Monthly Archives: October 2013

What Do You Want to Hear?

HearWe are continuing our quest for the Holy Grail of HomeValuation this week.  To catch up on the discussion (or to access a more legible font-size for your aging eyes)  google Tom Brezsny’s Real Estate of Mind.

Is there anything in real estate more important than the concept of  Home Value?  Or anything more misunderstood, misinterpreted, hotly debated, criticized, argued about and wrestled over to the point of exhaustion?

Home Value is more like an unending question than a finite answer.  It’s more like what that other hand does while the first hand is busy clapping.  It’s more like a whisper floating inside all that white noise blowing in the wind.

Real estate’s mantra-of-a-thousand-faces is repeated daily in myriad ways.  What’s my home worth? What’s this home worth that just came on the market? What’s this home worth that I just made an offer on? What will my home be worth next year?

We humans are always trying to lock it in. Pin it down. Fix it in time once and for all. For ever and ever till death do us part.  Or until it changes in our favor…

Is it possible to put an exact number on value? Quantify or monetize it?  Or is value just a brief snapshot of judgment. A moving target that exists solely in the eye of the beholder.  Or a whole lot of beholders in the form of a marketplace that issues collective judgment through the simultaneous action/inaction of all its constituents.

Every single perception of value is different. Because every person’s life and the sum total of who they are is unique.  People and the markets they comprise are biological organisms rather than automated, cause and effect, closed-end, machine-like systems. They are dynamic, constantly changing and unpredictably emergent by nature.

So how do you grapple with the question “What’s my home worth?” !!!

Where do you start?  How do you choose? Who do you believe?  What’s considered best practice?  Are you looking for the easiest way?  The cheapest?  The least painful?

Get a Zillow Zestimate?  Pay for an appraisal? Go through the hassle of interviewing three Realtors (as my dog-eared copy of Real Estate of Dummies still says you should do?)  In the end do you opt for whatever method tells you exactly whatever you wanted to hear in the first place?

Without question getting a Zillow Zestimate is the fastest, cheapest and easiest m.o.  Just log on. Type in your address and hit return.  There it is.  Prest-o chang-o.

When I say Zillow I’m including all the other third party data aggregators out there that have created sophisticated algorithms to compile data from the public domain and interpret it for us in formulaic fashion.

There are dozens of similar sites. More coming online daily as the best minds of Generation Y devote themselves to devising new, clever and clever-er ways to sell advertising by getting people to click on things.

Colleges use Zillow Zestimates to help assess the viability of scholarship applicants and their families.  Divorce attorneys use them in cases where they are helpful in inflating or deflating overall asset value held in marriage.  I don’t think they are considered legal yet for Estate Attorneys trying to establish home basis at the time of a principal’s death.  But that’s probably coming.

Lots of people love to log onto Zillow to amuse themselves – specially when their Zestimate indicates their home just jumped $30k in value the past month and they can visualize their equity as a gold bullion bar locked in a safety deposit box that just got magically bigger.

But is a Zillow Zestimate the thing that you want to base your list price on?  It’s ok in the abstract but what about when the rubber actually has to meet the road. The sign goes up and live humans are about to issue their judgment about what you are offering for what you are asking?

Continued next week…