zillow.com and trulia.com Accurate?

pinkpaulaDecember 22, 2009

I have been watching in horror over the past few months as our home value has taken a nose dive on zillow.com and trulia.com. According to those sites, our home is now worth $80,000 less than it was worth a year ago. We are near Atlanta.

My question to those of you who are professional real estate agents is, Are these websites accurate for today's market?

Also, since our house is a totally restored 100 year old house in a historic neighborhood, can its value be the same as a new house with the same square footage? I know appraisers look at comparable houses to assess value, but do they consider more than square footage?

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Mine went down on Zillow about $40,000. But it was meaningless because they estimated the house above the offers we got. I just ignored it. I wound up accepting an offer $40,000 less than my list price which was $50,000 lower than Zillow. Confusing. I was worried because prices in my area continued to drop even though I live in a sought after area.

Sellers didn't want to wait to sell. They kept dropping their prices over the summer because they couldn't sit on their houses. I stopped looking at Zillow. I think if you, in this market, sit on your house you'll get a buyer who will fall in love with your house. I refused all low offers and my buyer came up closer to my asking price.

My concern now is the bank. We are scheduled for the appraisal next week and I know price per sq ft has dropped since we signed the contract. We've been waiting almost 3 months for the bank appraisal.

My suggestion is to price what you think it will sell for and be prepared to negotiate hard. I wasn't in a rush to sell and would have pulled it and relisted in Spring. Frankly, I wish I had fought harder for my listing price. My RA convinced us to accept the price. I think the buyers would have come up higher. I think sq footage plays a part, but other things play in your favor. You need to find comps which sold at higer sq ft. Luckily we had a number of houses with similar sq. foot sell higher than my price. I hope it works. Just make your house look as good as you can. Dress it up and present it at its best. I think the work I put into mine sold the house. I don't think I would have gotten anything close to what I wanted if I hadn't done the work.
Sorry for the long ramble, I would just use Zillow to give you an idea what houses are selling for. Get a RA and get on Listingbook. You can see what houses are selling for in your area. It gives you a truer picture.

I just looked at Zillow and I'm shocked. The said 30 day change on my house - down 7.2%,= $72,500. I accepted $900,000 but they show the value range $760,000 - 1,113,000. How do you figure that? Very disturbing.
Good luck...


    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:37AM
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Zillow is not accurate in my area. It is based on home assessments and sq footages of homes that have sold. (property, style, age etc is not taken into consideration).Assessments in my area are always years behind. Some are much higher than zillow, some, much lower. I had a lady whose house I had listed, she kept saying "zillow has me at bla bla bla". My listing price was 100k lower than zillow had her listed and people werent banging down the door to get in to see that house.

She is now listed with another agent, 30k lower than I had her and she still isnt selling. (of course this is one of those sellers that asks for feedback and then doesnt pay attention to it)

I wouldnt worry about what Zillow says for your house. Your agent has the most up to the date info.

and not to hijack, but Jane, it doesnt matter how long its been since you've signed contracts in regards to your appraisal. Appraisers will pull anything that has sold that is comparable to your house for the last six months.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 7:06AM
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Of course Zillow isn't accurate. Why (or more pertinently, how) would it be?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 8:27AM
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In my area, zillow is pretty close. There are enough sales that it can get a decent average. For a while when nothing was selling, it got out of whack, but it is much better recently.

re:appraisal, yes, they do look at more than square footage. They look at bedrooms, bathrooms, land, neighborhood, updates/upgrades etc. They are supposed to pick "comparable" homes with features similar to yours. In most cases, it would not be appropriate to compare a 100 year old house to new construction.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 8:40AM
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Having had a re-fi recently, i can state that the appraiser did NOT take into consideration upgrades..Sure the rooms may have been described as remodeled/updated,etc..but within that terminology,a bath upgrade could have high-end features,and another home could have Home-Depot features and both have been termed "upgraded"...

Also Zillow had my home as a 4br,3 bath, but in reality it is a 5 br,3 1/2 bath...room count was off by 5!!!! Take their guesstimate with a grain of salt

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 10:40AM
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Unfortunately for many remodelers, "high-end" features don't add a lot of value in many situations. A $1,100 faucet does not add $1000 to your home value compared to a new $100 faucet. A $200/sq ft stone counter doesn't appraise higher that a $50/sq ft one either. However, if your house has 70's laminate and all the others in the neighborhood have stone, then the appraiser will likely take that into account.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 11:09AM
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Thank you all so much for answering my questions. I feel somewhat reassured that there will be many things to take into account (not just online stats) in setting a sale price on our home should we decide to list in the spring.

Jane-- I do appreciate all of your great advice!

There have been several high end foreclosures in our neighborhood this year. Would this also affect appraisal values?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 11:43AM
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bill, very well said...And in an appraisal situation, that can be correct..But when selling or buying more expensive features/upgrades normally add to the value of a home..Though i am very certain most appraisers couldn't tell the difference in the 30 minutes they are here to notice the difference in features..My guy made zero notes, and the comps he had,though same model of my home+-,had none of the features...doesn't matter though as my input to him led me to the appraisal i seeked..

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 11:48AM
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I agree that Zillow is not accurate. My home is listed $30k to $50k higher than it should be by Zillow.

I did a refinance earlier this year, so had an actual appraisal done .. and I am in the mortgage biz, so I look at the weekly real estate closings, and have a pretty good idea of the value of my home.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:17PM
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"seeked", some bad grammar there, sorry..meant sought

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:50PM
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What I am curious about is why it is taking more than 3 months to get an appraisal. I have never heard of a RE contract allowing for such. Are the appraisers backed up that far?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:23PM
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Zillow is actually pretty accurate for our house -- I think. But it's wildly wrong about the house next door and the one across the street (under by a million or so on each).

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Our house dropped by $200,000 based on Zillow's estimate. I know it's pretty accurate, though, as we tried to refinance, and that's about what our bank estimated us at as well. So we're underwater, unfortunately. Just keeping our fingers crossed that values will go back up and we'll be able to refinance eventually.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:54PM
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My recent appraisal came in 85k more then zillow's guesstimate...The mortgage co i had froze my HELOC(never used,but still) based on some computer program saying my home depreciated to the point i was only 20% equity(after being 50%)..re-fi'd 1st mortgage, without issue ,with a new bank AND got a new Heloc...
The former bank rhymes with RACE ;0

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 2:37PM
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zillow in our area is not very accurate at all. for some of the houses currently for sale, it lists the "for sale" price, but for houses sold recently, it lists the value at some at 1/2 to 1/3 of what they sold for in recent years.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 7:00PM
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Zillow shows my house at $35k less than the tax appraisal (around here tax appraisals are usually low), $80k less than we paid for it 3 years ago (this is a mild seller's market). Trulia on the other hand shows my house at over $200k more than Zillow (that price, alas, is too high).

Neither are remotely realistic.

A few years ago when we were getting ready to sell our prior house I checked Zillow. I was shocked at the price and looked at what they were calling comps. Zillow ignored recent sales in the high end subdivision we actually lived in. It includes sales from over 10 miles away in a rundown urban area. The house sold for about twice what Zillow gave

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 10:35PM
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I had my dates wrong. It is almost 3 months since our accepted offer. Our closing is set for March 8. Feels like forever.

Pinkpaula, use Zillow as a gauge. What I did was look on Trulia to find Open Houses in my area and visit the ones which looked similar to mine. Then I put them on the 'watch list' on Trulia to see price changes or what they sold for. That became somewhat scary as so many people kept dropping their prices quickly.

The combination of going to Open Houses to look at comparables and watching price changes and sales on Trulia was the deciding factor to our price drop. I found Trulia very helpful and used it daily to keep an eye on my area. I also used Listingbook but found Trulia easier to naviagate.


    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 12:36AM
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When I was in new agent training at Coldwell Banker, our trainer said "Zillow is like the horoscope-for entertainment purposes only."

It's a good place to start, but don't stop there.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 6:43PM
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I just got a message from Zillow that my home price dropped $80,600 in the last 30 days. Getting scary as we are under contract.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 8:11PM
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Let's see...Zillow is either totally worthless or pretty accurate. Actually, it's in-between. It's a good reference point that may help you get an idea of how your house is doing relative to the market. Zillow is a computer database of information which is pieced together to give an approximate value. For me, it has been pretty accurate over the last 5 years I've checked it; for others, it may or may not be. Why expect Zillow to be totally accurate when two appraisers can't even agree on the value of a house, or when different buyers have different ideas? People get very emotional about their houses and anyone's valuation of it. If you see Zillow as a useful tool, rather than a threat to your sense of what your home's true value is (whatever that means), you'll be happier with it.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 4:27PM
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I can't understand why it can be accurate in some areas of my town and completely off in others..This is not a rural area, a syburb, with comps that could work, if utilized properly..If it was off by a similar %, then it could be used "for your enjoyment"....But when it is close in some areas and not in others, people who think it is an accurate "tool" will believe the values placed on homes...

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 5:52PM
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I'm hoping someone here will have some insight into my question. I follow houses on Trulia and I've seen many that are listed for a far lower price than what they sell for. For instance, I just got a notice today about a house that was listed for $12,000 and it sold for $59,000. How does this happen? Are people actually making offers that much higher? Are the listings inaccurate? Any help to understanding this would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 8:59PM
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"I can't understand why it can be accurate in some areas of my town and completely off in others."

Because price is determined by loacation, location, abnd location.

My house sits in a small infill development among a wide areas of much smaller houses.

It is also the oldest house in the infill (being the farm managers house was the area was still being farmed up to the mid -1970s) nad has a lot more than double the infill houses around it.

Zillow looks at the more numerous smaller houses in the same general area, but does not take into account the smaller area my house is in.

It is not far off for theses houses, but way off on my immediate area.

The larger are of smaller houses is only about two blocks away.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 10:57AM
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We bought this house 31 years ago and are the original owners. Our house is the largest model on the largest, best view lot. Other smaller homes, all the same age, none with as good a view or sized lot on our one-block street have sold over the years, but no price other than the original exists for our house. Zillow lists us as the least expensive house on the street. The others are listed at their recent sale price.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 4:10PM
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Zilow allows you to enter a description of your house. I think some folks are not truthful. That is the one way to explain such varied numbers on houses that are comps.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 11:52PM
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Where are you that a house can be listed for $12K? In my metropolitan area, you would have to pay at least $100K for a burned-out shell on a small lot on the busiest drug-dealing corner in the city. I know that there are rural areas where prices are much lower than the big cities, but there is more to that story of how something listed for $12K goes for $59K. That's not representative of anything. It's some unique situation, or it's a situation where maybe someone inherited it, didn't know what they were doing when they advertised it, and triggered a bidding war that brought it up to the real market value. If you want to know the story, contact the seller/realtor...and then share what you find with the rest of us.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:14PM
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