"Is there any website where in we could get the value of our home?"
Any website you may use will not be accurate for the simple reason the value of your home is based on both quantitative (i.e. sales data, square footage, etc.) and qualitative (condition, location, amenities, etc.) information.
"How good is Zillow's home-value information?"
You have a few options concerning accuracy in regards to the current value of your home (in order of relative accuracy): Zillow (free), RealtorÂ® CMA (free), or Appraiser (~$450). Making "accuracy analogies", I would compare Zillow to the game of Horseshoes; a RealtorÂ®-CMA-with-narrative to Darts from three feet back; and an Appraisal with competitive archery.
â€œHorseshoesâ€ a.k.a. Zillow:
Zillow describes their "Zesstimate â€œas a "starting point." While I applaud their efforts to inform the public, quite frankly, for those that seek relative accuracy Zillow is a data source I would completely avoid.
For example, updated 3/23/11, hereâ€™s Zillow's Accuracy for Alameda County:
Within 5% of Sale Price - 38.3%
Within 10% of Sale Price â€“ 63.1%
Within 20% of Sale Price â€“ 80.1%
Median Error â€“ 7.1%
So, say your property Zesstimate is $700K. Applying the median error rate for Alameda, theoretically your property value may really only be worth $650.3K or might be worth $749.7K. As another example, using the information for Alameda County above, we see Zillow is NOT within 5% of the sale price 61.7% of the time (1-.383)! Thereâ€™s a better wayâ€¦.
"Darts" a.k.a. RealtorÂ® CMA:
I believe the Zillow accuracy data above shows estimating a home's value based solely on â€œthe numbersâ€ does not work because it completely discounts the qualitative aspects of a home - that's a huge mistake because while price is the important in buying a home location, amenities, look and feel play a large role in determining market value as well.
If you are serious about accurate valuations you should work with a licensed RealtorÂ® who can prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which other than an actual appraisal, is the "gold standard" for approximating market value - period. A CMA gives you the best representation of market price/activity/trend direction - for the specific search property details you search on (i.e. 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 1500-1800 square feet, etc.). Keep in mind that just because a property sells right next door to another does not mean that it's a comparative match.
Also, DO NOT rely on median-based statistics, these measures are meaningless for targeted selling/purchasing as they have no regard for any of the specifics you may be comparing and can be skewed by segments of market activity not matching your individual situation. A â€œmedianâ€ is defined as â€œthe number separating the higher half of a sample from the lower half.â€ For example, letâ€™s say three homes sell in a neighborhood for $400K, $425, and $575K in one month. The first two may be neglected REOs, and the third has been maintained beautifully. The current monthly median value for this neighborhood becomes $425K.
A buyer/seller should look specifically at the targeted segment of properties that match their search criteria for the information to be meaningful. Generalized stats are easier to come by, but that doesnâ€™t mean they should be used to make one of the most important financial decisions of your life.
Best of all, a RealtorÂ® will typically provide a CMA for free!
"Competitive Archery" a.k.a. Appraisal
The ultimate opinion of value would come from a licensed Appraiser. If you are going to go this route understand there are different levels of experience. To find a professional licensed appraiser on your own see: http://www.orea.ca.gov/html/SearchAppraisers.asp
There are four levels of real estate appraiser licensing:
AT - Trainee License
AL - Residential License
AR - Certified Residential License
AG - Certified General License
You can see what is required for each level here: http://www.orea.ca.gov/pdf/Upgrade2008.pdf
After all is said and done there are a few facts to embrace as you move forward:
1) You can set asking price, but â€œThe Marketâ€ decides what your property will eventually sell for.
2) When pricing your home it is better to set a price below market value to increase foot traffic and the number of offers. Understand you DO NOT have to accept any offer that does not meet your needs whether the offer is at asking price or not.
3) Statistically speaking, the time it takes to sell your home dramatically increases after the third week of exposure to the Market â€“ so price your home appropriately to match the relative urgency you have for selling.
HUS Achievers Realty
Zillow is a good starting point for your homes general value. However, Zillow and other websites that offer an instant value use a formula to come up with that value. Unfortunately that formula can not take into account any specific upgrades you may have done or the condition of other homes that have recently sold. It is best to connect with a Realtor and them come out and give you a Comparative Market Analysis for your home. Most will do this for free and will give you a much better representation of the value of your home.
The Kruschke Tema
If you go to http://www.vickiesellshomes.com there is a get my home's value. If you input your address it will give you ALL the homes for sale, and homes recently sold nearby. It includes photos, addresses and descriptions. It's automated and tied to the MLS (so it's current). your report will arrive in about 3 minutes. If you need help interpreting it please give me a call!
Use the estimates as a base and take them with a grain of salt, so to speak. You can check public records for sales, but you can also call a realtor and ask for some sold comps from the local MLS. Ask a friend or a neighbor for the name of an agent they have used with success, a good an agent will give you the info you need without a high press sales pitch.
Plenty of websites will give you an estimate of your homes value but these are generally based on approximate estimations in the area, sq footage and price per square foot. If you want an accurate estimate the you really need to speak with a Realtor who can assess the value based on comparable listings in your area and give you accurate information and adjustments for the various conditions your home may have.
I'd be more than happy to help if you would like.