We’ve written before about Zillow Zestimates – what they are, their (in)accuracy, how to claim your home on Zillow and “fix” your Zestimate.
Recently, we at Buy Sell Live Atlanta found out just how much another form of inaccuracy can make a different to your home’s Zestimate and to the way its presented on Zillow. Still think Zillow Zestimates are the “end all, be all” of property valuations? Take a look at this:
We recently listed and sold two properties that were located in newer cities in the Metro Atlanta area. Sandy Springs became a city in 2005, and Peachtree Corners became a city in 2012. When we listed these properties, we listed them on Zillow in both the original city name and the newly incorporated city name (Norcross/Peachtree Corners and Atlanta/Sandy Springs). This created two listings for each property and resulted in two very different Zestimates for each property.
HOW CAN THIS BE? HOW CAN THE EXACT SAME PROPERTY HAVE TWO VERY DIFFERENT VALUES?
For each screenshot example below, the “new city” (the property we input manually) is the listing on the bottom (Peachtree Corners and Sandy Springs). The listing on the top is the one that auto-loaded from the MLS, under the old city name, which is how Zillow had the property categorized (Norcross and Atlanta).
#1 – Number of bedrooms and bathrooms — the same
#2 – Square Footage — the same
#3 – Lot Size — the same
However, the change in the city name alone affected the Zestimate, in both cases, by a substantial amount. In the case of the Sandy Springs property, Zillow even had it improperly categorized as a single-family house instead of an attached townhome.
According to Zillow, the Zestimate is “Zillow’s estimated market value, computed using a proprietary formula. It is not an appraisal. It is a starting point in determining a home’s value.” They go on to point out that the Zestimate is NOT a substitute for “a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent…an appraisal from a professional appraiser…or visiting the house” in person.
In short, it’s just data, calculated with a universal formula that is not based on local or recent information, not market-specific, and not calculated by a person.
Case in point: the two examples we’re talking about here. The exact same properties, listed at the exact same time, with two different city names.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
First, be sure that you claim your home on Zillow, whether you are planning to sell anytime soon or not. This way, you can correct any inaccurate information that you find for your home, which will, in many cases, improve your Zestimate. Second, be sure that your REALTOR checks your listing on the many websites to which it will syndicate when your home is listed. Just auto-syndicating your listing from the MLS does not guarantee that inaccuracies will be correctly. Finally, check the city in which your home is listed on Zillow, especially if you live in a “new city” – in Georgia, this would mean Johns Creek, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Peachtree Corners, Brookhaven, and Milton, to name a few. You cannot make this correction yourself – you will need to contact Zillow via the Zillow Help Center link on the site and insist that Zillow correct your city.
Data inaccuracies are everywhere on the web – don’t let incorrect information about your home affect its Zestimate, its perceived value by potential buyers, and the largest investment you own.