Since I actually met the Zillow folks at BloggersConnect last week, I'm almost tempted to take down the couple of rants I've done in a couple of blog posts, but as I learned, "Once on the Internet, always on the Internet".
Here in Washington, there are special challenges for any company trying to get an on-line home values database. Neighborhoods are architecturally diverse, so comparing a subject house to it's "comps" isn't even apples to oranges. It's apples to monkeys! Even in a block of identical looking row houses, some are granny houses that were state-of-the-art in 1942, and others have ove-the-top restorations that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and made the place worth a fortune.
So, this week, I have a new listing in Brookland. This is a neighborhood in Northeast Washington over near Catholic University. The housing stock is in varying condition, and the homes are all different - in terms of style, age, size, and condition.
My listing is a cute bungalow, and I spent a couple of days doing a very, very careful market analysis. We signed the paperwork on Saturday, agreeing on a list price of $475,000, a bit less than the $495,000 they paid for it two years ago (they are buying in Northern Virginia where the market is much more depressed than it is here).
So, this afternoon just for the heck of it, I went to zillow.com and typed in the address. To my shock and amazement, the Zestimate was a whopping $528,500
Holy Freakin' Meticulous Market Analysis!
Throughout DC, Zestimates have tended to be on the low side. So what is this?
I started to second-guess myself, but I didn't call my client to say "Raise the price!" I did a quick preview of the other homes for sale I hadn't yet seen, and came away feeling comfortable about the price of $475,000.
So, while Zillow and similar sites are a useful tool in some parts of many markets, you need a second opinion from a professional. If you are looking for a house to buy, and your agent's recommended price is higher than the Zestimate, at least look at your agent's numbers. She will have the advantage of direct knowledge of many of the houses that are used to compile the database used to calculate value. And when you are selling, my advice is the same - to find a home's price, you really do need professional helpQ