Web-based tools: How to get a free home appraisal online

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I'm the CPA for a discount real estate firm that helps our customers sell their own homes without using a full-service real estate broker. Do you know of a do-it-yourself appraisal solution our customers might be able to use to help them pinpoint their best sales price?

A. The real estate website Zillow provides a tool that allows homeowners to unofficially appraise their home's value, based on the sales prices for comparable homes in the same area. To use this tool, direct your customers to visit Zillow.com and select the Join button in the upper right corner to set up a free user account (an email-based verification process is used to verify that they are the correct owner). Once they've logged into their Zillow account, they will need to enter their home address to get started, and then select the View My Comps option from the Your Zestimate Tools menu as pictured below.

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Zillow allows homeowners to edit their home's profile information, if necessary, before proceeding. For example, they might want to add information about a bathroom, deck, or swimming pool that has recently been added. When they are ready to proceed, clicking the Get Comparables button displays a map (like the partial map pictured below) pinpointing the 10 most comparable homes in their area, according to Zillow.

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Pressing Continue allows them to review those 10 homes in more detail, and they can deselect up to three of those homes, in case they don't happen to be good comparisons to their own home. The screenshot below displays images of two comparable homes in this example.

Once they have narrowed their list of comparable homes, clicking the Continue button will display a projected appraised value for their home. For more information, visit zillow.com/zestimate.

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About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a conference presenter, and a JofA contributing editor.

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