So…you are ready to sell your home now, huh? If you are like millions of homeowners, you are going to Zillow immediately to see what your house is worth.
Even though Zillow claims its “Zestimate” is usually within 10 percent of the selling price of the home, don’t believe everything you see on the internet.
Don’t get me wrong, Zillow is an excellent resource. I use it all the time. But it isn’t the gospel. Why? Because even though Zillow gets a substantial amount of public data, it also allows for user submitted data. And let’s face it, if you are adding information about your home, you are always looking for the best angle. If a homeowner decides to update or change the square footage, number of bedrooms or features, it will change the value. Likewise, public data isn’t always perfect either.
In short, Zillow gives you a range based on its best data.
What’s the best way to get the most accurate value for your home? Well, that’s easy. Obviously, an appraisal is the best way. But that will cost you money, usually around $500 for a thorough appraisal. The other way is to know the “comps”, or comparable prices, of similar homes sold within a certain time period. I generally look at similar homes sold in the past 6-12 months within a mile of the subject property.
The key word here is “similar”. Not every property in the neighborhood is a good comp. At least not for buyers or real estate agents.
You need to take into consideration several factors to determine if a house is actually comparable to your property, such as:
- Square footage (actual living space – plus it needs to be within 300-400 square feet)
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Year built (a house built in 1910 is not a comp for one built in 2010)
- Style of house (rancher, colonial, split level, etc.)
You need to know the condition of the property being compared.
- Is it newly renovated?
- Does it need major repairs?
- Is there a lead paint issue?
- Is the foundation sound?
- Is there mold or termites?
All comps are not created equal. It’s that simple.
So, what’s the best advice if you are using Zillow to determine what your house in worth? Use Zillow, Trulia, Redfin or Realtor.com as a baseline, but ultimately seek out a professional opinion. If you have a Maryland house to sell for any reason, I have a simple form that you can fill out right HERE to get a no obligation offer. And if you want to see my methodology for how I assess home values and make offer, please click HERE