Is My Zestimate Accurate in the Charlottesville Market?

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Putting your home up for sale is a scary process, even with the help of a seasoned real estate agent. It is not just the uncertainty of when your house will sell, but also how much it will sell for. There are many ways to ensure that your property does not sit on the market for too long; however, one sure-fire way to draw in buyers is a fair and accurate sales price. While, of course, it is the responsibility of a listing agent to research the market trends for an area and come to a sales price, it is never a bad idea to do some homework on your own. When it comes time to do the research, many sellers turn to Zillow and enter their home’s information to get a Zestimate. Is this a good way to get a ballpark estimate – yes; should this number be gospel – no. Here is why:

Margin of Error

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On its website, Zillow acknowledges that their estimates might not always be on track by stating that

the Zestimate’s accuracy depends on location and availability of data in an area.”

This means that while some cities and counties make it easy to find the needed information, others, such as Charlottesville (see more detail below), do not. There are variations to the higher and lesser degrees, but on average, the error rate, again according to Zillow, is approximately 8.3 percent in either direction.

Taking this number into account, it is easy to see how much of a variance a Zestimate can potentially produce. The average home price in Charlottesville is right about $350,000. When this number is computed with the error percentage for Zestimates, it gives a typical error of approximately $29,050. And really, it could go either way. Depending on the information that is inputted into Zillow’s system, your estimate could be too low or way too high – between $320,950 and $389,050 – even if your property is around the average price for the county.

Limited Accuracy

Again tied back to the availability of information, Zestimates are only as accurate as the facts inputted into the system. These estimates are based on the physical attributes of a property, tax records and prior and current transactions. Sellers have the option to input as much information as they have available to them – bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, lot size, special features, rooms, appliances, etc. – but this does not override the lack of information elsewhere. When it comes to Charlottesville and Albemarle County as a whole, Internet data regarding properties is slim at best. In fact, Zillow itself gives the county “one star” for accuracy, which means that the site is unable to compute all Zestimates accurately for the area. This factor alone shows that Zestimates simply cannot be counted on as a reputable pricing tool for homes in Charlottesville.

No Substitute for In-person Visits

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What it all comes down to is there is no substitute for the real deal: an onsite visit by a real estate professional. Even if a seller puts in every single detail perfectly and lives in a county that Zillow rates as a four on the accuracy scale, there are still some things that the site cannot know. For example, an objective view on the overall condition of the home is not something that a Zestimate asks or has any insight into. Any improvements made before the sale, are not likely to be reported to the county, and as such, these are not factored into the pricing. On the other hand, factors that diminish the value of a home – foundation issues, a poorly maintained lot, old roofing/windows/siding/etc. – are also big unknowns for Zillow. All of these factors, both good and bad, affect the bottom dollar when it comes to a sale.

Do your research, be prepared and most of all, trust your realtor. While the number on the Zestimate might seem appealing, it is important to be realistic about the margin of error and the actual conditions the market poses. Having a trained and experienced real estate agent walk through your property is the only way to get an accurate look at your home’s true value against the other homes on the market in Charlottesville.

When you are ready to list your home, Town’s Realtors offer accurate pricing services and invaluable tools to move your property quickly. Our agents use proven processes and a great mixture of technology, experience and state-of-the-art systems to ensure each transaction runs as smoothly as possible. From the Sell Your Home resources on our website to our unique 3-D rendering services, which help buyers visualize the future potential of your home, Town’s methodology is one of a kind. Further, Town’s Founder and CEO, Gary Palmer, has a long history in the construction, building and staging industry, with his previous work through Integrity Home Contracting. Allow his vast experience work to your advantage, as a properly staged home shows better and fetches higher offers from potential buyers. The resources available through Town are numerous; contact us today, and let us serve you.