If you are interested in the sales history of a specific address, Zillow will provide data if you type in the address. If you are trying to determine the value of properties in an area from a year and half ago, a real estate agent can look at MLS data for you.Zillow data goes off of county records which may include some extra sales that did not occur in the MLS. This can actually be misleading data since it does not indicate the condition or features of a property which could contribute to it's value, and includes sales that did not occur at market value for various reasons. To say it takes 2 seconds or 2 or 3 minutes may be how many agents operate, but an accurate analysis of the value of a property at any given time requires much more effort and market knowledge.
Seller staying in the property after closing creates a landlord tenant relationship, so there are liabilities involved. I would recommend the rental agreement (as you did) which here in California is the SIP or RLAS forms depending on whether it is more or less than 30 days of rent.To offer a rent back to a seller, there is a cost to the buyer which can be factored into all the other terms which were part of your offer to decide if it all makes sense. Certainly you can ask why the seller wants a rent back. Usually it is to coordinate either the search for a replacement property or to sync the moving dates. A long escrow would not help the seller as much as a rent back if the seller is trying to buy a home where he/she may be competing against other offers or when the owner of the replacement property is not comfortable accepting an offer contingent on the sale of another property.
I'm sure the agent you want to write the review for would be able to help you out. A variety of reviews are important for the public to understand and inform themselves about different real estate agents. Redfin is the only website I know of where the reviews cannot be somewhat controlled by the agent.
In addition to the great information given below, how much down payment you have available in combination with the loan amount will give you your total purchase power. Don't let not having down payment deter you as there are a number of low down payment loans. You will also want to have some money for closing costs(although a seller or lender credit can sometimes cover those) and save money for reserves and property improvements you may want to do. Fortunately, owning a home will probably give you some tax breaks on the mortgage interest and property taxes you pay.
Zillow gives a Zestimate based on surrounding similar properties and what your house sold for the last time. Depending on how much your house may have changed or how quickly the market is moving, the Zestimate can be off by 10%. If you are looking for the value to refinance, the lender will send out an appraiser. If you are looking for the value to sell it or maybe change ownership of the property, a local experienced real estate agent would be your best bet and will usually offer the service at no cost.
Did the landlord agree to you renting out rooms separately and collecting rent for that? If so, the landlord may be more inclined to compensate you with a reduction in rent. The difference in market rent between a 3 and 4 bedroom house is about $200 assuming there is an increase in the square footage also. The difference between a 3 bedroom and 2 bedroom is harder to gauge since there are not many 2 bedroom homes, but I would put it maybe at $300 so it does not correlate to the value of the room as if it was rented independently.The correct course of action is to talk to your landlord about getting the 3rd bedroom back to the condition it was in when you first rented the home or open up discussions about a rent adjustment if that cannot be accomplished in a timely fashion.
A 3 bedroom detached house of about 2000sf in average condition and a typical 92011 neighborhood might rent for about $3,000 per month. Zillow has a pretty good rent estimator if you actually plug in a specific address. Rent prices also vary for things like length of lease, furnished or unfurnished, whether pets are accepted or not, etc.
There are a number of fields available in the MLS for searching which many websites choose not to use. If you contact a local real estate agent, they can set up a search for you that would only give you single story houses.
Yes, you can buy to rent. And you may find the income on your investment should fit in with your overall financial planning in diversifying between stocks, bonds, real estate, and CDs. There have been a lot of investors buying over the past 5 years because the price declines gave a good opportunity. Some properties might also make sense as vacation rentals but those require more management and maybe being more selective on the location.
Painting over it would be an improvement for most people, but it would be better to tear it out and retexture and paint the drywall which is probably underneath.