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Online Real Estate Appraisals

Question:

Is there a way to electronically appraise a property?

Answer:

Yes, there are several web sites that try to do an appraisal based on these numbers:
  • date and price of last sale of property
  • annual appreciation for that ZIP code since then
  • other recent sales in the same ZIP code

This is possible because all sales are public records. However, you have to take the numbers with a grain of salt because some counties have the title records digitally available on the web (e.g. Clark County, in PDF form) while for other counties I suspect you have to write to the county officer. As a result those appraisal sites will be a little behind trends in those counties e.g. a sale on my street that closed in February 2005 is now (July 2005) still not known to those appraisal sites. Typically the appraisal web site will have sales older than 3 months in their database.

The second problem with eappraisals is that the computer cannot know what kind of improvements were done to the house since the last sale. This is more of a problem if the last sale is many years ago. The interval between low and high estimate is larger if the last sale was long ago.

Here are some links:

NEW!: Zillow.com
This is a really cool site - it displays more data than any other site on this topic. One of the great features is that it connects satellite images with maps and estimated prices. At the time of writing (02/2006) it is still in beta. The estimated value is in many cases - homes in California - more accurate than Ditech and Co. The competition tends to be a bit too optimistic about the value of a home - from a seller's point of view. Zillow is very close to the truth. Example: a friend bought a home 07/2005 for 720k and Zillow says it's worth $737k now. Ditech claims over $800k.
However for properties in Salt Lake City, Utah, Zillow is way off. Homes worth $150k are estimated to be worth $1,400,000.
Zillow updates regularly - and gives you even weekly trends, for what it is worth. You HAVE to check this site out!

Ditech's e-appraisal

Bank Of America
(you may replace the last 2 letters in the URL with your state’s letters)

In tests, Ditech and BofA showed the same low and high values for properties, so I suspect that they use the same database (a third party offering a behind-the-scene web service maybe). However, Bank Of America's site includes the comparable sales that were used to calculate those estimated value numbers.

Yahoo also has a link:
Yahoo: 'What's My Home Worth?'

Yahoo does a very good presentation of the results but they are really slow to update their database. In tests, the newest comparable was 6 months old. (Ditech updates their numbers every 2 weeks.)

Another electronic appraisal is offered by CyberHomes. Give it a try.

For residents of the state of New York:
Visit NewYork-Data.com - this site provides a free database of the most recent 4 sales. Their database covers data since 2003 but is accessible only for subscribers. The freely shown most recent 4 are somewhat useful, problem is that the database inclues all sales - everything from land and single family homes to commercial real estate.
Right now the subscription fee is $20 for three months, but as indicated above, you can get the information for free from the other two sources. I would use this as a backup to verify results from ditech, if possible.

Do not confuse these e-appraisals with a real appraisal. They just give you a rough idea and they will tell you the last sale price (which is not too relevant if it was 10 years ago). Also do not confuse it with a comparative market analysis (CMA, typically performed by a real estate agent). Agents use CMAs to give home sellers an idea for a realistic asking price. CMAs are based on comparables but typically without actually seeing the property. A lender will care neither for an e-appraisal nor for your agent's CMA.







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