You Can’t Trust a Zestimate! Or Can You?

“You can’t trust the Zillow value…” I hear this from my fellow agents. I say it to sellers, and it’s true that you cannot rely on a Zestimate alone to determine an asking price for your property. How would Zillow know if you recently put in gold plated bathroom fixtures while your neighbor’s place still has the same harvest gold shag carpet circa 1970? Unless they have x-ray vision, they couldn’t possibly know! So how could they account for so many unknown variables when determining a likely value? They couldn’t! But hear me home sellers, buyers DO look at Zillow values before making an offer, so you ought to correct any erroneous information Zillow may have and try where possible to get a fair Zestimate.

How does Zillow determine the Zestimate? Zillow incorporates information from many sources. They look to any recent transfer of the property, transfers of neighboring properties, size, bedroom count, type of heating, view, your tax assessment, and other factors. Their algorithm can actually be quite accurate, as I’ve noticed in recent months (always AFTER I do my own analysis, by the way). In other instances they can be wildly off the mark. My own house has a Zestimate fully 51% under what I paid a few years ago. Not even the most pessimistic analysis of my neighborhood shows a decline that steep. Okay, okay… most people have a tendency to misjudge the value of their home, and they are usually NOT low in that estimate. It is possible I am guilty of this to some extent, but as a real estate agent who is out there every day looking at homes, I am in a very good position to spot whether it is wildly off, and I believe that it is. What can I do about it? Well, here is what I am trying to do… I claimed ownership of the house on Zillow, then I adjusted a few things such as bedroom count, square footage, view, and heating type, all of which Zillow had wrong. My Zestimate didn’t change, but I understand it can take six weeks to see any correction. If this doesn’t work, my next step will be to “report a problem” and lay out the reasons why I think they are off base on this one. I don’t know if either step will bring results but I will monitor the situation and report back to you.

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