You’ve no doubt heard of Zillow, and know how inaccurate its Austin real estate valuations can be. That’s not completely the fault of Zillow because Texas is a non-disclosure state, meaning when you sell your house, it’s nobody’s business what you sold it for, or what the buyer paid.
This results in limited sold data being available in public records. Thusly, it’s more difficult for third party estimation tools such as Zillow, Trulia and Yahoo to produce an accurate home value estimate. In most states, all real estate sales data is public record and thus there is more data from which to draw conclusions about a particular home value. Not so in Texas. So, with the exception of lower valued homogeneous neighborhoods where value ranges fall within a fairly tight range of size, age and condition, estimates from Zillow (or Zestimates as they call them), can be all over the map, sometimes grossly inaccurate.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with a new valuation tool that mashes up public data with actual Austin MLS sold data. This is called Value Map and is provided by our Austin MLS to its members. I have mine it set up at AustinValueMap.com because the default url is long and ugly. It’s free, no signup required. And so far, I’m finding it to be surprisingly accurate, though of course not perfect. You can also sign up for alerts when a property similar to yours and within a two mile radius is sold. For some reason, though provided by our Austin MLS, you can type an address from anywhere in the U.S., not just Austin. Try it out, let me know what you think about the accuracy of the value for your property, even if you’re not in Austin.
Lending and appraisal companies seem to be trending toward automated valuation system. The Value Map product is used by banks and appraisers all over the country. It uses a proprietary algorithm to determine values. Often, when we sell a house, the bank trusts the value produced by this methodology and won’t even order a full appraisal, opting instead for a “drive by” appraisal, where an appraiser drives by to make sure the house is indeed there, but doesn’t go inside or perform the full appraisal. I think this is dumb.
On the other hand, though it might be inaccurate, the valuation tool won’t commit purposeful fraud, as many appraisers and lenders did during the most recent real estate boom. So it may be, from a bank/lender perspective, the benefit of fraud elimination outweighs the occasional over-appraising of a home. And probably, if the value is way off from the contract price, they’re going to order a full appraisal anyway.
But as a buyer or seller, will there ever come a day when you simply type in your address and it spits out the true market value of your home (what a buyer would pay)? No (except by coincidence), and here’s why.
Read more …