Last night, Zillow posted a tweet, inviting you to look at this glorious mansion on the market for $35,000,000. Please note, that is $35 MILLION.

The amusing part to me, is when I clicked on it, directly under the asking price is the Zillow Zestimate: $396,500. Yes, you read that right, Three hundred ninety-six THOUSAND, five hundred dollars.

Now, I realize Zillow’s algorithms have what they claim to be somewhere between a 7-11% margin of error, but this one is off by 88.27%. OFF BY ALMOST 90% OF VALUE. Hm. Think something might not be right?

Yet Automated Valuation Systems are the way banks are doing quick appraisal reviews, and no wonder they may be coming in low.

I’ve discussed the Zillow Zestimates in the past, beginning with Zillow Zestimates for Towson Real Estate May Be Misleading. I have come across a large number that were not close to a selling price of a home.

Then, I had communications with some Zillow executives, where some light was shed on why it is possible they are off in our area, which I discussed in Misleading Towson Zillow Zestimates Explained Further.

Zestimates started to complicate things further as the market began to drop, because banks began to reduce Home Equity Lines of Credit, and were using Desktop Valuations to do so. When one of my clients called his bank, his loan officer pulled up Zillow & told him that’s why it had been dropped. (See Incorrect Towson Zillow Zestimate Strike Again.)

Earlier this year, Zillow updated their Algorithms to try to correct some of the problems. For the Baltimore metropolitan area, according to the site’s “Zestimate Accuracy,” Zestimates are within 20% of an actual sales price only 78.3% of the time (with a 7.9% margin of error).

For a $200,000 house, being 20% below would bring the price down to $160,000. Above, that price (which would make a seller happy, but not a buyer or appraiser), would be $240,000. That’s a tremendous difference!

Real estate is very local. Even street-by-street or neighborhood-by-neighborhood within a zip code can have majorly different values.

If you would like an accurate Towson home value estimate, please contact me. I can help you anywhere in the Baltimore real estate market area, or if you are in a different state, I can refer you to an agent anywhere across the country.