Monday, October 30, 2006


You might have heard of Zillow, the home valuation website. For many homebuyers and sellers, this has become one of the many stops on their real estate path. My own clients have even mentioned it to me on occasion and asked me what I think about it, including it's accuracy. I've played around with the site a bit out of curiosity and what I found was scary. While some Chicago condo estimates weren't terribly far off, others were clearly out in left field somewhere. I actually saw a three year old South Loop high-rise valued at $100,000 less then the original owner paid for it and it was only $240,000 to begin with. Zillow doesn't claim to be more accurate than plus or minus 7 percent which in real estate terms is a whole lot of money. Let's say that the home you're looking at is $400,000, plus or minus 7% is a whopping $28,000, so the home could be worth anywhere from $428,000 to $372,000. And that's supposed to provide a guideline as to a home's worth? I would be laughed right out the room if I went to a client with that kind of estimate! Another interesting twist to the values is the public's ability to add information about their home. I can see where this additional information would be helpful, but what concerns me is the objectivity of the homeowner, or lack thereof. It will remain to be seen if this kind of information will help or hinder the accuracy of the home values.

I guess the moral to the story is basically consumer beware. Admist it's disclaimers, it states that their Zestimates are not appraisals, but suggests that a buyers use them to avoid overpaying and sellers to arrive at the right price. Zillow could turn out to be a very helpful tool for consumers down the road, but until that day arrives, I wouldn't recommend relying on the data that's there.

Zillow home 'values' rile consumer group

Have you used Zillow? How did you feel about the accuracy of their information? Do you feel their disclaimer is appropriate?