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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How Reliable is Zillow Really?

Maybe you’ve seen the commercials or done a quick Google search for real estate and found Zillow. They spend a lot of money on advertising and search engine optimization to be sure that you find them. But what you may not know is that beyond the hype, you can’t always trust buying or selling a St. Louis area home with help from Zillow.  

can you trust a zestimate

Home Sellers Using Zillow Should Look Closer 

Zillow offers a Zestimate, a free tool that gives you the approximate price your home is worth. However in testing the algorithm used to create these Zestimates nationally, even Zillow knows that they are not accurate. Zillow even points out that the Zestimate “is a starting point in determining a home’s value and is not an official appraisal.”

“Nationally, the Zestimate has a median error rate of 5.4%,” according to On a national scale that’s equal to an error of about $14,000 per home nationally.
According to Zillow, nationwide, Zestimates are currently within 5% of the final sale price 47.3% of the time. (Meaning 56.3% of the time they are off by more than 5% of a home’s’ actual value.)
In the U.S. as a whole, Zestimates are currently within 10% of the final sale price 69.6% of the time. (Meaning 30.4% of the time they are more than 10% off on a home’s value.)
Nationally, Zestimates are currently within 20% of the final sale price 86.4% of the time. (Meaning 13.6% of the time they are off by more than a whopping 20% on a home’s value.)
- Info not in italics is from

Zillow even recommends, “Getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent. Getting an appraisal from a professional appraiser. Visiting the house (whenever possible).” In fact, Zillow’s own CEO recently sold his own home at price that was 40% off from the Zestimate it was given on Zillow.

The Rise of The Home Valuation Tool

Since Zillow’s rise in the marketplace many others have created and implemented online home valuation models. These use publicly submitted data from local tax records. However tax records often do not reflect updates to homes or special features that might make one home worth more than the next.

the truth about zestimatesThese tools cannot see that you’ve completely remodeled your bathrooms while your neighbor’s house with the same floor plan hasn’t been updated in thirty years. They may not take into account that you have a finished basement and a new roof, while the neighbor’s house doesn’t. Though some like Zillow offer features for homeowners to add some of these updates to adjust their home’s valuation, Zillow still recommends “homeowners to supplement Zillow's information by doing other research.”

Even offers a tool to estimate a home’s value. Our tool immediately notifies us when a home valuation is created so that we can follow up with the homeowner to professionally assist them in refining the valuation to be the most accurate home valuation possible, beyond just a computer algorithm.  So whatever online home valuation tool you use, follow up with an expert Realtor. 

Home Buyers Using Zillow Often Miss Out

why you shouldn't search for homes on zillow
“I’d like to see these three homes I found on Zillow,” said a recent homebuyer. 

We had to tell the buyer, “this one is sold, this one is already pending the sale and this one just had an offer so we have two hours to see the home, decide if you like it and put in a competing offer.”

How could that be the case? Zillow is not very accurate. They have so much national data to handle that their data updates are often slow. Meaning that the data on the homes you see on Zillow is often old. In the current competitive sellers market, this means that by the time you find a home you want to see on Zillow, there is a good chance it will already be under contract or sold.

What is the Alternative to Zillow?

zillow does not replace a realtor
When listing your home for sale, skip the Zestimate and talk to an experienced Realtor, like any of us on The Boehmer Team. We offer expert, local advice to home sellers in addition to home staging tips and other items that will help your home sell faster and for the most money. We look into recent sales and all the unique features of your home to price it accurately.

When searching for a home to buy, use a local home search website that gets multiple daily updates of housing data, like Our website contains all the homes listed publicly for sale that are on the St. Louis area multiple listing service, not just our company’s listings. Also our website gets multiple daily data updates, so the data is more accurate than the national data on Zillow.


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