Should you trust a Zillow Zestimate??

Everyone wants to know the value of their home. Zillow has  done a fantastic job of putting themselves as the trusted place to get an estimate.  But should you?zestimate

The Zillow has this to say about Zestimates.

(note: everything in red is straight from Zillows web site)

The Zestimate® home valuation is Zillow’s estimated market value, computed using a proprietary formula. It is not an appraisal. It is a starting point in determining a home’s value. The Zestimate is calculated from public and user-submitted data, taking into account special features, location, and market conditions. We encourage buyers, sellers, and homeowners to supplement Zillow’s information by doing other research such as:

  • Getting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent
  • Getting an appraisal from a professional appraiser
  • Visiting the house (whenever possible)=

The Zestimate’s accuracy depends on location and availability of data in an area. Some counties have deeply detailed information on homes such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage and others do not. The more data available, the more accurate the Zestimate.

Data Coverage and Zestimate Accuracy

Nationally, the Zestimate has a median error rate of 8%, which means half of the Zestimates in an area are closer than the error percentage and half are farther off. For example, in Seattle, Zestimates for half of the homes are within 6.6% of the selling price, and half are off by more than 6.6%.

To improve Zestimate accuracy, we allow homeowners to edit their home facts and then we incorporate this information into our Zestimate calculations.

Be aware that in some areas, we might not be able to produce a Zestimate at all, but we do have some basic information on the homes.

zestimate

This accuracy data chart for this area is pulled right from Zillows web site.  On a $300,000 home, a medium error of 6.90% in our area of Minneapolis / St Paul is $20,700!  Yikes… That is a lot. What about a 20% error rate?  Geez, even just 5% is a big number.

Zillow does the best it can with the information it has but it can’t account for important factors such as location, current market trends, local house inventory, school district, updates, granite counter-tops, poor maintenance, physical obsolescence (appraiser speak for being next to a highway, under power lines, etc), and many other details.

Zestimates give consumers an estimate on what a home might be worth. It is fun to look at, but don’t take the number seriously.

The next most popular quick peek value people look at is the county tax value.  Just like Zillow, the county tax value might be close, or very far out of line. It could be high, it could be low.

The bottom line is simple: For setting a sales price for your home, you need a Real Estate Agent. When looking to see if a home is priced right that you want to buy, you need a Real Estate Agent. When refinancing a home, lenders will send a real appraiser to your home.

If you need a good Real Estate Agent in the Minneapolis, St Paul area, I’ve worked with hundreds over the years, and would be happy to put you in touch with one.


Tips for successful refinancing

TIPS FOR REFINANCING

Minneapolis, MN:  As homeowners rush to take advantage of the new HARP program and some of the lowest mortgage rates in history, it’s easy for them to get lost in the refinance stampede. That’s why it has never been so crucial for borrowers to understand the refinance game, and how to make the most of their application.

LENDERS OVERWHELMED
First, understand most lenders are overwhelmed with the high volume of refinance applications they have received since mortgage rates recently tumbled. Loans that went from application to closing in 30-days, are now running at least 45 days, and for most banks, upwards of 90-days. Online applications that were looked at within hours, now may take a few days before the lender calls you back.

MAKE GOOD LENDER CHOICES
Your mortgage lender choice is more important than most people realize. Generally speaking we suggest you deal with a local lender.  There is nothing some out-state lender advertising super low mortgage rates and with a fancy web site can offer that you can’t get down the street. Choosing your current lender very often is not the cheapest and easiest deal. Rather, just the opposite, as they know so many of their current clients call them without shopping.

ADVANCE PREPARATION
To speed up the process, borrowers should begin to assemble the standard loan paperwork as soon as they decide to apply for a loan. The minimum documentation for a mortgage loan everyone will need is; their two most recent pay stubs, or last two years tax returns if self-employed.  Their last two years W2’s, photo ID, and their last two banks statements.

DON’T DELAY
Once you lock a great interest rate, get the documents to the lender within a day. One missing document, or any delay by the borrower in providing s requested documents by the lender could easily add significant delay or problems with your refinance. As a borrower, you need to make sure once you lock an interest rates, you drop everything and respond to any lender request. Loan processing is first-in, first-out. Sign your paperwork within a day, and let the appraiser in your home as soon as humanly possible. Underwriting won’t even begin until they had your signatures and the appraisal in hand.

TALK TO THE LENDER
Borrowers should also ask their lenders upfront for a time frame on when they should expect to close on the refinance loan and lock their rate accordingly. Once the initial signatures and documents have been submitted, there will be a waiting period when there’s not much the loan officer and the borrower can do. Even during that time, borrowers should not be afraid to check on the progress of their refinance. Checking in once or twice a week is pretty reasonable to make sure your refinance application is on track. Underwriters may ask for additional documentation once they get to your file, so it’s important to stay in touch with your loan officer and be diligent.

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HARP – Home Affordable Refinance Program for underwater

(edit: New guidelines issued 10/24/2011 – Click here for new rules)
HARP, the Home Affordable Refinance Program for underwater homeowners has been extended until June 2012

St Paul, MN: The Home Affordable Refinance Program was set to expire this June 30th, but has been extended one year until June 2012. The extension is great news, as HARP has been about the only success story of all the government programs attempting to stem the tide of foreclosures.

Basically if your existing first mortgage is held by Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac, and that first mortgage is LESS than 125% of today’s value, you may qualify and be able to take advantage of today’s low rates for refinancing.

To bring even more meat to the grill, Freddie Mac has also announced they WILL NOT add recently announce cost (rate) increases to this program.

Do you qualify for HARP? Check HERE