Monday, December 17, 2012

Maximizing your Use of Zillow

My home value courtesy of Zillow.
You can see when I bought it back at the end of 2011.
If you own a home or are thinking about owning a home, then you've probably heard of the property value estimation site called Zillow.  For the uninitiated, this site does a great job at tracking your property value and  allowing you to see recent homes for sale, the price of recent sales, and whole bunch more information.  Since most of this information is public knowledge, Zillow has just used this information to create a more user-friendly database.

One of the most interesting features of Zillow is that you can take ownership of your own property estimations and make sure they are incredibly accurate.  Since Zillow bases most of its property value estimations on larger scope characteristics such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, actually going into my own property and indicating things such as plaster walls and 2 fireplaces allows for a much more robust estimation.  If you are ever planning to sell your home, keeping your Zillow information updated and accurate will provide you with a good start on where to price your home.

Another benefit to keeping your home value current is if you ever have to challenge your home assessment for tax purposes.  With the housing crisis destroying approximately $20 trillion in home wealth back in 2008, many home values have never reached back to where they were prior to the crash.  It might be a good time to challenge your assessment now.  When I moved into my home back over a year ago, it was assessed at $211,000 for which I paid $136,000.  The assessment board comprised with me and lowered my house to $145,000 which translated into a $100/month savings on my mortgage payment (I have it escrowed so it includes property taxes).

Here's the part about Zillow I love the most; it allows you to set a "Make me move" price.  The theory being that if someone was shopping for a house and fell in love with yours (even if it is not for sale), then that person could offer you the "Make me move" price and you'd probably accept it.  I encourage everyone to set a "Make me move" price even if you never plan on leaving, and here's why.  If everyone in your neighborhood started listing prices 10-20% higher then the Zillow value, then people wanting to move into the neighborhood will more likely just assume that this is the price to live there and property values will start increasing as more homes are sold close to the "Make me Move" price.  Now this is just a theory I have as most people don't bother setting there price, and therefore I'm not able to test it.  You'll notice for my own house, I have it set at $200,000 even though I don't plan on moving.  Now if I could only convince my neighbors.

Go out and set your own "Make me Move" price today, and hopefully you'll start seeing results.

Wonderful Moment of the Day: Watching my cat wake up in the morning.  He's not a morning cat and it usually involves 5 minutes of squinty eyes, stretching, and rolling around...actually quite comical!

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