Can You Trust Zillow’s Home Price Zestimate? In a Word: No.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

I got an email from Zillow last week. Seems my house has gone up in value another $2,000+ dollars in the past 30 days. And it’s going to rise another 3.5% in the next year, according to their Zestimate®. Fab!

Except that it’s just speculation. When it comes to Zillow’s Zestimates, you have to take the numbers with a grain of salt. Make that a big shake of salt, right over your shoulder. And maybe a stiff drink. And a frank conversation with your real estate agent.

“Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents – and to one another – as gauges of market value,” said the Los Angeles Times. “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.'”

Are faulty Zillow estimates irritating, dangerous, somewhere in the middle? It all depends on your personal situation. A real estate investor, a seller in a high-end neighborhood, or an obsessive real estate watcher (ahem) may be able to brush off a $15,000 error. But for many people across the country, the word of Zillow might as well be the word of God. So, yeah, dangerous.

Price errors

Errors in sales prices are one of the issues Investopedia pointed outin its look at Zillow’s Zestimates.


spoty
 

“Zillow factors the date and price of the last sale into its estimate, and in some areas, these data make up a big part of the figure. If this information is inaccurate, it can throw off the Zestimate,” they said. “And since comparable sales also affect a home’s Zestimate, a mistake in one home’s sales price record can affect the Zestimates of other homes in the area. The Zestimate also takes into account actual property taxes paid, exceptions to tax assessments and other publicly available property tax data. Tax assessor’s property values can be inaccurate, though. The tax assessor’s database might have a mistake related to a property’s basic information, causing the assessed value to be too high or too low.”

In June, Zillow’s much-maligned (by industry experts, anyway) Zestimates got an upgrade with a new algorithm. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has famously called his company’s price estimates, “a good starting point” and copped to a median error rate of approximately 8%. With their new algorithm, they say it’s dropped to 6.1%.


Marketwatch
 

John Wake, an economist and real estate agent from Real Estate Decoded, applied Zillow’s updated 6.1% margin of error to “Zillow’s own estimate of the median sale price in the U.S. in May 2016 of $229,737 and got a typical error of $14,000. He then took a sample city, Denver – a city in which estimates are actually more accurate than average” – and found “the error spread in 2016 is a lot tighter and more focused on the bullseye of the actual sales price,” but that “their Zestimates are scattershot.”

In his example, “a Denver home has a fair market value of $300,000. According to Zillow’s Zestimate Accuracy Table, 10% of their Zestimate prices were off by more than 20% from the actual sale prices. Half of that 10% are Zestimates that are too high by 20% or more, and half are Zestimates that are too low by 20% or more. That means you have a 5% chance Zillow will give you a Zestimate of $360,000 OR MORE, and a 5% chance Zillow will give you a Zestimate of $240,00 OR LESS. Yikes!”

Missing data

It gets even more complicated without all the data that gets fed into Zillow’s algorithm. Limit the available info and the margin for error grows.

That same email I received included a couple of new listings and info on recent sold homes in the area. Notice anything interesting about these recent sales?

Yep, no sales prices. Texas is one of about a dozen states without a mandatory price disclosure law, which makes property appraisals challenging and which makes it even more difficult for Zillow to come up with an accurate Zestimate since it eliminates one of their key data points.

In the case of my home, they’re a good $11,000–15,000 high on their sales price estimate. And that’s based on my direct knowledge of sales prices in my neighborhood—not list prices, not tax assessments, and not assumed sales prices based on trends.

Which brings up another issue that leads to inaccurate estimates. In many neighborhoods, sales trends and prices vary street to street. But Zillow’s estimates are a one-size-fits-all program. In my masterplan, the building of high-density units on the southern edge of the community a few years back took a bite out of the value of homes on the perimeter streets. Sales of homes with a first-floor master also get a bump here.

And then there’s the fact that this community is also split between two elementary schools. Zillow wouldn’t know which one buyers prefer and wouldn’t account for a difference in sales price between two otherwise comparable homes. But, people who live here would, and so would the local real estate agents.

Which only reinforces the importance of working with one, BTW.

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Spring Home Maintenance List: Five Things to Check Off Your List

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

Spring Home Maintenance List: Five Things to Check Off Your List

Just as you prepare your home for the winter by covering outside pipes, making sure your heater is working well and removing all of the old leaves and branches from your property, there are also a number of things homeowners should do to ready their homes for warmer weather. With spring in full swing, check out the following list of home-related chores and checkups you may want to do before summer arrives:

Check For Pests

As plants, flowers and bushes began to come back to life with the warmer weather, so did a variety of pests. Every spring, walk the perimeter of your home checking for signs of infestations. Look for evidence of termites in the wood — either by seeing the insects with your own eyes or by seeing damage to the wood or their droppings; also watch for ant hills, bees swarming in trees and places where four-legged critters like squirrels and raccoons might be able to get into the attic. Do the same thing in the home; if you have spotted a cockroach in the bathroom or crickets in the kitchen, chances are good there are many more of the insects that you cannot see. If you spot a large number of bees building a hive, call a bee removal company that will safely relocate them, and if you see other evidence of pests you may want to call an exterminator for help — especially in the cases of termites and wild animals getting into the home.

Examine Your Sprinklers

You may not have run your underground sprinkler system all winter, but now that the weather is heating up you’ll want to be sure your grass and other outdoor plants are getting plenty of water. Turn on the sprinkler zone by zone and check to be sure the sprinkler heads are rising from the ground properly and spraying in the right direction. If you spot any that will not budge or have broken off and are shooting water into the air, you can call a local landscaper to come fix them, or DIY-minded folks can fix these themselves.

Examine the Roof

Another important task to complete in the spring is giving the roof a thorough check up. Depending on how pitched or large your roof is, and how comfortable you are with heights, you can carefully do this inspection yourself or hire a roofing company. If you do this job on your own, examine the roof shingles or tiles to see if any were damaged or blew off during the winter, and check the flashing around skylights and chimneys to be sure it is tight and not allowing water to seep into the house.

Ready Your Air Conditioner

Before it gets too hot, give your A/C unit a thorough inspection to be sure it will keep the home and your family cool during the upcoming warm months. Change the filter, check all hose connections for any leaks and make sure the drain pans are not clogged. Vacuum the unit to remove any dust that can prevent it from working at full efficiency, and if you spot any issues along the way, call in a professional to fix them before summer arrives.

Trim Away Overgrown Branches

As the DIY Network notes, spring is a great time to remove branches from trees and bushes that are touching up against your house. In general, try to keep the branches about 5 or 6 feet away from the sides and roof of the house to prevent critters from having a highway to hop onto your roof and prevent spring rains from getting onto the roof and sides of the home.

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Simple DIY Projects That Will Increase the Value of Your Home

WRITTEN BY DAMIEN JUSTUS

Simple DIY Projects That Will Increase the Value of Your Home

Looking to boost the value of your home without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars? You can! Making changes in certain rooms, like the kitchen and bathroom, is more beneficial than in others. These simple DIY projects will help increase your home’s value the most.

Modernize Fixtures

Replacing outlet covers can cost less than a dollar each, but if they have paint or other things on it, it’s a good change. While you’re at it, consider updating the outlets themselves. For about $25-$30 you can buy an outlet that also includes two USB charging ports. With all the smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices lying around, just a few of those, well-placed, can make a big difference. Think about the rooms in your home that don’t have enough outlets and the rooms that are most used for charging.

A less expensive upgrade? Doorknobs. Mismatched, broken, and dingy doorknobs can be a major deterrent. For a small amount of money per knob, you can update the look and make the whole house more visually appealing.

Lighten It Up

The more light you can add to your home, the better. Freshening up or removing curtains can brighten your home and make it more inviting.

Replacing windows is also a great way to add value to your home, particularly true if you live in an older home that has a lot of windows that stick or that let in the heat or cold. Installing energy efficient windows can also get you a nice tax break. However, poorly-installed windows can let in water, which can lead to mold and cracked foundations, so this isn’t for everyone.

Old light fixtures, or light fixtures that are dim or unappealing should be replaced to brighten the house.

Makeover the Bathroom

Bathrooms consistently get a high return on the investment. If you have a small budget and you’re DIYing, start small. A new vanity. New sink. A nice ceiling light. A spa-like shower head. A nice towel bar. None of these things have to cost over $100, but they all add value to your home by freshening it up, providing simple conveniences, and making it nicer. Who doesn’t want one of those fancy shower heads?

If your bathroom floor is falling apart, suffering from water damage or is just outdated, you can restore it yourself pretty inexpensively. Many home improvement stores offer a class so you can learn what you don’t know, which might enable you to choose a more expensive flooring. Stick with a neutral shade to add the most value.

Freshen Up the Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the biggest things that will turn potential buyers on or off to a house. It’s also one of the places where you can get the most money back for your investment. What’s the single best DIY change to make in the kitchen? A fresh coat of white paint on the cabinets. Go ahead and change out the knobs, too.

Storage is another change to consider. Add more shelves, possibly with space underneath to hang coffee mugs. Kitchen islands are in demand now and building one with storage will add value.

Keeping Up on Maintenance

A home in good repair is always going to be more valuable than one with a leaky roof. If the siding is old or falling apart, replace it. Consider getting a home warranty, to ensure the value of your appliances. Also make sure to maintain the appearance outside, sweep up the leaves, trim the bushes, and keep fences in good repair.

Adding value to your home doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Sometimes, the simplest DIY can be the best place to start. Start by considering your budget and your home’s most pressing needs, and update from there.

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Chic Small Space Solutions That Bring Big Impact

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Chic Small Space Solutions That Bring Big Impact

Size doesn’t always matter. Your small space doesn’t have to suffer just because you don’t have thousands of square feet to deck out. Perhaps it’s an outgrowth of the tiny home movement or perhaps it’s the fact that retailers have gotten smarter about the fact that not every living area can accommodate a grand piano and a couch that seats 20, but there are more chic small-space solutions now than ever before.

You can use a few tips and tricks and some products that have been specifically designed for smaller spaces to create a home that lives large, no matter the size.

It’s all about the scale

Overwhelming your space with furniture that’s too large – or too much of it – will only make it look smaller. “Like Goldie Locks looking for the right bed, one was too big, one too small, and finally one was just right, furniture needs to be just right in a small room,” said Freshome. “A large couch in a small area can overtake the space, while a small couch will seem dwarfed.” Search for “apartment-sized” furniture for right-sized pieces that don’t scrimp on style.

Pottery Barn is on board with the trend. “Their new small space collection was designed to be ‘size-conscious and multifunctional,’ with accessible price points,” said Sunset. The SoMa upholstered sofa “easily folds out for any visitor. It’s comfortable to lounge on during TV binges, too – there’s a double layer of padding that you won’t find on some basic sleepers.”

No eating area? Build it in

You can never go wrong with a banquette. It’s one of our favorite features in a kitchen, and is especially useful in a small space where you need to find a creative way to tuck in an eating area. Look at how charming this banquette is, and it takes up almost no space. For extra functionality, make sure your banquette seats have storage inside.

Reflect… on your backsplash

A few strategically placed mirrors can help bounce light around the room and make spaces look larger, so why not bring them into the kitchen? This mirrored wall greatly expands the visual idea of the kitchen without increasing the square footage.

Create a jewel box in the bathroom

This bathroom may be small, but it lacks for nothing when it comes to style. It’s hard not to be gorgeous with Calacatta marble, but the Waterworks vanity and modern fixtures complete the look. Notice how the open vanity keeps the eye moving, creating the idea of space even though there isn’t much.

Pay attention to color

Conventional rules say to go with light colors in a small room, and that remains the easiest way to keep a petite space from feeling confined. However, “dark hues can work their own type of magic in small places, and more often than not the result is dead classy and much harder to get wrong, said Apartment Therapy. “Rooms lacking architectural character, especially tiny ones… can gain a few style points from a dramatic, deep hue on the walls. A dark color establishes an elegant backdrop that allows you to go as spare on the accessories as you see fit.”


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 Don’t Be Afraid of Patterns

You may be afraid of overwhelming your small space with too much pattern, but carefully chosen spots can make the space feel luxe. “Are you crazy for color? A great way to add interest while still maintaining an airy, open look is to paint three walls a light hue and choose a fun wallpaper for a single accent wall,” said HGTV.


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A clever use of stripes can also “trick the eye,” they said. Have a narrow space? Go horizontal. If it’s low ceilings you’re dealing with, this a great way to pull the eye up and make the space feel larger and/or accentuate ceiling detail or a snazzy light fixture.


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Think smart storage

Finding places to put stuff seems to be a universal challenge, but it may be more difficult in a compact space. Items that do double duty, like these ottomans that open up to reveal storage inside, or these ingenious stairs, can make a small space infinitely more livable.

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How To Improve The Value Of Your Home In 5 Easy Steps

WRITTEN BY DAMIEN JUSTUS

How To Improve The Value Of Your Home In 5 Easy Steps

What increases the value of one home might not increase the value of another. A resort-style pool and outdoor kitchen in Wyoming might not hold as much value for buyers as the same resort-style pool and outdoor kitchen added to a home in South Florida. What works and what doesn’t is dependent upon the current market conditions in your area, what buyers in your area want, and the overall feel of your neighborhood. It’s not to say you cannot add something no one else has, but you have to add the right thing.

Building a 4,000-square foot addition to your 1,200-square foot home in a neighborhood that consists of all small starter homes is not a wise home improvement. If you’re looking to add some value to your home, try one of these five easy steps that almost always adds value no matter where your home is located.

Start Outside

What’s the first thing buyers see when they drive up to your home? Your lawn and front door, and they make more of an impression than you might imagine. If your lawn is a mess, your door needs some paint, and your house is dirty, the first thing you do is get it all cleaned up. You’re not going to spend thousands on elaborate landscaping, but you might be surprised just how much of a difference a freshly mowed lawn and some brand-new mulch in the flower beds make.

Move it Indoors

Paint is everything in a home. You can have your home any color you want but if you choose to sell and want to increase the value of your home, you’re going to add value by adding a nice, neutral paint color to every wall. No more personal colors in bedrooms, no more accent walls, and no more old, dirty paint. Even if your paint is only a few years old, you will make a big difference in the overall value with a fresh coat.

Upgrade the Fixtures

Next is the fixtures. It’s time for new door knobs, light fixtures, and faucets in the kitchen and bath. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also important, and every one of these very small details makes a very large difference. You can upgrade these for next to nothing while seeing a significant improvement on the value of your home.

Fix Any Small Issues

If you want to add value to your home, it’s time to fix the small issues. If you have a leaking faucet, get it fixed. If the air conditioner makes a funny noise when it runs, call the home warranty company and ask them to come out and take a look. If it’s broken, they’ll replace it. If it’s fixable, you just got rid of that pesky noise and increased the overall value of your home in the eyes of buyers. Small issues are some of the biggest issues. Repair any little dings or holes in the walls, fix any broken baseboards, and repair anything that’s not quite perfect. These little things add up substantially.

Clean it Up

Finally, it’s time to clean your house. Hire a professional to come in and clean every single nook and cranny. You’re not tidying up for dinner guests anymore. You’re cleaning cabinets, drawers, walls, floorboards, ground, baseboards, trim, and everything in between. You might not think a home that’s clean is worth more, but you’d be surprised. If your sparkling clean house is for sale for the same price as another house down the street that’s almost identical but isn’t spotless and has a lower asking price, people will want your home. Even if it’s more money, it’s less work for them and it’s cleaner.

A house is an investment, and that’s why it’s imperative you do what you can to increase the value of your home without spending much money. It’s not always expensive upgrades and renovations that add a few extra dollars to the overall cost of your home. Sometimes it’s small, easily forgettable details that make the biggest difference to a buyer.

 

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Wow Home Buyers With These 5 Front Yard Landscaping Tips

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

Wow Home Buyers With These 5 Front Yard Landscaping Tips

Your front yard is the red carpet inviting buyers into the beauty that is your home. If it’s rugged, messy and unkempt, buyers will take one look and then keep on driving to the next property on their list. Don’t let that happen by making your front yard luscious and as amazing as the inside of your home.

What areas should you focus on in your front yard? Where do you start? To help you break down the revitalization of your front yard, here are the steps you should take:

1. Cut the grass.

Buyers don’t want to trudge through high grass as though they were in the Amazon or on a safari in Africa. This means the lawn mower needs to be out at least once a week if not every other week, keeping it trimmed and maintained. It also needs to be green so it looks alive and lush. Water so the sun doesn’t dry out the lawn and turn it yellow or brown. A professional landscapercan help maintain a balance of trimming and growth so it looks just right for buyers.

2. Plant more shade trees.

One or two trees in the front yard are all right, but if you want to really add some shade, plant more. Shade trees will detract from the glare of the sun, and it can help decrease the temperature of the house if they’re placed close to windows. It also will help keep the lawn green with moisture. You can plant trees that are shorter and will grow by the time the new owner buys the home, but be sure they’re strong and can handle the climate.

3. Install outdoor lighting.

Outdoor lighting is a good way to both illuminate the house at night and accent parts of your yard. Depending on where you install the lights, your house will look very appealing at night to those buyers who might not have time to do their shopping during the day. Outdoor lighting also helps to illuminate a path like a sidewalk to get from the curb to your front door for easier navigation. It helps to accent the beauty of your landscaping which all together increases the beauty of your home.

4. Consider adding flowers for more color.

If your front yard has a lot of greenery, you should increase the yard appeal by adding more colors. Flowers are a great and simple way to do this, as well as shrubbery with different blooms. Perennials are the best for this because they last for more than a year, which means less maintenance for the seller and the new homeowner. They come in a wide variety of colors and types so the yard can be decorated with any number of them while still requiring less maintenance.

5. Keep everything clean!

In addition to keeping the lawn trimmed, everything else should be clean. Anywhere that can build up dirt or grime – siding, porch, front door, driveway – should be cleaned on a regular basis. Buyers don’t want to see a lot of dirt and mess, and it will detract from them wanting to walk into the house. So take a broom, a power washer and a few hours on the weekend to keep everything sparkling clean. Don’t have a power washer? A professional power washing service can cost as little as $293.

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4 Awesome Features Worth Building Into Your New Home

Written By Brooke Chaplan

Ideally, your new home should offer more than just comfort; it should have accessibility features such as graphics and door ramp, or eco-friendly features such as adding a skylight and windows with high energy ratings, reduced-flow showers, and reduced-flow faucet aerators. All these future-proof your new constructions, reducing possible future heating costs, improving ventilation and ensuring that all house fittings remain in great shape decades after. Here are four improvements that could give your home a new feel and timeless value with minimal maintenance.

4 Awesome Features Worth Building Into Your New Home

Smart homes and technology

Connecting gadgets around your home to your Wi-Fi gives you total control of systems and appliances, from the security lighting to the thermostat. Rather than get in the way of your daily activities, technology makes things easier by automating all controls and giving you all the access through your phone. Here are some of the ways you can incorporate technology into your home:

Smart door locks

Digital door locks connect with your phone via Bluetooth; whenever you are within proximity, the door unlocks automatically. Smart locks also communicate with other devices in your home, which enters into energy saving mode whenever you are away. Keyless smart locks are easy to use, and visiting relatives just need the pin or smart card to gain access into the house.

Home sensor kits

Home sensors use motion detection, winks and waves to confirm your identity before opening or closing the doors and windows. Any break in attempts sends alerts to your phone or mail and triggers indoor sirens within the hallways and rooms. The Canary security system, for instance, monitors your home against any intruders and sends videos of any irregular activities from the inbuilt sensors, as well as check the indoor temperature and air quality.

Smart cameras

It’s now possible to stream quality live feeds of the different rooms with Wi-Fi and cloud-enabled cameras. This essential home security feature is affordable and easy to install, with the accessibility of the videos right from your phone.

Radiant floor heating

Typically integrated into the floor, radiant heating is an energy efficient thermal control system; it’s best to install it during construction of the house. If you are planning on installing it, do so before the floor finish, and selectively in rooms such as the living room. Radiant heating in your new house will keep your family warm during the winter chills, and improve air circulation in the room.

Theater surface treatments

As the acoustic energy bounces off hard/smooth surfaces of the drywall, masonry, plaster, hardwood floors or windows, the reverberating sound degrades the natural clarity, stereo imaging and the frequency response of your home theater. Depending on the surface material of the reflecting points, treatments such as thick rugs and fabric-wrapped absorption panels will significantly reduce the sound reverberation and improve the sound quality. Additionally, if your entertainment room happens to be spacious, a few sliding screens might come in handy in partitioning the space. A theater seating capacity of between five and twenty is ample for small family gatherings and movies.

Walk-ins

A walk-in pantry has sufficient storage space for your food supplies and groceries, and is versatile in arrangement and moving things around. Likewise, a walk-in closet gives you greater freedom to move things around, experiment with mood lighting and custom finishes for your overhead drawers, suit hanger and shoe rack. Walk-ins not only zone out a space for specific use, but they also provide extra security and privacy, where for instance, you have a hidden safe. Trends and system innovations in the building industry bring with it a wave of excitement over the limitless possibilities, especially for new homeowners. Most of these systems work better together, and with just a little maintenance, should last a few generations. If you need help, Utah home builders, or home builders in your area can help you craft these features from the ground up.

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