As a South Tahoe Realtor, I frequently surf the web for information. Given that you’re currently reading this article, I assume you also want to acquire real estate information via the internet. Thus, I’ve looked through my web browser’s bookmarks and have pulled websites I figured would be most helpful to you. They cover a variety of real estate related topics. In no particular order, the websites I’ve chosen are:
Zillow.com – They have great aerial maps and a good discussion forum. They also have a good bit of information on all the homes here in the United States. However, most people go here for the Zestimate feature. Type in any home address and the Zestimate algorithm will provide a guess on what the home is worth. Take the Zestimate with a big grain of salt as it can oftentimes be very inaccurate. For more of my thoughts on that, see my post Estimating the Value of Zillow’s Zestimate.
Google Maps – When searching for a property’s location, it doesn’t get any better than Google Maps. I used MapQuest for years simply out of habit. As a Realtor, however, I got tired of its shortcomings. I switched to Google Maps several months ago and haven’t looked back.
SouthTahoeHouses.com – This is my personal homepage. Here you can search MLS listings for the entire south Tahoe region in California. For Nevada listings, see my broker, Deb Howard & Co.’s, Nevada search.
Craigslist – If you want to know of EVERY property for sale in South Lake Tahoe, you shouldn’t overlook those that are for sale by owner. These sellers often post their properties on Craigslist. I don’t use it much, but you should keep an eye on it.
RealtyTrac.com – This is a website that requires a paid subscription. I don’t use it, but I’ve heard good things about their foreclosure updates. I post a thorough foreclosure list but don’t feel at liberty to publish information on upcoming foreclosures. You can contact me for this information or you can use RealtyTrac.
TRPA.org – This is the homepage for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The TRPA affects every homebuyer and homeowner in the Lake Tahoe basin. Their website provides comprehensive information on their regulations. If you’re working with a Realtor, I wouldn’t spend too much time here as your Realtor will probably be knowledgeable in TRPA regulations. This is the source, though.
ActiveRain.com – This site is for real estate professionals like Realtors, mortgage brokers, home stagers, etc. It’s a social networking site and is a great source of information. You can ask questions and get good responses here. Its sister site, Localism.com, is also a good source of information.
If you’ve found these sites helpful, feel free to let me know by commenting. If you know of additional sites that are really good, feel free to comment as well! –drew
It seems like the popularity of Zillow.com is rapidly growing. I’ve heard a few times lately, “Oh, I’ll just check my home’s worth on Zillow!”
These people are referring to Zillow’s Zestimate. The Zestimate provides an estimated market value of a home. This is done by entering data on the subject home and comparable homes into an algorithm. Unfortunately, the resulting estimate is oftentimes very inaccurate. See the table below, provided from Zillow’s Zestimate Accuracy page. Find the line for El Dorado County, which includes South Lake Tahoe. Homes here sell within 20% of their Zestimate only 75% of the time! This means if you were selling a home worth $500,000, there would be a 25% chance your Zestimate would be under $400,000 or over $625,000. As a buyer or seller, giving the Zestimate substantial credibility in these cases would obviously be disastrous.
Many factors can really skew the Zestimate. The facts about your home can be incorrect. Zillow could pull bad comparable properties. Oftentimes, Zillow won’t adjust for location, conditions specific to your market, and especially remodeling. I’ve even heard of sellers entering data for overpriced comparable listings in order to boost their Zestimate.
Zillow readily admits that the Zestimate is inferior to a Comparative Market Analysis or an appraisal. Moreover, they’re making significant strides in improving the Zestimate. In a January 10, 2008, press release, Zillow announced that they increased their database from 70 million to 80 million homes. They also upgraded their algorithm. These improvements resulted in a 12% boost in accuracy.
Apply this boost in accuracy to our $500,000 South Lake Tahoe home, however, and there will be a 25% chance the Zestimate will be under $412,000 or over $610,000 now. So while still a fun tool, the Zestimate remains just that – a fun tool. If you want to know your home’s value, get a Comparative Market Analysis from a real estate agent.