Searching for Lake Norman homes for sale on the Internet just keeps getting easier and better. About one third of online real estate searches are done using one of the top three websites, Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com with Zillow far and away the most popular. Thanks to their stiff competition for market share, home buyers and sellers now have almost as much data and information available to them as Realtors which is really awesome! (Despite what some real estate agents might say.)
The cautionary note that I want to underscore after observing many of my clients recently is that they tend to give too much credence to the online data, especially on Zillow. The problem is, while Zillow has come a long way over the years, it’s Zestimates and raw data are still flawed. Yes, Zestimates are substantially better than when they launched years ago, but they can be far enough off to frustrate a seller and shouldn’t weigh too heavily on a buyer’s idea of market value.
It used to be that Zestimates were so far off no one really took them seriously. Now, they are just accurate enough to be dangerous…buyers and sellers are more knowledgeable than ever but may not be taking into account the inaccuracies in the data and the intangibles. Let’s face it, computers don’t have a “gut feeling” based upon years in the trenches experience nor do they understand the nuances of Lake Norman’s streets and neighborhoods nor the current condition of the home/property. (As a matter of fact, if you Google “Lake Norman Homes For Sale” the results from Zillow only include Catawba County which is very odd.).
Here are just 3 great examples of data problems I have experienced, two are my listings and then my own home as a test:
130 Lochfoot Lane is a waterfront home off Brawley School Rd. in Mooresville. First of all, Zillow has two entirely different listing for this property! On the more accurate one, even though my sellers purchased it for $675,000 as a foreclosure in 2006 Zillow shows the last sale to be in 1993 for $35,500. Huh? (The home was built in 1975 and renovated in 1992). Plus, when I first listed the property the Zestimate was about $450,000. We worked on it and it is now $668,000 which is still at least $100,000 below market value. That is for 2.64 acres of waterfront property and a 4 bedroom home. Huh again? (The other listing for the same property on Zillow shows that it isn’t for sale and the value is $630,000).
Another one of my listings, 106 Harwick Ct. in The Point was built in 2006 and was purchased by my current sellers in May of 2013 from the original owners. It has an odd date sold in 2012 for $135,000. Very weird.
Finally, I decided to look up my own home on Zillow. The Zestimate wasn’t too far off but the data wasn’t accurate so I added information and corrected the existing data which included over $200,000 in improvements we have done. About a week later I got a notice from Zillow that I had a new Zestimate and it is now LOWER than before I added the second garage, screened porch, deck etc. and increased the square footage. (I highly recommend that you look up your own home online. Just Google the address and Zillow will most likely come up first. Let me know what you find by leaving a comment!).
Just FYI, Zillow also has the Pine Lake Prep Charter School mapped off of Brawley School Rd when it is acctually on Hwy 115.
Inman News, a longtime cutting edge resource for the real estate industry posted a great article on 3/27/14 “What to do when Seller complains “But Zillow says my house is worth more!”. It describes very well the weakness of computer algorithms and automated valuation models.
So, what does this mean for Lake Norman home buyers and sellers? By all means, soak in all of the great information provided by such resources as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. Just keep in mind that they aren’t always accurate and their pricing estimates should be used as good basic guidelines but not as serious resources for choosing a listing price or when making an offer to purchase.
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