Can You Rely on Zillow for an Estimate of Market Value?

Sacramento Appraisal-300x212Part of my job is to explain market value and how an appraiser will substantiate market value to a seller, none of which are remotely connected to the website Zillow. Most of the time I’m able to make sellers understand, but as a Sacramento real estate agent, I also get those who don’t care how long a home sits on the market (and loses its desirability with each passing day), and there’s not much I can do about those attitudes but go with the flow. After all, it’s not my home. It’s not my job to make that listing my home, even though I may care deeply about whether it sells.

One of my clients shared with me recently that his accountant told him Zillow is 10% underpriced with its Zestimates. I didn’t think anything of that statement — because it’s ridiculous — until I realized that there are people who actually believe it. Not anybody in my circle of real estate agents or appraisers or other real estate professionals, but the public thinks because Zillow notes an estimate on a website, it must be true. After all, they found it on the Internet.

The basis for that statement were two homes his accountant saw that had sold for 10% more. Therefore, my seller’s accountant must have automatically leaped to that conclusion, which doesn’t say much about his accounting skills now, does it? My own home is priced $150,000 more than its worth in Zillow. That’s certainly not 10% of its value. It’s widely known that Zillow estimates are all over the map and often there is no set correlation to value. That’s because it’s a computer-generated algorithm that isn’t even as reliable as something like Realist or Metrolist comparables, which still require a human touch because square footage isn’t enough. You can’t price a home on square footage alone just like you can’t live on cans of tuna fish.

Zillow is getting better but it’s just not there yet. It’s great for looking at maps and playing around but it doesn’t have all of the homes for sale much less an accurate value.

Zillow doesn’t know if that home sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean or if it’s nestled next door to a mobile home park. It doesn’t know if the floors are marble or dirt. It doesn’t know if planes fly overhead ten times a day. It doesn’t know if the guy next door fixes motorcycles in his front yard. It doesn’t know if the plumbing has been updated or if water trickles into the sink at the rate of two drops a minute. It doesn’t know if the home is close to a desirable school or a military base. It doesn’t know if the buyer will walk in the front door and fall in love or turn around and run. Quite frankly, Zillow doesn’t know crap.

Which is why a seller will always need a professional and experienced Sacramento real estate agent, and we’ll never go out of style.

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