Proceed with Caution on Internet Property Value Estimates



Q: In a previous column, you mentioned a hard-money loan. Do you know any companies that make these types of loans to homeowners?


Also, the person that wrote in mentioned how Zillow valued his home at much more than what he paid for it 16 months before. I am in the same situation. Do you think he could sell his home for over a hundred thousand dollars more in just 16 months? Do Zillow and Trulia give accurate estimates?


A: First, I do not recommend any company, or any lender. You will have to find that on your own. But if you believe your house has gone up significantly in value, unless your credit history is really bad, you should explore traditional lenders before going the hard-money route.

Need to know the value of your home?  Zillows, etc.  take all the sales in the neighborhood; smallest and largest and basically average out a value of your home.  The computer cannot see all the improvements you have, if you have added a pool, solar, etc.  Get an accurate estimate of value for your home.  Contact the appraisers at   for your real estate appraisal and home value questions.


There are legitimate reasons to use such a lender, but shop around for the best deal before you commit to any one.


As for the various companies that give estimates, I received the following from a reader:

You ran a piece in which the writer said they recently purchased, and shortly after, the Zillow value was considerably higher. Your answer was very lawyerly, but you let the Zillow issue off the hook. I am a county tax assessor and have seen far too often where owners believe the estimates of the Zillow engine. The writer thought he had over $100,000 gain in this market in 16 months. We should all be so lucky. I like to use Zillow and Trulia for information. My impression is that they generalize by geography. For instance, they estimated my neighbor who was on the multiple listing at $183,000 in the low to mid-$300,000s. Nothing in my neighborhood is even 200K, however the subdivision does have $300,000 homes. The estimation engine was not able to discern the value boundary.”

This is not in any way an indictment or criticism of companies that assess property values; only a note to be cautious and not completely rely on those estimates.

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