Only a few short years ago, two very intelligent individuals developed websites, respectively Zillow and Red Fin, where consumers can go online to evaluate the value of their property. What an amazing idea! Both Zillow and Red Fin allow the consumer to search their property online and receive an appraisal for free. What an amazing concept if it were flawless! Unfortunately, however, there are many problems associated with these websites.
First of all and before I get criticized, let me say that these websites are worth their weight in gold as a gauge to getting a general idea of value. But remember, no one has inspected the property and all that Zillow has to work with is a satellite photo, the square footage of the dwelling and the square footage of the land. The concept is to evaluate these criteria against other similar properties within a geographic proximity. It all makes sense until you consider the facts.
First of all, on the positive side, properties with a view have substantially more value than those without. A view can have a whole range of value from simply a tree top view, to a spectacular city light view, to even an ocean view. Sometimes the property can be on the same street but it may have no view at all, or another with a very simple view, or yet another with a spectacular view.
Other such factors that would add value to a property that are not taken into consideration by Zillow are a prime location: a cul-de-sac street, landscaping, a brand new granite kitchen, curb appeal, seclusion and privacy, whether a room is sunny, bright and airy, a good functional floor plan with rooms that are comfortably laid out and nicely proportioned. These are all factors that a buyer takes very much into consideration. Each of these features would add significant value to a property; however features such as these cannot be evaluated online.
Now, consider the downside. What if a property is located on a major street or near a major intersection? Traffic can impact value in a negative way. A property may be located next to a freeway. Factors such as noise and pollution will negate the value of a property and in some instances, very significantly. A property may have a good sized lot but because of way the house is positioned on the lot, there may be little usable backyard. This would affect the value of the property, particularly for people with children or need a good sized backyard. Lack of privacy can adversely affect value. If the property next door is a fixer, or if the neighboring property has been neglected and is in need of major work, certainly those are factors that impact value. If there is a lack of privacy because of a large building next door or a big second story addition with windows looking down into the yard, buyers would sometimes shy away from this property in some cases, which of course ultimately affects value. If the home is dated or dark or lacks appeal, such things as cottage cheese ceilings and aluminum sliding windows and old, dated fixtures and appliances will all affect value negatively. Consider such floor plan flaws as tandem bedrooms or a tandem family room, suggesting that one must walk through one room to enter another. If a property lacks curb appeal, or the quality of construction is poor, or the property lacks overall charm, buyers will shy away. What if the property is on a major thoroughfare or if there is a bus stop in front or a school yard next door or a commercial building across the street, or if there is an alley in the back full of graffiti? These are all factors that cannot be gauged by an online appraisal.
I am not at all suggesting that websites such as Zillow or Red Fin are worthless, but please do not be overly influenced. When it comes to assessing value, you need the professional opinion of either a licensed appraiser or a good realtor who knows the market in your particular area.