Zillow fun, not very accurate

    Zillow.com is a great idea, a site where homeowners and potential buyers, as well as nosy neighbors, can get an up-to-date appraisal of values for most homes in the U.S.  In theory, Zillow does what your real estate agent is supposed to do, but without a contract or promise of commission.  But how helpful are its estimates?
    Our response is "not very," at least not yet.
    To arrive at a "Zestimate," or an appraisal of a specific home's value, Zillow incorporates previous selling prices, comparable selling prices in the area and all the niggling little details about individual homes (such as number of rooms, square footage, taxes, etc.).  Zillow falls short in that it can't get down to the level of granite kitchen counters vs. formica, or upgraded faucets vs. builders' basics.

    We've taken Zillow for test drives before and have found its results inconsistent, sometimes spitting out numbers for our neighbors' (and our) homes that seem realistic, and at other times going off the reality charts.  Not every home in America is in Zillow's database, and when we checked on a listing for our condo in Pawleys Island today, it was not there.  But our next-door neighbor's home, with the same layout and square footage as our unit but with less of a view, was Zestimated - at a whopping $493,000.  That is a good $175,000 more than what local real estate agents say would be a realistic fetching price for such a unit.  Mind you, Zillow does cover itself by including a range of values for the unit, in this case from just under $300,000 to the what-are-you-smoking top price of $780,000.   

    Our advice is to use Zillow just for hoots for now, but if you are planning on selling your house - or buying one, for that matter - you will still get the best estimate from a qualified real estate agent.