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My opinion is that the new Z-estimate calculation is indeed flawed. It relies too heavily on actual sales data from years ago and then doesn't properly adjust it's expectation for the drop in the market. Example: My next door neighbor paid ~650 for his house in 2006. It is comparable in square footage to the average ont he block, however, it is valued at ~500 while the rest are at ~435. Mine, for example, is ~350 sq feet larger and comparable as far as curb appeal and upgrades inside and only showing ~440. Not only that, other comparable places on my street that are ~350 sq feet less than mine and haven't sold recently are in many cases have a higher value than mine. All my data in Zillow is correct, but this new methodology decreased my value ~25k in one day. Doesn't make sense. Something is wrong. Check your calculations.
I am sure zillow is doing their best to get everything right, however everywhere you look on Zillow pages there is a disclaimer. They say they are not perfect....they are working towards that goal no doubt. IN the meantime, if you want to really, really know what your house is worth, spend the money and hire an appraiser or ask a real estate agent to tell you for free. Zillow is a terrific free service, its not meant to tell you exactly what your house is worth, they cant get inside, they cant see your upgrades or beautiful landscaping in the back.
You are absolutely correct about the disclaimer Sharon, however, the truth is not only are buyers and sellers using zillow as a sanity check against real life transactions like bagladyz mentioned, appraisers are also using it to check their final figures against. Appraisers are already being very conservative given the lending conditions and the strong push not to overinflate housing values as to prevent another collapse of the real estate market. That being said, they are very unlikely to value a home at $500,000 if a site the size of and with the positive reputation of Zillow estimates that is is worth $450,000. Appraisers have their own reputations to uphold in this market and don't need to take any risk of being wrong, or worse yet, not as intelligent as a complex proprietary algorithm written by people with more degrees than them. So the appraiser won't appraise it for what it might really be worth so the bank funding the loan won't provide the loan for as much and you won't have the opportunity to sell your house for it's true value. Zillow has an opportunity to play a much larger role in the value of homes that one gives them credit and needs to fix their flawed calculations.
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For Sale: $525,000
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For Sale: $315,000