Do Zillow and similar sites provide reliable home value predictions?

by David Howell on July 13, 2011

Zillow AVM

Zillow, HomeGain and others have their own, unique automated valuation models – AVMs for short – that purport to provide an estimate of a home’s fair market value. It’s pretty cool technology, brings a lot of traffic to their websites and consumers love it. But here’s the deal: They’re not at all reliable, and that’s why we don’t use them and why we don’t put them on our website. We want our clients to have all of the best information available to them – and the values predicted by the variety of AVM sites don’t fall into that category.

Every six months, we take a hard look at how their predicted values compare to actual sales prices, and frankly, they don’t do very well. The link below shows our most recent analysis in detail, but here’s a quick summary: taken as a whole, these sites get within 5% of the actual sales price about a third of the time. They get within 10% of the actual price about half the time. And we’ve never yet had a buyer or seller client who would feel comfortable with that kind of track record, and we would have gone out of business a long time ago if that’s the best we could do.

And one final thought: Ironically, these sites don’t think their info is very good either. Consider this disclaimer on Zillow about the reliability of their predicted values: “It is a computer-generated estimate of the worth of a house today, given the available data. . . Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for.” Enough said.

To get the most accurate estimate of your home’s value, contact one of our experienced agents who live and work in the communities we serve and have a deep understanding of the local market.

This entry was posted under Real Estate and tagged .
Before joining McEnearney Associates in 1996, David was the owner and Principal Broker of his own real estate company for 12 years. David was the Managing Broker of our McLean office from 1996 - 2010, and was named our Chief Information Officer in September, 2010. In that role, he is responsible for the firm' technology, market information and public relations, and is the author of our MarketWatch newsletter. He is also Principal Broker for McEnearney Associates in Maryland, and is an Associate Broker in Virginia and Washington, DC.

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