The captain has turned on the seatbelt sign as an indication that the housing market has been cleared for landing. Please bring your seat backs and tray tables to their upright and locked positions. Turn off all electronic devices, and most importantly, assume the crash position.
With housing prices falling, I thought this would be a great time to list the many online tools you can use to watch your home’s value fall. Of course, the most recognized option here is Zillow.com, but there are several alternatives, many of which in my experience provide a more accurate value than Zillow. In addition to the list that follows, I’ve run through each appraisal website my childhood home in Ohio (Go, Buckeyes!). It is a 4 bedroom, 1.5 bath single family home. I am reasonably confident that the home is worth about $150,000. Let’s see how each appraisal website valued the home:
1. Zillow is the behemoth of free home value websites and scores a 10 on both the fun factor and name recognition. As you’ll see, it came pretty close to the value of my childhood home, although it’s off by about 20% on my current home outside of Washington, D.C. (Value: $153,315)
Resource: Check mortgage and refinance rates online at LendingTree.
2. Real Estate ABC is an alternative to Zillow and, I believe, provides much more accurate home values. One cool feature it offers is a list of potentially comparable homes that you can select from to be included in the valuation. The idea is that you know best which homes in your neighborhood are true comparables to your home, and Real Estate ABC gives you the option to select those homes and exclude the others. (Value: $149,000)
3. Eppraisal, in addition to home values, provides demographic data about the neighborhood, including education, finances and employment. (Value: $154,759)
4. Reply has a clean looking interface and provides a confidence rating for each of its appraisals based on various factors related to the comparable homes used to generate the appraisal. In the case of my childhood home, the confidence rating was 92%. (Value: $143,338)
What Yahoo! lacks in originality, it makes up for in convenience. Yahoo generates its home values using Zillow, Eppraisal and Reply, so you can quickly and easily see three appraisals for your home, with links to each of the three websites. (Value: See Zillow, Eppraisal and Reply)
5. HomeGain offers market and census data in addition to home values. Unfortunately, my childhood home was not in its database. I did check my current home, and the value was reasonably close, so HomeGain is worth a try. (Value: Priceless)
6. CyberHomes is a no nonsense home valuation tool. For the homes I’ve searched, it provided reasonably accurate values and provides much of the same demographic data that the other websites offer. Value: $148,599)
7. Property Shark’s database is very limited. I searched for a number of homes, non of which were included in PropertyShark’s database. You may have better luck. (Value: Nada)
HouseFront is another alternative with what appears to be reasonably accurate home values. (Value: $156,000)
8. Rentometer doesn’t provide the value of the home, it provides the estimated rent one would pay to rent the home. This is a good resource to have, so I’ve included here. Although Rent-O-Meter has been hit or miss in my experience, the rental value it assigned to my childhood home is very accurate. (Rental Value: $1,200/month)
In addition to the above options, there are websites that either charge a fee for the online appraisal or require you to enter contact information that will be sent to a local real estate professional. I didn’t try any of these, but here they are: