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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Zillow talk not so smart

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        Smart Money, the magazine, is not so smart.  It falls into a trap most of the mass media falls into –- it oversimplifies the state of the current housing market, especially those markets that are magnets for retirees, and the magazine falls well short of doing its homework.  Chew, for example, on this bit of wisdom in a SmartMoney.com posting about alternatives to “high-priced” favorite retirement markets:

        “…the real story is in the meteoric rise of real estate prices in retiree-friendly markets:  Despite the national housing collapse, prices in Boulder, Colo., have risen 10% in the last four years, according to Zillow.com, while other cities, like Madison, Wis., have suffered very small declines.  As a result, many of those spots are prohibitively expensive, even after prices have fallen.”

        First of all, “prohibitively expensive” and “prices have fallen” seem incompatible and beg at least for some further explanation, which Smart Money does not offer.  Also, it is sheer lazy journalism to rely solely on Zillow estimates.  Zillow’s property valuations are based on a complicated algorithim and factor in city and county tax records, which have not been universally updated to reflect the downturn in the market.  Neither do they take into account the condition of the homes for which they provide “Zestimates,” and in a time of unprecedented foreclosures and short sales, the Zillow estimates cannot be relied on for accuracy.

        With that said, every once in a while I check the Zestimate on my primary home in Connecticut, but I don’t get too worked up about a jump or drop in value.  Zillow is way more entertainment than gospel.  For an accurate number, hire a professional appraiser.

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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.


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