Caught in the Bad Information Trap? No More Zestimates for Brookline and Newton!

Are you addicted to Zillow? It’s so easy to sink into that site. I admit to getting caught up in it when trying to get a picture of real estate in other parts of the United States. My real estate curiosity doesn’t end in Newton, Brookline and Boston. But then I remember, the injustice Zillow does to my neighborhood, it does elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that information is totally accessible and easy to use. It’s those Zestimates that drive me nuts. Zestimates 50% off are not uncommon. In price ranges we have in Newton and Brookline, even 15% off a useless estimate.

Just because something is computer generated doesn’t make it right. A lot goes into pricing real estate, variables a computer just can’t compute. From experience, I believe the Zestimates are a combination of recent sales data and the public records. This is incomplete information.

I’ve encountered Zestimates used in two different ways. First, by sellers. “Zillow said my home is worth $950,000 and you’re telling me to put it on market for $800,000???!!!” Well, Zillow didn’t know that the square footage in your public records is wrong, that your house is a “contractor’s dream” and your back-yard is a puddle.

Buyers sometimes try to use the Zestimate to come up with a price for a house when they want to make an offer. This makes me so nervous! Offer too much for a home and you are overpaying. Offer too little and your are missing out on a home that may make you very happy.

If you want to continue using Zillow in your search, be mindful and ignore the Zestimates. You’ll do better looking at recent sales (and make sure they are recent), and comparing them to each other and your subject property. Done professionally, it is called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA).

Better yet, ask your agent for a CMA whether buying or selling. For buyers, your buyer agent should provide you with a CMA before you make an offer. For home owners, a market analysis is usually a free service, and one that is provided happily and without obligation. This is your best bet, especially if you trust your agent. Leave the Zestimate for your home in Zewton or Zookline.

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