The Internet has certainly provided consumers with a wide array of tools used throughout transactions that provide more information and more utility than ever before. One of the tools that has grown in popularity of late is the home value calculators that uses your location and historical data of sales in your area to compare your home against those to determine a value.
This value can change over time as new sales are continuously added to the program’s database, giving you a visual demonstration of the way your value has ebbed and flowed over time. Many consumers have used this tool as a way to uncover what kind of equity they have built up in their home and perhaps to decide whether the time is right to sell a particular piece of real estate.
However, because there are so many outlets offering this type of service, there is the capacity to get five wildly different estimates from five different sites, perhaps confusing a home owner more than before by offering such a diverse set of data. The key in accuracy sometimes lies in what the site is trying to accomplish by providing you its service.
For example, if you go to a home evaluation site that does not nail down a specific price but rather provides a range and then prompts you to call a local realtor for a more accurate estimate, the credibility of that site as a home valuation site decreases dramatically. Instead of using the data it has to provide a rough estimate, the site offers a broad range that perhaps prompts more questions than answers.
This is all, it seems, a ploy to get you to call a local realtor that will pay the company for the referral. Obviously, there is a certain amount of bias to remain vague in this situation, making the site less useful for home valuation purposes. Take real estate valuations from sites like these with a substantial grain of salt.
Unfortunately, the bulk of sites used to peg a home value online employ some kind of agent tie-in to prompt contact with a real estate agent. For some sites, that means that you have to input personal data before a full value will be given and in some you have to call the realtor to get the actual value after putting in data for the process online. Either way, these tactics turn off many home buyers that might have an actual need for a home valuation.
There are other sites out there, Zillow being the most prominent, that offer home valuation services without all of the catches. Zillow, in fact, asks only for an address to determine the approximate value of a property and while there will certainly be disparities in a Zillow value and the actual value of a piece of real estate, its interface is easy to use and requires the input of no personal information, giving it a great deal of utility to simply get a rough estimate of a property’s value.
Of course, the best way to get a home valuation is to contact a professional home appraiser. While online sites use market data to formulate a price, nothing can beat an in-home appraisal that takes into account all of the features and amenities of your home when determining a value.
However, for those that want a simple valuation without the cost of a professional appraiser or the bait-and-switch tactics of many of the agent-driven sites out there, Zillow is a great site to get a quick and dirty estimate that can be used as a rough estimate for discussions on the future of a particular piece of real estate.