Competition for the zestimate – there are other online home value calculators

I’ve been using to watch the value of my home slowly decline over the past couple of years… luckily, since I’ve been paying down the principal on my 30-year fixed mortgage as well as my home equity line of credit, I haven’t seen my “zestimate” (Zillow’s home value estimate) dip below what I owe. It’s come down by about $60,000, though, from what my appraisal was when I refinanced a few years ago. Such is the current housing market.

If you’re not familiar with Zillow — it’s an online service that estimates the value of homes across the country. They base their estimates primarily on comparable sales in the area, and also the public information at the assessor’s office. I suspect that a lot of their information is supplied by users, as well. While there are likely many other services like this out there, zillow has by far gotten the most public exposure, and is the most well-known.

So, for comparison’s sake, lets see how my home value stacks up on a few different (free) sites — $229,163 $231,302 (average area price) This site needs some database help. It kept mangling both my address and zip code, giving me values some distant part of town. Low of $219,900 to a High of $234,900 (this estimate arrived from an actual human being, with a disclaimer of “Based on the poor market there are not many reliable comparisons.”)
Real Estate ABC: $276,000 (nice! according to these people, my equity hasn’t vanished after all!)
Instant Home This site just gave me a median price for my city and zip code: $332,450
Ditech Home Appraisals: “Failure. Unable To Value Property Type Triplex.” Not sure where they got that info from, all I put in was my address here. Listed only “comparable sales in my area,” which ranged in price from $120,000 to $289,000.
Get Happy Home: Again, listed comparables only, this time ranging from $175,300 to $280,000

As far as the above websites, though, for user experience is still at the top — the user-friendly interface allows you to browse around your neighborhood and see what your neighbors’ houses are worth. You can plug in more details about your house. You can even see a graph of how your home’s (estimated) value has changed over the past 1, 5, or 10 years. (My graph is really depressing over the past 1 year).

The bottom line: None of these sites really had much over the others in term of knowing what my house is worth — for that, I need to hire an actual appraiser. And even then, the house is still only worth what someone will actually buy it for. If it sits on the market for a year and a half listed at $250,000, clearly its not worth that in the market–regardless of what the appraisal says.

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