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How accurate are the home value sites (Zillow) compared to TMV?

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  • How accurate are the home value sites (Zillow) compared to TMV?

    I am in panic mode at the moment (trying to keep my house in Ch7) and many of the estimates by various home sites are putting my homes value sky high. I tried about a dozen and there is a bit of a range, so I am curious how accurate they are. And if there ends up being much of a difference between their estimates and True Market Value. I found a few articles on the topic and supposedly Zillow has admitted that they can be off (+/- 5%). But I was hoping people on here have had some experience with this? I posted a similar question before but the stress of this is killing me (not sleeping) and my attorney isn't saying much besides that it's possible to keep your home even if its a bit over the homestead allowance. I have a ton of paperwork to still fill out so it will be a week or so before I get to sit down with him.

    I also ran Zillow's comparison tool, it found 10 similar homes and made adjustments to their prices. It estimated the market value of my home about 20k less than the price estimate average of the sites I tried (including Zillow). Does anyone know how accurate that is and if it can be used in during filing as one of the reasons you came to the number you put down?

    Last question, if you do use the comp number can you also list repairs needed to go with it? Oh second last question (lol), can you pay for an appraisal of JUST a comp calculation from a reputable place to send with it to help?

    Thank you guys so much!

  • #2
    Online tools, such as Zillow, Redfin, and others, are simply a quick look at value. They are not a good source for true market value (TMV). I have personally found that some other online automatic valuation methods (AVMs) are better. The one at Bank of America's website is not bad, and the ones that you pay for are not too bad.

    eppraisal will show you they valuation as well as Zillows (side-by-side).

    For my home, this is what I get between two of the AVMs.
    Zillow: $633,000 (range $599,000 - $665,000)
    BofA: range $522,000 - $629,000
    Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
    Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
    Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

    I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.


    • #3
      OK, I just tried them:

      BOA: 246,565 to 288,219
      eppraisal: 242,580
      Zillow: 262,637
      Zillows Comp tool: 246,669

      Did you submit a value with your filing paperwork, along with any type of "proof" on why you chose it?

      I do need to be in the low to mid 240's to have a shot at Ch7. I wonder how I should approach this, or if I should get an appraisal done. I know my attorney should be answering these questions but I was hoping to get some ideas on how to prepare.

      Oh, and of course these calculations do not figure in the condition of your home, I wonder if you can use repairs needed and problems as reinforcement for the value you send in.

      Thank you very much, you have helped me out a lot here.


      • #4
        I don't understand why you would need to have a certain property value to file a Chapter 7. Please enlighten me!

        For my valuation, I used a "paid for" valuation from an online AVM that charged $30 for a valuation. They were the most accurate. I was doing a lien strip, so I also had a full residential appraisal done (on a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report - URAR) by a licensed appraiser. They nearly matched. Zillow was at least $60,000 off (on the high side).
        Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
        Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
        Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

        I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.


        • #5
          I am trying to stick within a reasonable range of the homestead allowance to keep my house in a Ch7. Here we are only given a 15,000 equity ceiling. My attorney said we could go a bit over that and still be able to get approved. (he said the courts don't like being in the real estate business so can be a bit flexible). Anyhow I am hoping to come in as low as possible so when we submit the "value of property amount" (or whatever it's called) I have a chance at keeping my house. I am not sure though how that works and what the court will take as proof on what they could sell it for. I do know that it wont go for as much as some numbers I am getting back due to various repairs. So I was also curious if they let you give an explanation on the submitted amount as well.

          Side Note: I meet all other requirements for chapter 7 so this is the only hangup for me.


          • #6
            You would still be allowed to file and receive a Chapter 7 discharge. The issue would be whether the Trustee wants the non-exempt equity. The Trustee can still question and should question something that appears to be undervalued. The Trustee will often look to the same sources you're using (Zillow) and will sometimes use your local taxing authorities numbers (e.g. your Property Appraiser or Taxing Authorities numbers for your home's market value).

            You do not get to submit an explanation of value. It's just a number. In cases where it is close, I personally suggest that people get an actual full appraisal completed. A full appraisal could cost $250 for a property of that value. I think you're right on the cusp and the Trustee will likely notice. Continue to work with your attorney for their advice.
            Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
            Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
            Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

            I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.


            • #7
              Once again thank you. So they just take what places (like Zillow) list and run with it? Almost every house around me sold 10 - 15K than their Zillow estimate. Will a full appraisal count more than Zillow's estimate for the Trustee? That seems like a crappy way to do it (of course not surprising), considering the range across the sites is huge. Plus well, they won't get as much as those places say I am sure. /shrug

              I will talk to my attorney about it, I guess I need to be prepared for a 13. =/


              • #8
                I would just talk to my attorney about what you should use for valuation at this point. Zillow is not a "recognized" or reliable source when it comes to best evidence of value. Only a licensed professional (typically a real estate appraiser licensed in the State of the property) providing either a uniform appraisal or testifying as to the value, is the best. The Trustee is going to do some due diligence short of a full appraisal. I know that many, at least in Florida, will use the tax appraiser's value (since they are public and the valuation methods are somewhat defensible).

                I only suggest that an appraisal may be better because you are so close and every dollar is going to matter. I would certainly review the best source with my attorney.
                Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
                Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
                Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

                I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.


                • #9
                  I'm just checking in quickly and haven't read the other responses, so I apologize if this has already been said. The only way to know for sure what the value of any real estate is (or other asset for that matter) is to put it on the open market and sell it. In the BK context, if the trustee disputes whatever value you use and you don't reach an agreement, the judge will determine the value based on the evidence he finds more convincing. That evidence could include the testimony of appraisers, if you and/or the trustee decide it is worth paying an appraiser to testify to support his/her appraisal.

                  ETA: For my refinance, the appraised value was $465K. Zillow, without me adjusting the comps, was $470K. I don't remember what redfin was, but it was much lower, closer to $400K. Just like 2 appraisers can come to vastly different values, so will two pieces of software.
                  LadyInTheRed is in the black!
                  Filed Chap 13 April 2010. Discharged May 2015.
                  $143,000 in debt discharged for $36,500, including attorneys fees. Money well spent!


                  • #10
                    So the testimony of an appraiser can be pretty strong in this situation? I do know every single site I have ran had me pretty high. I know the house is not worth as much as those sites are "guessing" due to the problems with it (if I tried to sell it). One big one for me (for better or worse) is my in ground pool needing removed. The crack can be fixed (3500 avg) but the sides are bulging and it has floated noticeably raising the patio around it. To remove it costs about 10K and does not included re-landscaping. On top of that the place is in heavy need of TLC considering I couldn't maintain it due to being broke. Landscaping and curb appeal is horrible and pales in comparison to the other similar homes. I could make a pretty big list (even a section of fence is being held up by a rope and the brick mailbox is falling over). Looking at the comps condition vs my own (and the comps selling / sold for much less than online value already) I would put my house at 240s not 260s. I mean I guess if they took it they could dump 20k or more to sell it (lol).

                    Sorry for carrying on, I am just so stressed right now, and this is frustrating.

                    Anyways I appreciate all your responses also LadyInTheRed, you have given me a bunch of insight.


                    • #11
                      A written appraisal by a licensed appraiser trumps just about everyone else. Testimony, under oath and subject to cross-examination, is the higher standard. It would be expert versus expert, but it hardly ever comes to having an appraiser, or expert, testifying at a hearing. In the supermajority of cases on valuation, the debtor would likely submit a written appraisal (performed by a licensed appraiser). The Trustee may take that value or hire their own appraiser. Either way, it's not worth speculating as to how far this goes. Value is subjective and no one knows the true value of a property until a willing buyer agrees to purchase from a willing seller.

                      If spending $250 on an appraisal would put you at ease, I would talk to my attorney and tell them that I'm just going to get the appraisal done. It would be the "best" evidence of value and a Trustee is far more likely to accept the appraisers report as to the value.
                      Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
                      Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
                      Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

                      I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.


                      • #12
                        Thanks Justbroke, I appreciate it. This gives me a glimmer of hope.


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