Zillowblog sends some love to Boston Real Estate

Well, at least they did their best.¬† It’s not for everyone, but ZillowBlog¬†takes a quick focus¬†on the Boston Real Estate market, with¬†its new¬†heatmap.¬† I’m a little upset that my stomping grounds are left out (Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville kind of stick out when you look at it this way), but they’re not Boston Proper.

Anyway, yeah we can sit here and pick away at the minor innaccuracies of what’s wrong with the blog, like grouping together Back Bay and Beacon Hill, or calling it Central boston as opposed to the individual neighborhood names (North End, Ladder District, etc..).¬† But there was something a little bigger that stood out to me.¬† And my problem was with this:


If you don’t know Boston, this means squat to you.¬† BUt these numbers are based on their Zindex value.¬† And Kenmore Square is at the bottom of the list. Now that just doesn’t make any sense to me.¬† I will tell you right now that Kenmore Square is a much much much more desirable location than Roxbury (no offense Roxbury, but you know you want to live in Kenmore Square too).

A lot of these neighborhoods are out of whack, order wise.  At least this is an easier to spot problem, than the issues with Zestimates.  The main problem is that they are just looking at prices. Period.   What they are failing to take into account is the type of housing in these neighborhoods, land value, and price per square foot.

Kenmore is down on the list because it’s such a desirable neighborhood, with such limited space, that a majority of what’s selling there are studios, one beds, and 700 square foot two beds.¬† Not the type of area that I would put at the bottom of any list.

Prime example:

In the Fenway $500K will get you  Pre-Construction Pricing. Garage Parking. Elevator. Private terraces. Zen roof deck with kitchen & artist workspace. Dennis Duffy designed common areas, kitchens, and baths. HW floor upgrades. Sleek and flexible living spaces due for occupancy Summer 2007. Approx. Living Area: 863 sq. ft. ($578.22/sq. ft.)

In Roxbury $449,000 will get you a 5 bed 1.5 bath 2120 sq ft ($211.79 / sq ft) on .08 acres “turn of the century charming mansard colonial, many updates, first floor laundry, handy to major routes downtown.”¬†

Sorry Zillow, back to the old drawing board.


17 Responses to “Zillowblog sends some love to Boston Real Estate”

  1. David G from Zillow.com Says:

    Hi Jon, it’s David from Zillow,

    You’re right - the Zindex is no measure of value for money. We do show Zestimate $ / sq. ft. on each house’s details page as well as our live heatmaps on the site, which are based on Zestmate $ / sq. ft. Click the checkbox above the large map to activate the heat maps (above “city” level).

    I think the Zindex is interesting though, for the same reason that the Zestimate is - it’s a simple measure of “affordability” of the median house in the neighborhood - as such, it’s a good starting point - zindex’s help identify a collection of affordable neighbourhoods, and the live heat maps will show you which offer the most bang for the buck. Some people value other attributes, like accesibility, over $/sq.ft., so I’d argue that the Zindex is a better general starting point than Zestimate $/sq.ft. Both are important.

    Caveat: I don’t know Boston & have only visited your city once.

  2. Jon Says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that Kenmore Square is NOT the most affordable neighborhood in Boston like your zindex currently says, it’s actually far far far from it.

    So I’d argue that your zindex is flawed.

    Caveat: I would also win the arguement. End of story.

    Ok maybe that’s not a caveat, but it’s still flawed.

  3. anon anon Says:

    Live in Fenway, have your car scratched by Red Sox fans, have your front walkway covered with vomit by same, hear students yelling every night Thursday through Saturday … yeah, real desirable. Let’s not even start on the parking issues (not everyone gets a garage with their condo, unfortunately).

    I prefer the South End, and lots of other people do, too.

  4. BloodhoundBlog | The weblog of BloodhoundRealty.com in Phoenix, Arizona Says:

    [...] Jon Ernest, The Property Monger, is, as per usual, both factual and funny with Zillowblog sends some love to Boston Real Estate. [...]

  5. 3D Says:

    Fenway/Kenmore = BU students, Red Sox fans, tiny little apartments, and the Green Line. You really couldn’t pay me to move from Roxbury to Kenmore Sq.

  6. John K Says:

    South End better than Fenway? Perhaps, but I doubt you really live in the South End. People who live in the South End have to deal with way more crime and congestion than those in the Fenway.

    When you think of the Fenway, are you only thinking about Boylston Street? Have you ever even been to Queensberry Street?

  7. Jon Says:

    I would say that the South End is more desireable than Fenway. But that wasn\’t my arguement. However to complain about parking issues in Fenway, then say you prefer the South End… What, like there\’s ample parking in the South End (Southie according to Zillow)?

    And 3D, thanks for NOT going anon on the comment (good blog btw, glad I know about it, I have to reorganize my links in the near future add some boston ones :) )
    Kenmore\’s not for everyone, and I didn\’t mean to offend, there were plenty of other neighborhoods on the list that would have worked, Roxbury was the closest on the map to Kenmore, and I had to pick on someone. Fact of the matter is that price per square foot is higher in Kenmore.

    For the Record, there are some great areas in Roxbury that I would place over some of these other neighborhoods on the list.

  8. Mark Says:

    You all just need to up and move to Brookline– it’s where it’s at! :-) Sorry, I just like to stir up trouble.

    Full Disclosure– I lived in the South End for a year, I lived in Back Bay for 3 years, and I live in Brookline now. Also, I have worked in Kenmore for the past 5 years (and I went to BU for the 4 years before that)… so, needless to say I’ve gotten my taste of these neighborhoods. I think they‚Äôre all great.

    I think the important thing to keep in mind is that every person has different tastes– some prefer the loud and energetic Kenmore vibe, some prefer the more quaint and quiet streets of the South End. These are what they are– matters of taste. The UNIFYING factor shared by all these neighborhoods is price‚ÄĒand, through my years of research, I’ve found that everyone has the same taste in money (hint: they like it).

    So, while we could all argue for the next 15 years about whose neighborhood can beat up my dad, the more important point is the one I believe Jon is trying to make, which is that Zillowblog attempted to devise a metric that IGNORED taste (in thise case, $$). And they failed. Jon presented some evidence that has shown that their rating systems is generating skewed results‚ÄĒplain and simple.

    PS Brookline rules.

  9. Jon Says:

    Who’s blog is this? You’re hired!

    Comments are always welcome, but not yours Mark! By being obviously smarter than me, AND funnier, you’re making me look bad! :-P

    All right, fine… your comments are welcome too…

  10. Mark Says:

    sniff, sniff… it feels so good to be welcome. And, for the record, I find your comments to be both funnier and smarter than mine.

    I maintain, however, that I’m much better looking :-)


  11. jf.sellsius Says:

    Better than funny Jon (tho you are)is that you are dead on about zillow\’s zindex flaw (they just keep piling up). You just can\’t number crunch a neighborhood for affordability or desirability—heat map notwithstanding.
    It\’s pretty looking though.
    And the other commentors point out some interesting unzills (david g. dislikes the term unzillowable)like vomiting sports fans. I\’ll have to add that one to the list

  12. 3D Says:


    No offense taken. I pick on Dorchester all the time (and couldn’t ever imagine living there). If I were to move, it’d be back to JP or maybe to the South End. After that, there’s nowhere else but Cambridge.

    Been reading and enjoying your real estate blog for a while. Seems I need to update my local links, too.


  13. Jay Says:

    I found this other map of boston, given your insigts above, what do you think of this

    I am not from Boston, but may be relocated, hence I am researching various neighborhoods. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  14. Jon Says:

    I think JP is one of the best areas I know the least about, probably the best bang for your buck in Boston. I hear there’s a killer cuban sandwich place that I have to go to.

    Jay- Actually that looks a lot better… The fact that you have multiple data options on the site does it for me. However, I don’t agree with their trulia popularity. I think that PP sq ft is a better indicator. But still not 100% accurate (which it probably never will be as long as there are high end buildings flooding the local market with million dollar listings i.e. Chinatown).
    Also, if you may be relocating, don’t forget that this does not include some other great towns with easy access to Boston (brookline, cambridge, somerville, newton, watertown, quincy, waltham…. to name a few). You should just call an agent ;-)

  15. 3D Says:


    Just curious to know why Mission Hill is pictured in JP rather than in Roxbury on this map.


  16. Jon Says:

    It’s wierd, like they left out/screwed up Mission Hill, group a whole bunch of neighborhoods into “central boston”, but split up Dorchester into North South?

    I think I remember reading somewhere that people hate Dorchester alltogether, so why bother splitting it up?

  17. the Property Monger » Follow Up to Boston Real Estate Love Says:

    [...] I recently wrote an entry about zillows recent focus on Boston Real Estate, and how their zindex was flawed. Drew from Zillow followed up with me and asked if I thought that price per square foot would be more accurate.¬ I¬ answered with: [...]

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