Data: Business Intelligence

Data: Business Intelligence

Management Information Systems

Chapter 6 – Data: Business Intelligence

ZILLOW is an online, web-based real estate site helping homeowners, buyers, seller, renters, real estate agents, mortgage professionals, property owners, and property managers find and share information about real estate and mortgages. Zillow allows users to access, anonymously and free of charge, the kinds of tools and information previously reserved for real estate professionals. Zillow’s databases cover more than 90 million homes, which represents 95 percent of the homes in the United States. Adding to the sheer size of its databases, Zillow recalculates home valuations for each property every day, so it can provide historical graphs on home valuations over time. In some areas, Zillow is able to display 10 years of valuation history, a value-added benefit for many of its customers. This collection of data represents an operational data warehouse for anyone visiting the site.

As soon as Zillow launched its website, it immediately generated a massive amount of traffic. As the company expanded its services, the founders knew the key to its success would be the site’s ability to process and manage massive amounts of data quickly, in real time. The company identified a need to accessible, scalable, reliable, secure databases that would enable it to continue to increase the capacity of its infrastructure indefinitely without sacrificing performance. Zillow’s traffic continues to grow despite the weakened real estate market; the company is experiencing annual traffic growth of 30 percent, and about a third of all U.S. mortgage professionals visit the site in a given month.


Zestimate values on Zillow use data-mining features for spotting trends across property valuations. Data mining also allows the company to see how accurate Zestimate values are over time. Zillow has also built the industry’s first search by monthly payment, allowing users to find homes that are for sale and rent based on a monthly payment they can afford. Along with the monthly payment search, users can also enter search criteria such as the numbers of bedrooms or bathrooms.

Zillow also launched a new service aimed at changing the way Americans shop for mortgages. Borrowers can use Zillow’s new Mortgage Marketplace to get custom loan quotes from lenders with having to give their names, addresses, phone numbers, or Social Security numbers, or field unwanted telephone calls from brokers competing for their business. Borrowers reveal their identities only after contacting the lender of their choice. The company is entering a field of established mortgage sites such as and Experian Group’s, which charge mortgage companies for borrower information. Zillow, which has an advertising model, says it does not plan to charge for leads.

For mortgage companies, the anonymous leads come free; they can make a bid based on information provided by the borrower, such as salary, assets, credit score, and the type of loan. Lenders can browse borrower requests and see competing quotes from other brokers before making a bid.


1. List the reasons Zillow would need to use a database to run its business.

2. Describe how Zillow uses business intelligence to create a unique product for its customers.

3. How could the marketing department at Zillow use a data mart to help with the releases of a new product launch?

4. Categorize the five common characteristics of high-quality information and rank them in order of importance to Zillow. Explain your ranking.

5. Develop a list of some possible entities and attributes of Zillow’s mortgage database.

6. Assess how Zillow uses a data-driven website to run its business.

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