Terry Bell, Realtor
That's a great question and I hear it alot. I'm very familiar with the Sebastopol market and the way that Zillow forms it's Z-estimates. This is done with complex algorithms that take account not only of tax records but of many, many other factors including past area sales, projected market movements, and many more. In my experience, Zillow is increasingly improving in its accuracy but it's still quite spotty. The main problem with it at the moment is that is looks BACKWARD not forward. With the instabiity in our local market and the recent downward trend, Zillow is having a hard type giving good results on CURRENT market values.
Furthermore, if you live on a tract subdivision type of house where most of the other homes in the neighborhood are very similar, you will get a better opinion of value than if your property is unique in some way.
I specialize in Country Property, which are very popular in Sebastopol. Zillow is very rarely accurate within even 10% on these types of properties.
The best way to determine your homes current market value is to either have it appraised or to ask a competent realtor to give you a comparative market analysis. Most good agents, myself included, will do this for you at no charge.
Use this time-value data to calculate the approximate value of real estate today. For instance, if the property you're looking at sold for $700k in 2006, it's fair market value today will be in the $400k range. There are many other resources with housing value data over the past 20-25 years, and they all pretty much agree within +-5%. You could also hire an appraiser, but if their numbers are higher than the historical charts, be wary.
Here's the text of a posting I wrote a few days ago. This dealt with a different area of the country, but I've done the same "test" in a number of different areas--Colorado, Virginia, etc. Each one comes out the same. Zillow produces a number, but when you look at what it considers "comps," they aren't. I invite you to try the same thing.
My earlier answer: If you think that Zillow provides consistently reliable estimates of a property's value, then stop scratching your head and do a couple of Zestimates. II can randomly select a typical property in a typical neighborhood and most of the so-called "comps" aren't comps at all. Let's try it. You game?
I plugged in "89449" in Zillow to bring up some homes in your Zip code. I came up with one on 138 Daggett Way. It's a 3 bed/2 bath single family home built in 1956. It's on the market for $399,000. That's what we'd call a "bread and butter" home--nothing fancy, but OK. The description says it does need some work: "A great price for this 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home with 1,512 sq ft of living space & almost 1/3 acre mostly flat & sunny.This is a perfect project for a contractor or handyman. This property has deferred maintenance and needs upgrades but the possibilities are endless for this Lower Kingsbury home."
First odd thing is that the Zestimate for that house is $574,000. Might actually be a good deal...if the Zestimate is accurate. So, let's look at Zillow's "comps."
Well, there's 1521 Bonita--a 3/2 built in 1970. Not too far off. But Zillow says it sold for $125,000. Sounds a bit low. Can you really buy that sort of home for $125,000? If so, then even the list price on Daggett is too high. But let's continue.
Another comp: 4081 Greenwood. It's a 5 bed/3 bath built in 2007. Now, I wouldn't call that a comp to a 3/2 built in 1956. It sold for $1.3 million.
Another comp: 4027 Crest. It's also a 5/3. This one was built in 1977. Again, not what I'd call a comp. It sold in December for $845,000.
Another comp: 395 Sherwood. Zillow doesn't have the number of beds and baths. And it was built in 1978. Not a great comp, since we don't know beds or baths, and it's 22 years newer. That one sold for $980,000 in January.
Most of the other comps are just as, well, incomparable.
Debbie: The guy who'd posted the question got upset with my answer. He thought I was suggesting he was an idiot who couldn't tell the difference between comps and non-comps. Not at all. My point to him and to you is that, yes, Zillow will produce a number. Something in black and white. The problem is, when you look behind the number, you can easily see how shaky it really is.
Look, Zillow's fun. and there's some useful information on that site. But it's not a "reliable resource."
Hope that helps.
Best of luck with your property search! By the way, where is Sebastopol?
Prudential Tropical Realty
Throughout the country, agents report similar findings in just about every market.
Zillow offers itâ€™s own disclosures advising the public about their own Zestimates.
Although I have not compared Sebastian values to Zillow, the pattern above seems to give clear indications.
Deborah Madey - Broker
Peninsula Realty Group
It is my understanding that Zillow relies on County tax records which for many reasons are not accurate. Let's say your mother sells her property to you for a small amount of money, well that gets recorded as the value when the deed is recorded. Or many times they use tax assessed value which is never current. Talking to a local realtor that really has their finger on the pulse of the market right now is the quickest and most reliable way to know values in Sebastopol, and also to help you locate a great property at a great value. Which by the way there are alot of now! I am more than happy to help you with this information. My number is 707-280-6523