Before Selling Your Home, Check Your Zestimate

Estimates of your home’s value that you might find online are, as widely acknowledged, nigh on bogus. They’re created by computers, which, smart as they’ve gotten, lack for feet or eyeballs with which to visit a house. The result that’s available on websites such as Zillow has been described as everything from “hallucinatory information” (by Realtor Jonathan Dalton, in Phoenix, Arizona) to “gives the wrong impression,” (by Realtor Gary Russell, in Waco, Texas).

The problem for home sellers is that, if your house appears in the Zillow system, any potential buyer might look at its so-called “Zestimate” and possibly believe it. Dalton’s impression is that, “buyers look at Zestimates . . . in a borderline irrational manner if only to support their own desire to get a ‘deal’ on a house.”

As a seller, you want to know what dollar figure the buyers are looking at: Will they coming to your house thinking it’s a bargain (or that maybe you’ve priced it low because of hidden problems), or over-priced? In either case, it’s worth taking steps to change the Zestimate — which you can, within limits.

On the Zillow listing page for your home, click the link for “Claim this home.” Then, you will be able amend any of the basic information offered, such as number of bedrooms and baths, type of flooring, included appliances, and so on. This still can’t possibly account for factors like a great location, a tree-lined street, a great layout, or a stunning remodel, but it’s a start.

I just “claimed” my current house, as an experiment. I had expected to be able to report that I raised my Zestimate by alerting the computer to home features that it couldn’t have known I had. But no, I lowered it. A lot. Actually, that’s not too surprising, given that Zillow thought my house had one more bedroom than it really does. (Need I say more about accuracy?)

Zillow also gives you a place to add your own estimate of the home’s value. Interesting idea, getting into an online argument with a computer. I’d be inclined to take a hands-off approach, and leave that portion blank — but that’s a conversation to have with your real estate agent.