Zillow – The good and not so good

Right now, Zillow is the hype, and rightly so. Check it out for yourself, this home value estimator has slick features, such as, “Heat Maps”, great mapping, tools for buyers, sellers and owners.

The first time I tried to find the value of my home, right after I purchased it, I was disappointed to see, according to Zillow, that I over paid $100,000. OUCH! Oh wait, there is another small link to adjust the value of your home for improvements and special features. Whew, I was able to bump up the price close to what I paid.

For a seller/owner, Zillow is a good tool.

Here’s the “not so good.” When it comes to buyers trying to find a legitimate valuation of a potential property, there is no way Zillow can accomplish this without actually viewing and physically inspecting the property. This is where a professional (like myself) is necessary. Many of the urban neighborhoods that I work in have complexities that make pricing an art-form, rather than an algorithm or science. Values vary from street to street and block to block. A liquor store next door will (obviously) lower the value of a property, whereas (not so obvious, and non-existent on the Zestimator) a nightclub next door may, not always, increase the value of a property (I have first had experience on this one). The interior of a home, which the Zestimator cannot see, make all the difference . As in my own case, we have $100,000 of upgrades in our home. While in another case, the exterior of a home is flawless to the eye, yet there is dry rot and structure issue that lie beneath the surface. The plumbing is pieced together by the previous owner/”weekend warrior” and the electrical is updated, but not to code (can you say fire hazard).

How about this case study in valuation: One investor of ours just bought a parcel with two homes on it – they were boarded up and very undesirable. However, we were able to negotiate the price down $30,000, have our contractor bid the job to rehabilitate these home for $30,000 and work with the city to divide the parcel into two lots. This investor will be able to resell these, now individual properties and net $75-$100K. Now I don’t expect Zillow to do this kind of “magic.”

Bottom line, Zillow may be a good place to start. Oh, I love Zillow’s qualification – they say that their estimates will come within 10%. I’d fire myself if that were my margin of error. If you want to know what your home is really worth or the homes that you are looking to buy, please call me for a free consultation and accurate valuation. Or if you are looking to invest, let’s discuss some strategies to get you going.

Also, there are tools on our website that can assist you in your search. Go to: www.BurmasterRES.com

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