Determining Property Value the Right Way


You've definitely used a home appraisal website at some point, whether you're looking to buy a property or just snooping around fancy neighborhoods. The internet has made it easier than ever for interested parties to learn more about real estate without having to first speak with a real estate agent, appraiser, or lender. Mortgage.

However, other websites have numbers to share! How do you know which website provides the most accurate home assessment?

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How do home value sites actually calculate value?

As you might expect, no real human on the other end of the home appraisal sites is updating the database for every property registered daily.

Rather, automated valuation models, or AVMs, calculate values. These models are complex algorithms that calculate valuations based on a variety of variables, from online property records to pricing patterns to recent sales of similar properties.

According to Nick Stoddard, a property valuation expert in Kansas City, “Appraisal sites often base their calculations on public and user-submitted data.” “To create an estimate, data is collected from several listing agencies, county registries, tax assessors, and real estate brokers.”

Stoddard cautions that although property appraisal websites are the next best alternative, they are not as accurate as an appraiser that uses real-time, highly local data.

While AVM may use regression analyzes to help correct for changes in square footage between comparable properties, it does not take into account upgrades or renovations by the homeowner.

"These sites are based on general statistics, such as the area in square feet, number of rooms, and the value of similar homes," Stoddard explains.

“Suppose you remodel your basement after you buy your home, or replace the carpet with hardwood floors. Home appraisal sites don't include those renovations due to how their algorithms are created.”

How is accuracy measured on a home value website?

Evaluation accuracy is measured using something called the "error rate," which is exactly what it sounds like: calculating how frequently the algorithm gets wrong.

The error rate indicates how often the AVM generates a value that differs significantly from the actual sale price of the dwelling.

When it comes to determining the final sale price of a home, there are many elements at work, most notably the market conditions at the time of negotiation and the personal circumstances of both the seller and buyer.

Buyers with great resources and a keen eye for what they want may be willing to pay whatever it takes to own a property of their own, while sellers with imminent relocation to another state or country may be eager to sell as soon as possible.

Because two properties or parameters are not the same, achieving 100 percent accuracy from a website or from a person is nearly impossible. That's why the average error rate is commonly shown.

Come back with me to statistics class for a while. Remember how to calculate mean, median, and mode?

  • Mean: The average is calculated by grouping all the numbers together and dividing by the number of numbers.

  • Median: It is the midpoint of the data set sorted from smallest to largest.

  • Mode: It is the number that appears most frequently in the data set, and there may be multiple modes.

As a consequence, the home value website's mean error rate is the midpoint of how "wrong" the AVM is in either case whether the guesswork is too high or too low.

1 But the mediator does not tell the whole story

As of February 2022, Zillow's Zestimate inaccuracy rate for real estate on the market (i.e. actively for-sale homes) averaged 2.0 percent. That's excellent! Plus, the organization gets additional marks for being open about how its models work.

When you look at their national statistics, you'll notice that 82.2 percent of the time, Zestimate is within 5% of the purchase price. 95.1% of the time within 10% of the sale price, and 98.8% of the time within 20%.

This all sounds quite realistic, right? If you're just looking for stats without hiring a real estate agent, Zillow is a good place to start.

When you consider how many thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars a 5% to 20% skew could make when it comes to a home's selling price, that average error rate can feel uncomfortably inflexible. In fact, after a few days Of studying past home sales, you would probably expect the selling price to be within 20% of the actual price.

Looking at individual metro areas, the Zestimate's national average error rate of 2.0 percent changes again.

For example, the average error rate is 1.7 percent in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Colorado Springs.

In Denver, Nashville, and Raleigh, the error rate is much lower, just 1.5 percent.

However, in locations like San Francisco and Seattle, the average Zestimate error rate for real estate on the market is greater than 3%.

2 It is a completely different story for off-market homes

The average error rate for off-market homes increased to 6.9%, which isn't surprising given how much AVMs depend on current data. When a home isn't for sale and hasn't been sold recently, AVM data has less current data to work with.

However, this means that Zestimate for off-market housing is only 39% of the time within 5% of the sale price and only 63.8% of the time within 10%. Only 84.7% of the time you can guess the sale price within 20%.

The Zestimate off-market error rate in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area is 10.2 percent, which is above the national average of 6.9 percent, and only predicts within 5 percent of the sale price 27.5 percent of the time.

On the other hand, off-market housing can be forgiven for errors due to the extreme absence of new data. If the house is not on the market, the sale price probably doesn't matter at the moment unless you intend to knock on someone's door with a cash offer.

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Why is there such a large variance in the accuracy of home value?

Simply put, everything in real estate is highly variable.

Since AVMs are based on data as well as how comparable homes are to each other, rating homes online may be wrong due to a lack of properties such as improved floors, renovated kitchens, or updated bathrooms. Likewise, properties that are either extremely luxurious or Uninhabitable are outliers that combat AVMs for appropriate evaluation.

Unique (and often irreversible) differences between the home in question or one of its businesses can cause valuation errors. For example, a waterfront home versus a landlocked home, or a basement versus a slab-based home without a basement.

The accuracy of place value locations is also affected by neighborhood standardization; The algorithms work best in neighborhoods where homes are as uniform as possible. AVM will find it considerably easier to value homes in a new build development with modest variances between properties than in an established subdivision with unique homes built decades apart.

When there is a general dearth of data, to begin with, all of these variables become more skewed. Even appraisers and real estate professionals find it difficult to set prices for rural locations because there is nothing to compare.

“I had a rural client a few years ago, and the value of their property was off quite a bit for estimates,” says Amber Carlton, a real estate agent for ten years in Fargo, North Dakota. “They didn’t understand why they would get such a low rating because the algorithm numbers weren’t really reflective of what their home would be rated for.”

The anecdote reverberated in Carlton as evidence of just how alarming AVM errors can be for both homeowners and potential buyers.

Basically, anything that puts the house in the "long tail" of error will result in an inaccurate online assessment form.

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So, what are the most accurate home value websites?

As mentioned earlier, Zillow is very popular and at least somewhat accurate in general when it comes to determining the value of a home on the market today. The national average error rate of 1.9 percent is currently the gold standard for consumer websites.

Redfin is another top-rated home appraisal site, with an average error rate of 2.23% for homes on the market. provides home evaluation estimates, but the company does not provide information on the success of the algorithm.

Meanwhile, Trulia has a page outlining how Trulia Estimates works, but the link to the accuracy report is not working at the time of writing.

Although Chase, Re/Max, and For Sale By Owner all provide estimates of the value of their property, they lack the transparency that Zillow and Redfin have when it comes to explaining the accuracy of the valuation.

Is it worth using valuable websites in light of all this?

Moderation is essential in most aspects of life. These sites are useful as a resource, but you shouldn't use them to plan for your financial future.

Carlton adds, “It is okay to look to see where the price ranges come from, but always keep in mind that it is just an algorithm.” “To get a more accurate impression, you should go through the homes in person or at least browse the photos online to discover what each home owns.” which others do not have.”

To get the most realistic picture of the property and know its true value in today's market, you will need to hire the services of a professional. No matter what home-value websites suggest, working with a quality real estate agent is your ticket to finding the perfect home for your budget, but you may discover a helping hand in the form of another home buyer.

HomeLight's Home Value Calculator, like other appraisal sites, harnesses the power of anti-vehicle vehicles but we go one step further by calling people and businesses in your area who are willing to buy a home and asking them what they'd like to pay for a particular home, providing a real-time estimate of value.

What is the bottom line?

Above all else, keep in mind that even the most accurate web of home value may vary based on the unique home. The website may vary based on the unique home.

The condition of the home, in addition to its distinguishing features, plays a role in its value, and there are many factors that an AVM cannot define.

Some websites provide better and more up-to-date statistics in certain cities or states than others, so if you tend to look around, check out home value websites. Remember that a value estimator that includes human input is likely to be more appropriate to help you evaluate a home, Espeespeciallycially if it is out of the market.

But, until you walk into a home with a buyer's agent and mortgage lender on hand to guide you through the home buying process, remember Carlton's tip when searching for home-value websites:

"Remember, it's an algorithm, so treat it carefully."

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