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Ask a Principal Broker: National Website Woes

by Catherine Fisher, Managing Principal Broker of Town & Country Realty

Some of my favorite questions from both Buyers and Sellers are about the national listing websites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. Are they accurate? Are they current?

First, it is important to understand what these sites are. They, along with most listing websites, are third party aggregators, which means they are not actual real estate brokers. Instead of having direct access to listing information, these sites have to collect the data about unlisted homes from tax records and other public records, and data about listed homes from the individual multiple listing services.

One tool that these sites provide is an estimate of a home’s value. These estimates are based on a mathematical calculation performed by the site, based upon the local market and comparable past sales. Thus, the best estimates are usually in large, newer subdivisions where there are many similar properties. In smaller towns or areas with varied housing types, the “comparable” properties are often not very comparable.

So, are these sites accurate? The answer is sometimes. Only a licensed professional broker can help you navigate to the reality about your property’s value. A few issues you want to be aware of:

1) Not all public records, tax records and listing services present their information the same way and sometimes public records are wrong. Thus, during the collection process, errors and discrepancies can occur. Some information may be incorrect about the home – even basic facts, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, might be wrong.

2) Additionally, because each site has their own formula used to derive the estimate amount, the answers from the different sites can vary widely. Additionally, if any of the information they collected, about either the subject house or the comparable properties, is wrong, the differences can be even greater. I corrected and updated all of the information about my own personal property on each website and yet the value still varies 12% between the three sites – that’s a huge disparity!

So, remember that these estimates are only that, estimates. While they do provide some information, they do not provide a complete picture. You do not get any insight into how long properties are taking to sell, the best strategies to get the most for your home, and most importantly, what the value is of your home.

To get the answers you need, turn to a Town & Country Realty professional real estate broker. Your broker will take all of the available tools and information into account, along with their own professional experience in the local market, to help you reach your real estate goals, whether that is buying, selling or both.

Call Town & Country Realty today at 541-757-1781 in Corvallis and 541-924-5616 in Albany for accurate information from a professional real estate broker committed to your best interests. You will be glad you did!