Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Arizona Board of Appraisers Makes Bad Decision

The Arizona Board of Appraisers recently ordered Zillow.com, the growing site that among other activities provides estimates of home values, to stop offering values for homes in Arizona. Their logic is that, besides being inaccurate at times, it misleads owners, buyers, and real estate professionals.

While Zillow estimates are indeed not always perfectly accurate, they are surprisingly useful. The fact that most homes in your neighborhood or the neighborhood you're looking into moving to have some estimate allows you a basis to decide where to look for more information. Zillow doesn't pretend to be perfectly accurate, though it is surprisingly accurate at predicting it's own inaccuracy, if that makes sense, as the WSJ found out.

Any real estate professional that is competent will know they need to use all data points to price a home. There's a reason mortgage companies still require in-person appraisals. I worry much more about real estate agents doing harm to consumers than a site that merely provides information.

The real explanation for the decision is probably that the BoA is heavily influenced by the real estate lobby, and represents their interests. Any site that provides real estate information is harmful to real estate agents, because people will have one less reason to need an agent. People are increasingly realizing that real estate agents rarely offer any value, and agents know they are on the same path travel agents went down, and one of their only hopes is to lock in advantages using politics.

5 Comments:

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Ryan,

Belated congratulations on your Fulbright. I'm proud to have been your roommate.

Michael

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