Vol 6 No. 26 - March 22, 2006

Enter the brave new world of real estate
By Louise Bolger
SUN STAFF WRITER

In 1931, when Aldous Huxley wrote "Brave New World," he had no way of knowing how computer technology would change our lives, and how quickly it would happen. Real estate agents have gone from waiting for the daily batches of new listings to arrive at their office to speeding through cyber space for instant information on properties for sale.

Real estate buyers have also become very comfortable with surfing the net to find out what is available for sale and what has recently sold. But up until, now homeowners who were interested in selling haves found it difficult to place a reasonable value on their home without the help of a real estate professional. Well, that all changed in February, when we entered the brave new world of real estate. Say hello to Zillow.com, but I warn you, this site is totally addicting.

Zillow. com is a very cool real estate tool, which is essentially a property valuation search engine providing you not only with the value of your home (Zestimate) and the range of value, but also a bunch of other enhancements. You simply put in the street address of the property and either the zip code or city and state and, faster than the speed of light, a satellite aerial view appears. Boy, was I hooked. As you scroll down, you see all kinds of information on the property including historical value changes charted over the past one, five and ten years. Believe me, this chart will make your heart sing compared to the Dow Jones charts.

Other informaitn includes all comparable home sales in the area, individual home data such as number of bedrooms/bathrooms, square footage, lot size, year built, assessed value and property tax,

If the house had a blood type, it would probably be there too. If you live in a condo building, it will give you all the units at your address for comparison.

Zillow also demonstrates the weekly value activity of your property with either an up or down arrow and the up or down dollar value for the week. Hopefully, the arrow is always up. The My Zestimator tool allows users to refine the value of a home for their own use or to correct errors based on changes or additions to the home. For example, you can refine the value based on a recently remodeled kitchen. I confess, my addiction was becoming too out of control to spend much time in this area.

It’s true a lot of the same information can be found in county records, but the beauty of Zillow is that it organizes it all on one or two screens, and if you’re checking on property in other areas of the country you don’t need to determine which county or local government to research.

As far as the accuracy, I found the searches I did were low by 10 to 15 percent based on what my opinion of current values are. Even Zillow admits it’s not a perfect science yet but that 62 percent of the searches are within 10 percent of the actual value. Certainly Zillow.com is not meant to be the final decision on determining a value for your home, rather a second opinion to throw into the pot of opinions from local real estate professionals.

Since an informed real estate consumer (better than 75 percent consult the internet) is the best thing for the market, Zillow.com will provide a great service, especially in southwest Florida’s dramatically changing market. The brave new world of real estate is here. Hang on tight; who knows what’s next.

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