In this day and age of Internet information many people feel like they have a solid handle on the value of their home. After all, sites like Zillow offer an instant value with a single click of just about any house in America. But how accurate is Zillow? They use a variety of data but mostly public records. Unfortunately companies such as Zillow are not intimately aware of the important details about any individual house. All of their posturing in the market really boils down to public data on a spreadsheet.
I think the coolest thing Zillow ever did was the old heat map but that is gone. But Zillow is a great tool for looking at trends across a broad market area. Are prices going up? Are they flat? Are they trending down? I am a professional Realtor® with a variety of tools at my disposal and I still enjoy playing around on sites like Zillow and Trulia because they offer an easy interface and provide a quick way to analyse broad markets and compare relative housing costs in different areas. How does Vancouver, WA compare broadly against Denver, CO?
Looking at an individual house however on Zillow is a fool's errand. They simply do not have enough information about the comps they used relative to to home they are evaluating nor do they know anything about the condition, upgrades, etc to the house they are applying a Zestimate to. They disclose all this in the fine print so they are doing it right, legally.
The last 18 months have been good to real estate values in the residential market locally and for the most part across the nation. Any homeowner thinking about value on their home would be wise to ask their trusted real estate pro to do a comparative market analysis. They should be willing to do that for free. Of course the alternative is to hire an actual appraiser but a local agent can give a solid evaluation providing they can see the home.
It is never a bad idea to be aware of your home value. Whether or not selling is in the near future or not, knowing where you stand against the market and any loans on the property is solid info to keep on hand. Talk to a Realtor® about the value of your home and go ahead and have some fun on those internet real estate sites, just keep a health pinch of the proverbial salt handy before jumping to any conclusions based on broad based internet data.