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
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.
Its 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 youre checking
on property in other areas of the country you dont 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 its 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 Floridas
dramatically changing market. The brave new world of real
estate is here. Hang on tight; who knows whats next.