What is the best way to determine the value of a home in a given neighborhood? Zillow does not seem like it

Asked by Niles Helmboldt, San Francisco, CA Tue May 27, 2008

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Elizabeth la…, Agent, Hemet, CA
Thu Aug 27, 2009
I work all over the Country and I find that Zillow is usually about 12% low. They actually tracked their own site and found this is true. They also will compare a 4 plex to a 2bed. single. I trained agents and my experience as an agent was that i was very close on pricing. I would always use a good realtor and ask for a Broker Price Opinion(BPO) on the property. Pay special attention to the Cost per sq. foot on the properties compared. Take that Sq. footage and multiply it times your own. Then consider amenities, renovated or not and special things the property may have had to adjust your pricing. It works..Title companies will sometimes give you comparable solds to use. Always use SOLD properties..You can ASK anything but the true value is what a Willing buyer will pay a willing seller..Good luck..
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Allen Bauman, Agent, New York, NY
Sat Jul 5, 2008
The absolute best way is to use a licensed or certified residential appraiser who works your neighborhood regularly. Some cities have very distinct neighborhoods with homes or characteristics which can be best evaluated by an experienced appraiser. Or you may have a unique home that requires additional research to come up with the correct value opinion (yes I said opinion since that is all you can get since no 2 properties are identical). Realtors in your area are also expected to know the market in which they work so a CMA from an experienced agent can get you a reasonably good price opinion. However in a declining market they realy have to know how to evaluate trends and where to get information specific to your neighborhood.
As a certified residential appraiser in New York I am very often given comparable listings for the home that is for sale. Most of them are not good enough to use. The square footage may be off, the condition may not be accurate, the comp may be too far from the subject or the sale may be to old. These are just some of the elements that appraisers look at in detail and make adjustments for. A CMA does not account for these details and so you must rely on the knowledge and experience of the Realtor. Don't get me wrong Realtors do a great job with CMA's but sometimes they just give you the $number that sounds good to you. Did I mention that I'm also a Realtor???
So if you don't mind spending $300-400 for an appraisal I would recommend doing that. If you don't want to spend the money then the CMA should be fine. Don't bother with Zillow for an on-line appraisal or any of the other sites that offer it. They only provide an average price based on a computer analysis which does not necessarily have exact data. San Francisco is too complex to get an accurate number from those services. If you live in a large sub-division where all the homes are virtually the same then you may be able to get a fairly useful $number. Cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, etc. require an appraisal or CMA.---Good Luck---Allen
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Patrick Camp…, , 70114
Sat Jul 5, 2008
Any good, professional agent can provide you the most recent (usually 3-6 months) sales activity in a residential area. If you can fairly value the current condition and living square footage of the property, it is easy to derive a reasonable price by multiplying the prevailing $cost/ sq. ft. x average cost/sq, ft. of like properties which have sold in that time frame. It is also important to list the sold homes in date order to show the price direction (up or down) for that market segment. In New Orleans, the home prices appear to be levelling off from a steep decline. Call for more information 504-460-9055.
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ian cockburn, Agent, New Orleans, LA
Tue May 27, 2008
You need a Realtor who knows:
1) Current values
2) Changing trends
3) 1 and 2 specific to Uptown neighbourhoods and housing stock
Call me at 615-2333 or email for more details
Web Reference:  http://iansellsnola.com
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Tue May 27, 2008
Zillow's a lot of fun, but it's not very reliable. To determine the value of a house, ask a Realtor for a CMA. Or, if there's a real reason for it, pay an appraiser to do an appraisal. (The Realtor won't charge.)

There was a similar question posted a week or two ago, regarding a property in Colorado. Here's my response to that question. I've also done a similar test for properties in Virginia. I'm confident that I could duplicate Zillow's performance in most areas of the country.

Here's my recent Zillow post:
No. Zillow isn't particularly reliable for any market.


If you think that Zillow provides consistently reliable estimates of a property's value, then do a couple of Zestimates. I 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 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.
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Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Tue May 27, 2008
As previously mentioned, get in contact with a real estate professional that is familiar with your location. Be sure recent comps are used.
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Rosie Derryb…, Agent, Paradise Valley, AZ
Tue May 27, 2008
You can have an appraisal done, but I would suggest having a Realtor you know and trust, do a Comparative Market Analysis on your home (CMA). This will show you everything that is currently listed and has sold in the past 90 days or so. Most agents will do these complimentary.
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Debt Free Da…, , 85260
Tue May 27, 2008
You either need to get an appraiser or an agent to give you a price opinion.
Web Reference:  http://getprequalified.com
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Tue May 27, 2008
In my opinion, the best way to determine the value of a home in a given neighborhood is to look at the most recent (try to keep it within the past 2-3 months) sales and listings in that area. You should try to stay within the same neighborhood. In the area that I practice real estate, this is not always possible, so we try to stay as close as possible to the house that we are trying to price. You should also try to compare similar homes. For example, if you are trying to find the value of a 1950 ranch home with 2 bedrooms and one bath, you would not compare it to a new colonial. You cannot always be exact, but try to be as close as possible. The best data to use is recent sales. Recent listings are helpful, but you are not able to know what they will sell for. If you do not have access to sold and listing information, you should consider seeking the advice of a licensed Realtor. Most will provide you with a market analysis at no charge if you are considering listing your home.
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craig miramb…, Agent, Metairie, LA
Tue May 27, 2008
The best way is to have an appraisal done, but that can cost you up to 400.00. The best free way is to have a licensed realtor pull comps for the area. We use the neighborhood and comparable homes with the same features. I would be glad to assist you with these comps, send me an email with the property address and details (bedrooms, baths, size, condition, features, etc) realtorcraig@cox.net
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