Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 25

website and trying to be a one-stop real estate shop for consumers. But it’s the listings that seem to attract most visitors to the site. Yet, websites like Zillow, Redfin and Trulia (which has been owned by Zillow since 2015) have a striking problem: Not all listings in the market are actually on each of their sites. Some of the listings are outright missing, and I have even seen homes listed for sale that have al- ready sold. This is why real estate agents frequently squash the joy of buyers after they find that perfect house: Sorry, it’s in contract — even though Redfin says it’s available. In our area, real estate bro- kerages have to opt in to share informa- tion. I would say the bulk of them do, but missing a few listings here and there can make all the difference for buyers when house hunting. What about the accuracy of value? These real estate websites are hit-and- miss. Sometimes, they’re spot-on, and other times they’re easily off by 10-20 percent or more. On a practical level, we can’t expect these sites to be accurate be- cause they don’t know the condition of a home or whether it’s been remodeled or not. These sites don’t know if 57 cats live there (sorry, cat owners). Regardless, sellers still tend to say, “I know Zillow isn’t perfect, but I believe my house is worth that amount.” In other words, sellers get emotionally tied to the estimate and give it real weight. It’s not just a ballpark figure: To them, it’s con- crete and written in stone, and sellers may struggle to budge from the number. Likewise, buyers sometimes wrestle with offering more on a property if Zillow’s Zestimate is lower. What does a site like Zillow say about its own accuracy? According to the com- pany, in California its median error rate is 4 percent. That sounds pretty impres- sive, but this is the “median” error rate, which means Zillow is basically within 4 percent of the sales price only half the time. Does that reek of accuracy to you? But there’s something more we need to understand. Zillow states that “Zesti- mate accuracy is computed by compar- ing the final sale price to the Zestimate on or before the sale date.” Let me ex- plain why this matters. Imagine a property listed for $380,000 and the Zestimate was also $380,000. But then after a series of price reductions, the home sold for $350,000. That would be 8 percent lower than the original Zestimate. That’s not very good, right? Well, now imagine as the list price was reduced, so was the Zesti- mate, and the most recent Zestimate was $353,000, which is only 1 percent higher than what the property sold for. Here’s the kicker: The home may have sold for 8 percent below the original Zesti- mate, but for its accuracy rate Zillow can claim 1 percent because it uses the most recent Zestimate instead of the origi- nal one. (It’s amazing how we can use numbers, right?) Two closing tips: 1 Definitive source: Zillow, Redfin and Trulia can serve as a relevant tool for home shopping, and these websites have a place in real estate today. I recommend using them, especially since they’re easy to navigate. But consumers ought to look to their lo- cal MetroList (Sacramentans, check metrolistpro.com) to ensure they see every listing. 2 Grain of salt: Sellers and buyers too often get hung up on digital values. My advice? Don’t make that mistake. Don’t let yourself become emotionally tied to the number. Listen to your real estate agent’s pricing advice, and be sure to pay close attention to similar properties in your neighborhood that have sold or are on the market. By the way, a few years ago Zillow’s prior CEO listed his home for sale, and it ended up selling for 40 percent below the Zestimate. What does that tell you? n Ryan Lundquist is a certified real estate appraiser at Lundquist Appraisal Com- pany. Read more at sacramentoapprais- alblog.com. On Twitter @SacAppraiser. Websites like Zillow, Redfin and Trulia have a striking problem: Not all listings in the market are actually on each of their sites. Questions on the real estate market? TWEET US @COMSTOCKSMAG. April 2019 | comstocksmag.com 25