How Accurate Are The Appraised Values Of Zillow And Trulia?

Dec 11, 2016 | Published by 5 Comments

A question I often get is, “How accurate is Zillow and Trulia?” This is a great question because it allows me to explore and show you whether or not online appraisal websites are on the money.

I randomly selected five appraisals, located in different parts of the country, done by our team of certified appraisers. I then compared their values which were certified by our appraisers with the amounts shown by Trulia.com and Zillow.com.

By the way, if you want to see the estimated value of a home, go to Google and type in the address and the listing should come up with information from each site.

Now, without further ado, here are the results:

The 1st appraisal I looked at was for a home in Wenham, MA 01984. After a careful appraisal of the 4-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home, the valuation given by one of our certified local appraisers was: $575,000.

Trulia: $500,000.

Zillow: $574,480.

In the case above, Zillow was very accurate.

The 2nd home is a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home in Denver, CO 80246. Our local certified appraiser valued the home at: $260,000.

Trulia: $264,000.

Zillow: $225,858.

In this case, the closer estimate goes to Trulia.

The 3rd property I examined was a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom house located in Philidelphia, PA 19124. Our appraisal specialist appraised it for $101,000.

Trulia: $58,000. 

Zillow: $92,401.

In this case both Trulia and Zillow were off by thousands of dollars.

The 4th home we had appraised was located in Miami Springs, FL 33166.  The 1118-square-foot single family home has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It was appraised by our certified appraiser for $133,000.

Trulia: $186,000.

Zillow: $217,035.

In this case, Trulia and Zillow were way off. The appraised value of this home by our certified appraiser came in substantially lower than both online values. The reason for this was that this home was in poor condition. It had been abandoned for some time and was taken back from the bank in foreclosure. The home needed many repairs that Trulia and Zillow have no way of knowing about.

The 5th home in this test was located in Washington, D.C. 20002. It is a 2-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom townhouse. The appraiser stated that the property was worth $414,000.

Trulia: $505,000.

Zillow: $410,880.

In This case Zillow was more accurate. The difference between the two online valuations is almost $95,000! However Zillow was pretty close to the appraiser’s value.

Try it out for yourself. Type in your address or a few other addresses and compare the rates. More than likely, you’ll see what I saw: Zillow and Trulia obviously have different methods for estimating the value of homes.

Now this is too small a sample of homes to be statistically accurate, however, it gives us an idea of how the reported values from Trulia and Zillow can not be trusted to make a educated decision on potentially your largest investment.

As a certified residential appraiser, I use Zillow and Trulia on a daily basis to do quick research on homes to get a general idea of what I am dealing with when giving clients a free quote on fee and turn time to appraise their home. What I have found is that these online sites don’t always get the bedroom and bath room count correct, they also seem to be way off when a home is in poor condition or has been highly upgraded. These sites seem to be more accurate when the home or condo is a “cookie cutter” and in average condition.

The bottom line is that sometimes Zillow is accurate, sometimes Trulia is accurate and sometime both of them are way off. Technology still has not advanced to the point where an online appraisal can accurately report the estimated value of a home. The only way to really know what your home is worth is to have an appraiser come out, inspect your property and the comparable sales. Then, put it all together in an appraisal report with adjustments for differences between your home and the comparables used.

Overpriced homes don’t sell and under priced homes cost you money! What do you think, will you be using Zillow or Trulia to figure out your home’s value?

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This post was written by Joseph Castaneda

5 Comments

  • Tom spott says:

    Zillow uses condos right next to I-5 and a two track light rail and a new huge hotel being built. They are also on the 1st floor with no privacy and no views as comparable to my place. I’m on the 4th floor with spectacular views of the Olympics and quite a ways from I-5. A few blocks in another direction are closer comparables that sell for substantially more.

    How do I get Zillow to recognize this error?

    • I do not think there is a way to get Zillow to recognize these differences. Why do you care if they get it right since it is proven that Zillow can not be relied upon to provide accurate values of homes? Zillow was off by $1 million on their own CEO’s house.

  • Juan Huang Lo says:

    Actually, the only way to know what your home is worth is to present it to the market and see what you are offered. An appraiser’s evaluation is not necessarily a good measure in certain markets, and the two websites mentioned are not accurate in others. It is not valid to say that the appraiser’s was “right” and the website was “off” without comparing to what the home actually sold for, as this is the only measure of the right price. The appraiser is only offering an opinion based on an algorithm. The websites each use different algorithms. None of them are right in every case. Such is the case with any type of estimate.

    • Juan is right in regards to the absolute true value of a home being what actual buyers are willing to pay for a home like yours, in your neighborhood, at this moment in time. However Juan is wrong in that certified appraisers base their appraisals on an algorithm. Certified appraisals are base on at least the three most recently closed comparable sales from the subject’s neighborhood that have closed within the past three, six or twelve months.

      Many clients hire me to do an appraisal because they are interested in selling their homes. They want to know with the highest level of accuracy what the most likely selling price of their home will be if they put it on the market for sale. So I would like to go deeper into this topic. I also own a company called Haute Team that provides Luxury Real Estate Sales in Miami, FL. Looking for the highest marketable price of your home means researching exactly what buyers feel a home like yours, in this neighborhood, at this time, is worth! You see, what you paid for the home, what you need for your home, what your neighbor or another slick sales agent says your home is worth, doesn’t matter in pricing your home correctly. The only thing that matters in pricing your home correctly, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home like yours, in your neighborhood, in today’s market.

      There are three books in real estate. The SOLD Book; The DREAM Book and The EXPIRED Book. The SOLD Book tells us what Buyers are willing to pay for a similar home to yours, in your neighborhood, at this time. 100% of the people in this book have already achieved what you are trying to achieve. The DREAM Book is our competition and tells us what people are hoping to get for a home like yours, in this neighborhood, at this time. What most people don’t realize is that only about 50% of the dreamers get into the SOLD Book. The other 50% go into the EXPIRED Book – the book of REJECTED properties which tells us what people are not willing to pay for a home like yours in this neighborhood at this time. Mr & Mrs Seller, do you want to base the pricing of your home on a 100% chance or a 50% chance? If your answer is 100% then getting a Certified Appraisal which is based on the MOST IMPORTANT research, closed sales is your best option. If you list your home for sale with Haute Team they will do a certified appraisal for you at no cost.

  • Jonathan Masters says:

    Thank you greatly for your research on Zillow and Trulia estimates. I’ve come across many listings on Zillow and Trulia that CANNOT be true. For example, Trulia lists a property at 63 N Shore Rd, Hadley, NY 12835, with a value of $7,500. Yet, Realtor.com lists the exact same property for $74,296. Obviously, the Trulia listing is completely wrong. This is just one example of the MANY inaccurate listings I’ve found on Trulia.

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