Today I’ll be dissecting a question commonly asked by buyers and sellers alike: Can you fully trust Zillow’s Zestimate feature?

In short, my answer is no. Zillow misses the market incredibly badly sometimes, and their home values can be wildly inaccurate. It bears mentioning that Zillow’s own CEO recently sold his home for 40% less than what his Zestimate called for.

So how exactly does Zillow come up with their numbers?

In general, the Zestimate tool takes the information from home sales in the area around the address that you plug into it. For example, the Zestimate will take the average home sales’ price per square foot in your area—say, $100 per square foot—and multiply that by your home’s square footage. If your home has 2,000 square feet, and the average price per square foot is $100, the Zestimate would show that your home is worth $200,000.

The reason why you need to double check your numbers with an agent is that there are other factors that go into a home’s price—factors that Zillow misses entirely when generating their Zestimates.

For one, Zillow has never seen the inside of your home. The website can’t factor in any upgrades that have been made to the home that might boost (or lower) its actual market value. There are four major exterior items that can really add to your home’s value:

 

  1. A pool
  2. Solar panels
  3. A guest house
  4. A shop

Additionally, Zillow doesn’t know local market trends. For instance, Zillow can’t factor in how the recent, tragic series of wildfires in Northern Carolina has impacted the real estate market. The website can’t consider the fact that many people were displaced by those fires.

As actual, real-life agents, we’re knowledgeable about what’s happening in the market regarding trends, demand, and price points in different areas of our city. Knowing those things gives us insight not only when we’re working with buyers to determine what they should be offering on a home, but also when we’re advising sellers on what they could potentially get for their home.

In the end, knowing the comparable sales in a home’s area is but one factor of the home valuation equation. Zillow can provide a great ballpark estimate of your home’s value, but it cannot make a truly reliable estimate of your home’s worth.

If you would like an accurate estimation of your home’s value based on all relevant criteria, feel free to reach out to me and let me know how I can help.