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What You Need to Know About Those Online Home Value Estimates

Jay Marks

Jay has been selling real estate since 1993 and has had the opportunity to help several thousand clients buy and sell real estate over those 30 years ...

Jay has been selling real estate since 1993 and has had the opportunity to help several thousand clients buy and sell real estate over those 30 years ...

Feb 20 7 minutes read

It’s something every homeowner does when they decide to sell:

 Obsessively check the estimated home value of their property on the websites of the big real estate “brands.” Online portals have made it easy to give an idea of what to expect when offers come in — and a peek at what the homes of your neighbors, friends, and family are worth, too. However, like any tool or service that hints at certainty for things that are uncertain, the projected answer might not quite match your reality. In fact, the estimates might not even match from brand to brand.

That’s because these valuations primarily rely on algorithms to arrive at a number. These algorithms calculate a range of data points that affect value. Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s exactly where it gets complicated.

Understanding What Goes Into an Algorithm

Every brand’s algorithm is different. There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of different data points that influence the price of a home: Interior/exterior features, the age of the home, the square footage, and the location, just to name a few. 

Even if each brand included the same data points, the algorithm would weigh them differently. After all, some factors are just more important to a home’s price. Stainless steel appliances won’t affect value as much as square footage. Yet square footage might not matter as much as the neighborhood. 

Both of these elements of an algorithm come into play with comparable sales, a critical part of any home evaluation. In order to find the prices of recently sold homes that are similar to yours, the algorithm needs to find the properties that fit the bill, then evaluate those properties against yours. 

While algorithms are kept secret for a reason, the big brands have been somewhat open about some parts of their processes. Here’s what you need to know:

How Online Portals Calculate Home Values

Online portals do utilize a data model to come up with a number, the process starts with what you tell them about your home’s condition, features, and updates. There are options for submitting photos of your home in order to back up what you’ve told them, but it’s really about what you can tell them. 

Using this information, portals run their data models on comparable homes that recently sold and local market trends. The algorithms that involve local data were reviewed by pricing teams who have some knowledge of the area. They also say the algorithms consider the difference in the time of year between comparable home sales.

It’s worth reiterating that their initial estimate seems to be based on a homeowner’s word. If you’re looking to this service just to get an idea of what your home could sell for, be aware that the offer is only as good as the information you give.

Calculations depend on publicly available information, like past sales, mortgage records, tax assessments, and building documents. The formula doesn’t consider the “intangibles,” upgrades, or even new appliances. While you have the ability to update info about your home and correct inaccuracies, only information deemed significant will change the value.

If your area doesn’t include a lot of information in public records, or if your region doesn’t have a lot of transactions to analyze, it’s harder for the algorithm to arrive at a value.

Some online portals draw on data found in multiple listing services to arrive at a value for your home. More than 500 data points are considered, including market and neighborhood info, whether the home has water views or if it's located on a busy street. 

Machine-learning software crunches the numbers frequently: The values are updated daily for homes on the market, and weekly for those off the market. On some portals you can’t update any info about your home that could potentially impact the value.

While these online estimates can give you a general idea of your home’s value, your Realtor can consider the nuances that algorithms can’t. Whether it’s a recent update to your home or new trends with buyers in your area, a Realtor can consider the whole picture when creating a pricing strategy. For the most exact figure regarding value, a professional home appraisal can clear up any lingering doubts.

The Takeaway: Computers Can’t Beat Expertise

At Jay Marks Real Estate, we understand that your home is more than just a place to live—it's a valuable asset. That's why we offer personalized reviews of your equity position and home value, tailored to your unique circumstances and goals.

We are here to help you uncover the full potential of your property investment. Whether you're considering selling, refinancing, or simply curious about the current market value of your home, we're dedicated to providing you with accurate and insightful information.

Getting started is easy. Simply visit our website and click on the link to request your personalized home value assessment. Once you've provided us with some basic information about your property, we'll reach out to schedule a convenient time for your personal review.

Don't leave the value of your home equity to chance. Take the first step towards maximizing your investment today with Jay Marks Real Estate.

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