Online Home Appraisals

If you are brooding over the value of your home in the current market, you can have an estimate in minutes. I will review the top websites for online home appraisals for accuracy, ease of use and cost (many are free). Whether you are considering selling, getting a home equity line of credit or refinancing, these sites have an army of tools to help you determine the value of your property.

If you are like me, and just want to keep a close eye on your most substantial investment (and maybe those of everyone you know) these sites will surely satisfy your curiosity. Home values change rapidly in the current market. Staying on top of how much your property is worth is a necessity.

If you are looking at buying a property, these tools can help you evaluate and understand the market conditions in your particular geographic area, right down to surrounding neighborhood properties.

What is your home worth? Find out with an online home appraisal.
What is your home worth? Find out with an online home appraisal.
Find home values instantly with online home appraisals.
Find home values instantly with online home appraisals.

Online Home Appraisals: Instant Valuations

Instant appraisals, also called home valuations or value estimates are calculated using a variety of information, primarily accessible from public records. Utilizing AVMs (automated valuations models) these online home appraisal sites give an instant report of a property's value and often the values of the surrounding homes. All you need to do is enter your street address and zip code.

There are some sites that will ask for more information to get a more accurate report. Beware of sites that ask for all of your personal information including your phone number. These are lead generating sites and there is no way to determine where your information goes from there.

What is an AVM exactly?

AVMs are statistically-based computer programs that use real estate information such as comparable sales, property characteristics, tax assessments, and price trends to provide an estimate of value for a specific property.

AVMs were originally used by financial institutions to investigate properties and evaluate loan options quickly, without having to do a physical inspection. The use of AVMs in the loan process saves time and can cut costs for the homeowner. The obvious flaw of an avm is the lack of knowledge that would be obtained from a physical inspection of the property.

Zillow Highlights in the News

Your home is your most important investment. Keep a close eye on that investment with online home appraisals.
Your home is your most important investment. Keep a close eye on that investment with online home appraisals.

What Are The Uses of Online Home Appraisals?

  • If you choose to sell your home without the help of a real estate professional, getting an online appraisal is a good place to start. This will give you a range to work with in setting your price.
  • Calculate the equity in your home.
  • Time an equity line of credit to your advantage.
  • Tax Assessment: If you feel that your home has been overvalued, a printed report may help you challenge the assessment. Realtytrac.com and Domania both offer printed reports. See below.
  • Sellers can compare their instant online home appraisal with the estimate given by their realtor when setting a listing price.
  • Buyers can see the values of surrounding homes in a neighborhood they are considering.
  • Buyers can use an instant online home appraisal to help them decide on an appropriate offer for a property they are interested in buying.

AVMs vs. Comparative Market Analysis

A comparative market analysis is what your realtor or appraiser will do when you are ready to list your home for sale to determine an accurate list price. The value of your home would be determined by the agents market knowledge, MLS information, and a physical inspection of the property. Comparative market analysis is considered far more reliable in determining the value of a property.

The true value of a home can vary greatly depending on the physical condition of the interior and exterior. An AVM cannot take into account a bathroom that is thirty years old and although it may be in perfect working order, it is lime green. It also doesn't calculate an upgrade, such as a bathroom with a jetted tub and granite vanities. Some AVMs will allow you to add in upgrades, but that leaves the homeowner to estimate the value of the upgrade, creating another possibility for inaccuracy.

Online Home appraisals can help in determining a listing price for your property.
Online Home appraisals can help in determining a listing price for your property.

Online Home Appraisals: Too Much Information?

All of this information at your fingertips can be used in a practical fashion or (as in my case) for entertainment purposes.

Moments after entering my address and zip code, I am looking at a satelitte picture of my property in one box. Next to it is a satelitte shot of my neighborhood. A little price tag is dangling from each of the homes and when I mouse over them, I get details. Lots and lots of juicy little details about the homes - from square footage to bedroom count to lot size.

Ah ha! That one of a kind home down the street that our neighbors are always going on and on about is worth far less than mine. My nose is so far in the air I can hardly see the computer screen.

Of course, this also means that my meddlesome neighbor two houses down could be looking at my house and all the details including how much we paid for it and wondering what I am doing with all this space. Luckily, the picture doesn't zoom in on the mess my kids made in the backyard.

That freaks me out a little bit. I'm hooked on online home appraisals anyway.

Comparing the Leading Sites Providing Online Home Appraisals

I chose four properties in three different states to evaluate the accuracy of the different sites offering free instant online home appraisals. I used a one family home in the New York City suburbs, a home in rural upstate NY, one in northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, and a condominium in Newport, Rhode Island. The condominuim was difficult for most of the sites to locate and they presented similar properties instead.

A few of the sites have a disclaimer posted before you even enter your information.This is HomeGain.com's :

"Only a local professional can give you a real assessment of the value of your home."

It should also be noted that HomeGain is in the business of matching sellers to local professionals.

Zillow, one of the leaders in the market of online home appraisals, calls their home valuations a "Zestimate" and makes it clear to the user that this is only an estimate. They even post accuracy reports showing the areas where they don't have adequate information to give you an accurate estimate.

The following are reviews of the top sites overall for ease of use as well as accuracy. Below on the right is a listing with links to all the sites reviewed.

Zillow: Online Home Appraisals

Zillow is a full service real estate site with resources for the seller, buyer and agent. It offers a free home valuation called a "Zestimate." This site is fun and easy to use. The Zestimate gives you an exact value price and a more general range. The range numbers were very accurate for three of the test properties. The fourth, the home in the New York City area was off by an astounding amount. It does fall in an area that Zillow confesses to having insufficient data.

Features of the Zestimate:

  • Customizable. Add any missing information about the property or change any facts that are wrong (like the square footage or number of bathrooms).
  • Choose comparable homes in your area. This lets you pick the homes that are most like yours to get a more accurate Zestimate.
  • Add any home improvements or upgrades and calculate that into your estimated value.
  • Using the My Estimator tool, you can also see how specific remodeling projects can improve your home's value.
  • View City / Town information including maps, demographics, average household income and links to nearby towns.

Be sure to check their confidence ratings on the area you are searching. Some areas have less information available, therefore your zestimate and range will not be as accurate.

Famous Homes

Ever wonder where, exactly the Grey's Anatomy Intern's house is? How much it is worth? What about the Carrington Mansion from Dynasty? How much is the Soprano's north Jersey house worth? It's all in the Cool Homes section at Zillow.

RealEstateABC

This free site is initially easy to use to get an online home appraisal, but becomes a little tricky as you attempt to navigate through it to clarify the characteristics of your property. It came in third in this test for accuracy. The estimate prices given were inflated overall. This could be due to the fact that they allow the user to set the market conditions at hot, average, cold or anywhere in between. The other sites evaluate this information automatically. The default setting is average.

Features:

  • Provides all the basic information you need in a map based format.
  • Comparison of area homes.
  • Allows you to edit some of the information about your home that my be missing or incorrect.
  • Allows you to adjust your estimate by clarifying the current local market conditions.

Online home appraisals for New Zealand waterfront properties.
Online home appraisals for New Zealand waterfront properties.

Online Home Appraisals for International Properties

Online home appraisals or instant home valuations are readily available in Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Most charge a fee ranging from $19.95 to $79.95 for a comprehensive report.

Recently launched, Mouseprice is the UK's version of Zillow. The site offers a free home valuation and an extensive collection of resources for the buyer, selller and agent. They even have a "tempt me" section, similar to Zillow's "make me move" where a homeowner can set a price that would make them sell even though their home is not currently listed for sale.

Quotable Value Limited is New Zealand's largest property information company. They offer instant valuation reports (for a fee) called e-valuer. they also offer recent sales reports for comparison and full service appraisals.

PropertyValue.com is one of Australia's resources for instant property reports. Their fee is $39.95 and the report can be instantly downloaded. It includes a value range, graphs and a projected value in five years. They also guarantee your satisfaction 100% or your money back.

Home Valuations Canada has recently expanded its coverage throughout Canada. A paid instant report includes a value range, graphs showing the movement of your home's value over a twelve month period, a confidence score, written analysis and sales history.

Online home appraisals are the first step in selling or refinancing your home.
Online home appraisals are the first step in selling or refinancing your home.

Online Home Appraisals: Looking Forward

Instant home appraisals generated by AVMs are not replacing Licensed Appraisers and real estate professionals anytime soon. To get the most accurate report, you still need a physical inspection of the property.

Many real estate professionals are at odds with these sites and do not want to see them expand further into their territory. In the past, home owners needed a real estate professional to tell them what the market conditions were in their area, how appealing their neighborhood was and how their home compared to other area properties for sale. Now, all of this is easily accessible to anyone.

Some sites, like Zillow, are providing resources for agents to aid them in promoting their listings and are planning to expand their services further.

The role of the real estate professional will likely evolve along with AVMs, which will no doubt get more accurate over time in providing instant online home appraisals. Homeowners will reap the benefits of these industry changes. They will have more information in moments than they could possibly need and a higher quality of service from their realtor.

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Comments 41 comments

rilbakhar profile image

rilbakhar 8 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

very impressive website


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks so much for reading !


Emma Royd 8 years ago

Say, when was this piece written??? It's a little hard to judge it if there is no date anywhere.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Emma, It was written less than one month ago.


ruminator profile image

ruminator 8 years ago from Big Skies, NM

This is very informative and comprehensive. I will be using one of these sites very soon to get that idea of price range for my home. You're an inspiration - makes my articles look bare and inconsequential. I've found a new standard!

Go girl!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Ruminator, thank you so much for the kind words! This was my first really in depth hub and it makes all my others look plain too. :) These sites are really fun and helpful when preparing to sell your home. I'm glad you found some useful information!


Jason Anderson profile image

Jason Anderson 8 years ago from USA

Amy,

WOW!!! You did an excellent job on this Hub. Definitely a testament to your freelance writing skills. If I were a professor I'd give you an A+ on this.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks so much, Jason! I love getting an A+! :)


B B Ferguson 8 years ago

Homevalue


prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 8 years ago from Tumkur

Amy, you put hard labours on such hubs.Appreciable. It is not so difficult to evaluate houises in India. WE do it in a very casual,simple way.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you prasadjian. Yes, the american housing market is very complex! It is the biggest investment most Americans make in their lifetime, and we like to keep a close eye on it!


barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 8 years ago from Queensland Australia

Interesting Hub...


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Barry. :)


nancydodds1 profile image

nancydodds1 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Excellent hub! Really its good information about online home appraisals and this hub will be useful for preparing to sell home.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Nancy! It's very useful to be able to get an instant online appraisal. It's always nice to know how your investment is doing!


autum 7 years ago

Awesome article, very in depth, and thank you for sharing your knowledge


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks autum! Glad you found this info helpful. Finding an estimate of your home value is pretty easy online.


SamSurvivor profile image

SamSurvivor 7 years ago

Great info. I picked up a lot of tips here. Thanks for sharing.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

THanks Sam - glad to hear this was helpful to you!


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 7 years ago from Texas

It seems like an annual challenge for many of my neighbors to go into the appraisal district to have them reduce the tax appraisal of their house. I'll have to pass this along to them to give them more ways to approach it.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks John - these sites are useful for determining your home value quickly and can be helpful in the appraisal process!


Sexy jonty profile image

Sexy jonty 7 years ago from India

Very well written hub .....

very much informative ......

Thank you very much for your great hub, for good advice, good wishes and support. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.


JJONES 6 years ago

WOW! I think Cyberhomes was a little off!!! Where all the other sites said I was at 220k+, they put me at 125k. Yet the house across the street from me which is smaller and run down, is worth 205k? That is a little questionable!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Yes, I have found that some of them are off too. Not all of the online home appraisal sites are accurate. They are meant to help you get an idea of your home value. Thank you for reading!


Jeff 6 years ago

Great Hub! I think these AVM's will help people ballpark their prices but most sellers want a Realtor in to show them why their house should sell for more than the comps.... I had someone tell me their home should sell for $20,000 more than their neighbors (exact same floor plan) because they had new handles on their cupboards :P


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Hi Jeff, I agree, AVM's are helpful to people, but it certainly doesn't replace a realtor's opinion when pricing /determining your homes' value.


BookFlame 6 years ago

This is absolutely terrific! What a great service you have provided in this hub.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thank you BookFlame! I tried to collect as much info as possible about online home appraisals and instant home values. I'm glad you found it helpful!


Neil Ashworth profile image

Neil Ashworth 6 years ago from Ireland

I like this hub. Good info and well put together.


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Neil!


Chris Fletcher profile image

Chris Fletcher 6 years ago

Neighbors do this PT and make good money, working from home. Good tips!


amy jane profile image

amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut Author

Thanks Chris, it's an interesting field!


Mini Greenhouse Guy 5 years ago

Really useful hub you've put together here! Thanks


htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Awesome hub ,Thanks for the hub


Connie Von Petzinger 5 years ago

Extensive - but maybe needs some follow-up and up-date. For $29.00 you can purchase a do-it-yourself appraisal model (Home Owners Market Evaluation) that allows the Canadian homeowner to build their own home value with confidence and control.


GrantGMcgowan profile image

GrantGMcgowan 5 years ago

Interesting hub.


Fastest Car Rider profile image

Fastest Car Rider 5 years ago from California

hey thanks friend for interesting information


Michael 5 years ago

Home Valuations Canada seems to be out of business. Any other suggestions?


tparkin68 4 years ago

Good read. Thanks for the tips. I've been researching on finding a good agent after having to fire the last 2 agents I was working with. I also found some great information at:

http://www.sundaybell.com/classroom/category/how-t...

Seems to be more consumer focused than the above businesses. Figured, I'd pass it on to anyone who could use this type of information.

Tim


Jen 4 years ago

Great article. I used Collateral Management to get my home appraised and they were great. You should look into them. http://www.collateralmanagement.org


valsvic453 15 months ago from Melbourne

This is really good hub to read about the house valuation. After read this hub i think it is very easy for the people to get the best valuer for their property valuation.

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