedia.

Stan Humphries is Zillow’s chief economist and a frequent housing trend commentator for Fox Business News, CNBC, and Bloomberg TV.

Buy The Book: Zillow Talk

If you want to buy the book Zillow Talk, you can get it from the following links:

Get The Book Here

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