MA. Listing Agent

5 Tech Questions that Seniors Should Ask When Interviewing a Real Estate Agent


5 Tech Questions that Seniors Should Ask When Interviewing a Real Estate AgentSotheby’s Newton, MA.  Newton, MA.  Top AgentsPosted: May 21, 2015 10AM EST

5 Tech Questions that Seniors Should Ask When Interviewing a Real Estate Agent | Keeping Current Matters

 Nikki Buckelew back as a guestblogger for today’s post. Nikki has extensive experience working with seniors and is the Founder & CEO of the Senior Real Estate Institute. Enjoy!
  If you have not bought or sold a home in a few years (or maybe decades) it is likely that there are more than a few new trends in real estate that you will encounter as you begin to interview real estate agents. One particular trend now common among many real estatebrokerage firms is called the practice of “going paperless.” This can be a bit scary for some people, especially senior adults who are not accustomed to using computers in their personal or professional lives. If you are one of the many with reservations about the paperless process, you will want to talk with your agent about any concerns or questions you have. In this article we have provided some basic information about the paperless process and some key questions to ask your real estate agent. How your agent handles your questions may just help you determine if he or she is the right agent for you!

What does it mean to go paperless?

Going paperless simply means that instead of printing out every contract, form or disclosure for your signature, you may be asked to sign certain documents electronically. This could mean:

  1. Typing your name into a designated field included in a form (received via email)
  2. Signing your name on a digital touchpad (laptop, netbook, smart phone, etc.)

While some have experienced this type of technology before and are perfectly willing and comfortable using it, others are not. Frankly, the first time I was asked to sign a real estate document electronically via email I was a bit perplexed and required some guidance. If you have not been exposed to this type of technology, it can seem a little overwhelming, especially if introduced to it in the midst all of the other things going on during a move. This is why it’s important to educate yourself on the front end, mitigating potential delays, avoiding unnecessary frustration, and preventing surprises down the road.

Here are 5 simple questions you should ask before you ‘sign on the dotted line’

1. How do you typically communicate with your clients (phone, email, text, instant messaging, etc.)?

Good agents know that the best method (and frequency) of communication is the one that best serves the client, so getting this agreed upon early in the relationship is paramount — for both you and the agent. If you want to communicate strictly by phone, be sure that you and your agent agree on the protocols for leaving and returning messages, hours of availability, and which phone numbers are best for certain times of day. Similar discussion around email, text messaging, and other modes of communication should be had as well, if that is your desired method of information delivery.

2. What method(s) do you use for getting client signatures?

The goal here is to find out your options. Many agents are still in the conversion process of going paperless and they are more than willing to use “more conventional” methods of getting signatures. Some may be required, however, by their respective brokerage firms to utilize only paperless systems. If this is the case, ask the agent to show you examples of the types of things that may be asked of you during the course of working together. If after a quick tutorial, you aren’t comfortable with the electronic signature process, it’s “OK” to choose an agent who can better accommodate your preferences.

3. Can you access my devices to insure they are compatible with the systems you use?

Even if you are completely prepared to enter the paperless world with no reservations whatsoever, it can only be done if you have the right equipment. Before agreeing to a paperless process, ask the agent to do a “test run” using a non-official/non-binding document on your system to insure its functionality.

4. Will you provide technical support if I am not “techy” and need some help?

My dad (self-described “non-techy” and proud of it), has a computer, printer, smart phone, email address, and wifi. He does not, however, have the faintest idea how they work or how to pull up attachments in his email. When he decided to purchase a new home this past year using a reverse mortgage, the lender was located out of state, which meant everything was done via email — electronically. Needless to say, I was dad’s tech support in this situation. If you do not have a trusted advisor who can help you with troubleshooting potential technology issues, make sure your agent or their staff is capable, patient, and willing to personally walking you through the steps.

5. Are you flexible if I choose to use phone and paper over electronic communication and documentation?

Options are the key. While some agents are extremely flexible in how they deliver their services, others may be married to a very specific process or style. Insure the agent you are considering is willing and able to do what is right for you, based on your comfort level, knowledge, and ability.

Bottom Line

It goes without saying that it is critical to have the conversation with your real estate professional about their paperless processes and communication methods. Not only will doing so put your mind at ease regarding unfamiliar territory, but it may also provide your agent with necessary information so he or she can serve you more effectively.

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Bi-Monthly Newton Real Estate Recap


Bi-Monthly Newton Real Estate Recap

Newton, MA.  10:45 EST  Newton’s Top Brokers, Sotheby’s Realty, Newton, MA.

The real estate market is busy!  There are at total of 130 single family homes currently for sale in Newton, up from 113 two weeks ago.  67 new properties came on the market across all price ranges in the past 2 weeks!  52 homes went Unger Agreement in that same time period with the 1 million to 2 million remaining the most active with 28.  The condo market remains STRONG!  Sellers’ there are so many buyers clamoring for the same house, so list yours if you are thinking about it!

 

On-Market Snapshot

Report Run: 5/11/2015 10:35:20 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Snapshot Date: 04/27/2015
Towns: Newton
 04/27/2015  5/11/2015
Price Range Number of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
vs. today Number of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999
$500,000 – $599,999 4 61 5 58
$600,000 – $699,999 1 5 7 10
$700,000 – $799,999 3 21 4 10
$800,000 – $899,999 3 89 6 62
$900,000 – $999,999 5 18 3 9
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 25 31 32 33
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 27 68 25 67
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 15 140 14 150
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 20 143 18 118
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 9 78 12 62
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 12 4 23
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 113 Avg. 79 130 Avg. 66
Lowest Price: $519,000
Median Price: $1,780,000
Highest Price: $4,000,000
Average Price: $1,948,054
Total Market Volume: $220,130,153
Lowest Price: $519,000
Median Price: $1,704,999.50
Highest Price: $4,650,000
Average Price: $1,903,738
Total Market Volume: $247,485,940
Pending Statistics
Report Run: 5/11/2015 10:36:12 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Start Date: 04/27/2015
End Date: 05/11/2015
Towns: Newton
Went Pending Current Status
Price Range # of
Listings
# UAG # CTG # Sold # Other
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999
$500,000 – $599,999 1 1
$600,000 – $699,999 4 3 1
$700,000 – $799,999 4 1 3
$800,000 – $899,999 4 3 1
$900,000 – $999,999 6 3 3
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 14 8 4 2
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 14 8 6
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 3 3
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 2 1 1
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 52 27 23 0 2
Lowest Price: $595,000 Median Price: $1,287,000
Highest Price: $2,999,999 Average Price: $1,369,605
Total Market Volume: $71,219,486

 

Total Sold Market Statistics
Report Run: 5/11/2015 10:37:09 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Status: SLD
Start Date: 04/27/2015
End Date: 05/11/2015
Towns: Newton
Price Range # of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
Avg. Days
to Offer
Average
Sale Price
Average
List Price
SP:LP
Ratio
Average
Orig Price
SP:OP
Ratio
$0 – $49,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$50,000 – $99,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$100,000 – $149,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$150,000 – $199,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$200,000 – $249,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$250,000 – $299,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$300,000 – $349,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$350,000 – $399,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$400,000 – $449,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$450,000 – $499,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$500,000 – $599,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$600,000 – $699,999 2 12 5 $669,750 $612,000 110 $612,000 110
$700,000 – $799,999 2 16 3 $735,000 $724,500 101 $724,500 101
$800,000 – $899,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$900,000 – $999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 5 26 6 $1,273,200 $1,227,600 105 $1,227,600 105
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 5 128 45 $1,748,794 $1,754,600 100 $1,795,600 98
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 3 119 79 $2,102,333 $2,198,300 96 $2,231,633 94
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 24 24 $4,000,000 $4,500,000 89 $4,500,000 89
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$10,000,000 – $99,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
Total Properties 18 Avg. 67 Avg. 29 $1,568,137 $1,593,272 101 $1,610,217 100
Lowest Price: $662,000 Median Price: $1,509,485
Highest Price: $4,000,000 Average Price: $1,568,137
Total Market Volume: $28,226,469

Is Your Home Functionally Obsolete?


open concept

 Is Your Home Functionally Obsolete?

Newton Top Brokers, Sotheby’s Newton, MA.

Posted 12PM EST Newton, MA

The definition of functionally obsolete pertaining to real estate is: A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed.  That definition applies to many houses currently on the market here in the western suburbs of Boston.  An early to mid 20th century Colonial usually has a center stair case and a living and dining on either side of the foyer.  The kitchen is generally located behind the dining room and a sun-room located off the living room.  For many years the sun room became the family room and everyone was delighted to have that extra space.  Of course the living room wasn’t used as often once family rooms or dens became common. These houses were built when hosts didn’t want people in their kitchen when they were having company. Company came over and were led into the living room to have cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres.  The cook ran back and forth between the kitchen and the company.  Well women got tired of being in the kitchen and missing the party and the living room got shafted.

Victorians are another problem, they were extremely popular 10-20 years ago.  They have high ceilings and beautiful wide foyers.  Those wide foyers and intricate staircases make for little rooms and difficult renovations.  Over the years many people have added beautiful family rooms in the rear of the house off the kitchen.  But today’s buyer does not want a right parlor and left parlor and a dining room and a family room and a sun-room…. They don’t want to pay for rooms they don’t use.

Cooking together has become part of the experience.  People enjoy cooking now and they want their friends and family in the kitchen with them.  Guests WANT to be in the kitchen with their hosts!  A desirable first floor today in a “normal” home consists of an open concept living, dining and kitchen, maybe a separate office and a large mud room.  4 second floor bedrooms and at least 3 bathrooms.  I don’t know why kids can’t share a bathroom with their siblings anymore?  What will they do when they have to share with 20 people in college?

So what does all this mean?  It means that the price of your home depends on how desirable your home is perceived through the eyes of a buyer.  Buyers have always determined the price of a home, not the seller or their agent.  If there is a way to open up the first floor and connect unused living rooms to the kitchen then you’ll be ok.  Your home will not sell at a premium because there is an automatic deduction in the mind of the buyer.  Most pre-war Colonials were built with a powder room under the front hall stairs, blocking the ability to open up to the kitchen and living room to each other.  Relocating a bath is not inexpensive and removing the first floor powder room is not desirable while living in the home or for resale.

Every house is salable!  The price melts away objections and gives buyers an opportunity to bring a home into the 21st century.

 

ugly_kitchentransitional-1

 

Bi-Monthly Newton Real Estate Recap


Sotheby’s Newton, MA. Top Brokers

Newton, MA.  1:30PM EST

Spring has finally arrived and it has brought a few more listings to the market.  Inventory has increased from 92 to 108 homes for sale.  While 20 additional homes are available we are still about 50% of a normal market.  31 homes have gone under agreement in the past 2 week with the 1.5-2 million dollar price range continuing to be the most active.  There is also activity in the very high-end market.  Only 14 homes closed in the past few weeks and that is a direct result of snow bound buyers and sellers during late January and February.


On-Market Snapshot
Report Run: 4/13/2015 1:07:03 PM
Property Type(s): SF
Snapshot Date: 03/31/2015
Towns: Newton
 03/31/2015  4/13/2015
Price Range Number of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
vs. today Number of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999 1 6
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999 1 6
$500,000 – $599,999 1 209 4 61
$600,000 – $699,999 1 0 1 3
$700,000 – $799,999 2 149 3 9
$800,000 – $899,999 4 63 6 43
$900,000 – $999,999 3 56 6 50
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 22 32 24 38
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 23 48 27 42
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 14 167 14 177
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 12 128 15 149
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 8 228 7 131
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 22
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 92 Avg. 92 108 Avg. 79
Lowest Price: $399,000
Median Price: $1,717,500
Highest Price: $4,500,000
Average Price: $1,906,135
Total Market Volume: $175,364,486
Lowest Price: $450,000
Median Price: $1,662,000
Highest Price: $3,999,900
Average Price: $1,791,334
Total Market Volume: $193,464,086

 

Pending Statistics
Report Run: 4/13/2015 1:09:03 PM
Property Type(s): SF
Start Date: 03/31/2015
End Date: 04/13/2015
Towns: Newton
Went Pending Current Status
Price Range # of
Listings
# UAG # CTG # Sold # Other
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999 1 1
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999 1 1
$500,000 – $599,999
$600,000 – $699,999 4 2 2
$700,000 – $799,999 1 1
$800,000 – $899,999 4 1 2 1
$900,000 – $999,999 4 2 2
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 7 1 6
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 4 3 1
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 2 2
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 2 2
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 1 1
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 31 15 15 0 1
Lowest Price: $399,000 Median Price: $986,950
Highest Price: $4,500,000 Average Price: $1,429,977
Total Market Volume: $44,329,300

 

Total Sold Market Statistics
Report Run: 4/13/2015 1:10:38 PM
Property Type(s): SF
Status: SLD
Start Date: 03/31/2015
End Date: 04/13/2015
Towns: Newton
Price Range # of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
Avg. Days
to Offer
Average
Sale Price
Average
List Price
Average
Orig Price
SP:OP
Ratio
$0 – $49,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$50,000 – $99,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$100,000 – $149,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$150,000 – $199,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$200,000 – $249,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$250,000 – $299,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$300,000 – $349,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$350,000 – $399,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$400,000 – $449,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$450,000 – $499,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$500,000 – $599,999 1 65 65 $560,000 $634,900 $634,900 88
$600,000 – $699,999 1 80 3 $655,000 $630,000 $630,000 104
$700,000 – $799,999 1 6 6 $777,600 $729,000 $729,000 107
$800,000 – $899,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$900,000 – $999,999 1 68 68 $950,000 $950,000 $950,000 100
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 6 61 55 $1,244,689 $1,249,333 $1,291,000 97
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 1 16 2 $1,940,000 $1,879,000 $1,879,000 103
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 2 8 6 $2,230,000 $2,050,000 $2,050,000 109
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 1 142 106 $2,600,000 $2,750,000 $2,850,000 91
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
$10,000,000 – $99,999,999 0 0 0 $0 $0 $0 0
Total Properties 14 Avg. 54 Avg. 42 $1,386,481 $1,369,207 $1,394,207 99
Lowest Price: $560,000 Median Price: $1,200,000
Highest Price: $2,600,000 Average Price: $1,386,481
Total Market Volume: $19,410,735

Freddie Mac’s New 3% Down Program


Freddie Mac’s New 3% Down Program

Newton, MA.  11:30AM EST

Posted: 23 Mar 2015 Freddie Mac's New 3% Down Program | Keeping Current Matters

Today, Freddie Mac is scheduled to start buying mortgages with down payments of only three percent – the first time down payments have been this low on Freddie Mac loans in nearly five years. The program is called Freddie Mac Home Possible AdvantageSM. In a recent Executive Perspectives, Dave Lowman EVP, Single-Family Business Freddie Mac, explained the potential impact this program will have on the housing market:

“There’s a new reason Realtors and lenders may expect more qualified borrowers at the closing table during this spring’s home buying season. In addition to low mortgage rates and rising job growth, the down payment hurdle is starting to shrink for creditworthy borrowers, including first-time homebuyers.”

And the mortgage industry agrees with Mr. Lowman. In a recent survey of mortgage originators by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), it was revealed that most loan officers believe the move to a lower down payment will increase access to mortgage credit. Here are that survey’s findings: Down Payment Survey | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Many potential buyers are “ready and willing” to buy a home but have been afraid they may not be “able” because of a lack of adequate savings for a down payment. Check with a local real estate or mortgage professional to understand what the new rules may mean to you.

CALL Margaret Szerlip at 617-921-6860 or margaretszerlip@gmail.com

13,000-Plus Listings Sell Every Day…Is Yours One of Them?


 

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13,000-Plus Listings Sell Every Day…Is Yours One of Them? 

Mar 05, 2015 09:25 am

listings_sell

It’s very exciting when a homeowner entrusts you with the marketing and ultimate sale of their home. Yes, you got a new listing!

Fast-forward a couple of weeks or months, and if the listing hasn’t sold, then you have some explaining to do. In a recent Existing-Home Sales Report from the National Association of REALTORS®, annual home sales are listed at 5.04 million homes. In order to put that number into perspective, let’s divide it by 365 days, and you’ll find that there are 13,699 homes sold every day in the United States on average (not accounting for seasonality).

With all of these homes selling across the country daily, blaming the economy or the local market for an unsold listing isn’t going to be a strong position with the home seller. It’s far more likely that you’ve made one or more common mistakes when pricing your listing.

Here are three common pricing mistakes that prevent listings from selling in a timely manner:

1. Overpricing from the Start

It’s extremely common for sellers to overvalue their homes compared to other homes in the same neighborhood and price range. Our job as local market experts is to advise and counsel home sellers on the correct pricing strategy.

One of the most important steps in correctly pricing the home is to take an honest look at similar homes in the area that have recently sold. While the seller may feel that their home deserves to command a higher relative sale price, the market determined these comps to be a fair price, so buyers will expect your asking price to be in the same ballpark.

An overpriced listing is a sure way to scare off plenty of potential buyers and waste a lot of your time.

2. Ignoring Search Ranges

These days, almost every buyer searches for homes online. If a potential buyer searches for homes in the $250,000 to $300,000 price range, they won’t see your listing if it’s priced at $305,000.

Even if your listing is a perfect fit for the potential buyer, he or she won’t know about it, even though it’s only $5,000 above their price range search.

You want to make sure you’re not pricing your listing just outside of someone’s price range, so be sure to avoid pricing just over common increment breaks.

3. Not Being Open to Offers

There’s an old saying in our business that the first offer is the best offer; however, you should advise the seller to carefully consider any and all offers that come in, even if they’re well below your asking price. Negotiation is the name of the game. It’s not where an offer starts, it’s where mutual acceptance ends.

Do you want your listing to be one of the 13,000-plus homes that will sell tomorrow? Review your pricing strategy today!

Wendy Forsythe is the executive vice president and head of global operations at Carrington Real Estate Services.

 

 

 

Inaccurate Zillow ‘Zestimates’ a Source of Conflict Over Home Prices


Inaccurate Zillow ‘Zestimates’ a source of conflict over home prices

February 12, 2015 Newton, MA.  2:45PM EST
Zillow execs follow housing data to surprising conclusions
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, shown in his downtown Seattle office, says Zestimates are “a good starting point” but that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%. (Ellen M. Banner / TNS)
By KENNETH R. HARNEY Real Estate Business

Home shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents as gauges of market value
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff says that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%
When “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell asked the chief executive of Zillow recently about the accuracy of the website’s automated property value estimates — known as Zestimates — she touched on one of the most sensitive perception gaps in American real estate.

Millennials are finally entering home-buying market
Millennials are finally entering home-buying market
Zillow is the most popular online real estate information site, with 73 million unique visitors in December. Along with active listings of properties for sale, it also provides information on houses that are not on the market. You can enter the address or general location in a database of millions of homes and probably pull up key information — square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths, photos, taxes — plus a Zestimate.

Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents — and to one another — as gauges of market value. If a house for sale has a Zestimate of $350,000, a buyer might challenge the sellers’ list price of $425,000. Or a seller might demand to know from potential listing brokers why they say a property should sell for just $595,000 when Zillow has it at $685,000.

 

Disparities like these are daily occurrences and, in the words of one realty agent who posted on the industry blog ActiveRain, they are “the bane of my existence.” Consumers often take Zestimates “as gospel,” said Tim Freund, an agent with Dilbeck Real Estate in Westlake Village. If either the buyer or the seller won’t budge off Zillow’s estimated value, he told me, “that will kill a deal.”

Back to the question posed by O’Donnell: Are Zestimates accurate? And if they’re off the mark, how far off? Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff answered that they’re “a good starting point” but that nationwide Zestimates have a “median error rate” of about 8%.

Homeowners underestimate their property values 1.6%, research says
Homeowners underestimate their property values 1.6%, research says
Whoa. That sounds high. On a $500,000 house, that would be a $40,000 disparity — a lot of money on the table — and could create problems. But here’s something Rascoff was not asked about: Localized median error rates on Zestimates sometimes far exceed the national median, which raises the odds that sellers and buyers will have conflicts over pricing. Though it’s not prominently featured on the website, at the bottom of Zillow’s home page in small type is the word “Zestimates.” This section provides helpful background information along with valuation error rates by state and county — some of which are stunners.

 

For example, in New York County — Manhattan — the median valuation error rate is 19.9%. In Brooklyn, it’s 12.9%. In Somerset County, Md., the rate is an astounding 42%. In some rural counties in California, error rates range as high as 26%. In San Francisco it’s 11.6%. With a median home value of $1,000,800 in San Francisco, according to Zillow estimates as of December, a median error rate at this level translates into a price disparity of $116,093.

Some real estate agents have done their own studies of accuracy levels of Zillow in their local markets.

Last July, Robert Earl, an agent with Choice Homes Team in the Charlottesville, Va., area, examined selling prices and Zestimates of all 21 homes sold that month in the nearby community of Lake Monticello. On 17 sales Zillow overestimated values, including two houses that sold for 61% below the Zestimate.
In Carlsbad, Calif., Jeff Dowler, an agent with Solutions Real Estate, did a similar analysis on sales in two ZIP Codes. He found that Zestimates came in below the selling price 70% of the time, with disparities ranging as high as $70,000. In 25% of the sales, Zestimates were higher than the contract price. In 95% of the cases, he said, “Zestimates were wrong. That does not inspire a lot of confidence, at least not for me.” In a second ZIP Code, Dowler found that 100% of Zestimates were inaccurate and that disparities were as large as $190,000.

So what do you do now that you’ve got the scoop on Zestimate accuracy? Most important, take Rascoff’s advice: Look at them as no more than starting points in pricing discussions with the real authorities on local real estate values — experienced agents and appraisers. Zestimates are hardly gospel — often far from it.