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Do NOT Trust Zillow to Value your Home in Baltimore

Should I Trust Zillow to Determine My House Value in BaltimoreAn adage in real estate sales is “Your home is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” This would suggest that there are many different factors-some arbitrary-  that go into determining the value of a home.

In today’s tech-savvy world, many look to industry leader Zillow for information. But the question is this:

“Can you Trust Zillow to Determine your House Value in Baltimore?”

The answer is definitely No!

Don’t trust Zillow to place a dollar value on your home.  Here is why:

1. Zillow’s Value (Zestimate) has a Margin for Error

Zillow has been reported to average anywhere from 18 to 20 percent higher or lower for home estimates. There are even reports of home values on Zillow rising up in declining market areas.

Let’s think about this for a second. For a $200,000 home, a 20 percent deviation is $40,000. For higher-priced markets like Los Angeles or Miami, a $1 million home could see unrealistic estimations varying from $180,000 to $200,000 or more. That’s a huge difference in pricing.

Zillow estimates could discourage potential buyers who might think a home is well out of their price range while giving sellers an unrealistic idea of what they can expect to get for their home. In the end, this is the starting point of many disagreements that homeowners are having with their sales agents regarding accurately pricing their homes.

Simply put: homeowners see the price on Zillow and think that is the starting point for their home.

2. What is a Zestimate?

Zillow calls its proprietary estimating tool a “Zestimate.” Even with all the pricing factors placed into the formula, there is still a high margin of error because Zillow isn’t physically looking at your home.

The proprietary formula looks at the market pricing in that area. It will also factor in the size of the house, the lot size, and all the features of the home including the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, pools, and highlighted features. However, even Zillow will say this is a starting point for a true valuation of your home and should not be considered an appraisal or actual value.

The reason is the information Zillow uses is reliant on accessing public records and user input such as realtor sales. However, Zillow cannot discern if your home is the dilapidated eyesore in the community or the completely rehabbed and upgraded home that everyone in the area is envious of.

Additionally, Zillow doesn’t discern community pockets. These are very common in larger cities where you can have a higher-end community just blocks from a mid or lower-end one. These “pockets” can skew or be skewed by larger metropolitan data that Zillow factors into their formula that are not pertinent to your particular home.

3. CMA- The More Accurate Model

A comparative market analysis (CMA) estimates a home’s price based on recently sold, similar properties in the immediate area. Real estate agents and brokers create CMA reports to help sellers set listing prices for their homes and help buyers make competitive offers. In addition, you can perform your own comparative market analysis by researching comparable properties (known as “comps”) on real estate listing sites, such as

Any professional realtor will tell you that pricing a home to sell requires a full understanding of the home itself, the location, and current market trends in that particular area. Most realtors look at Zillow pricing with a bit of disdain because it often will make pricing and managing realistic client expectations more difficult.

A realtor will take a look at sales in that area, creating a radius based on your pocket rather than an entire zip code.  He or she will then compare your home based on size, features, and upgrades to those homes that were recently sold, thus appraised, in the most recent 3 to 6 months. This range is contingent on how hot the real estate market is in the area.

He or she will then compare this information to existing homes on the market, looking at how your home compares to what else buyers are seeing in the market. After all, if yours is a well-kept home being sold next to a completely remodeled home, you might not be able to get the same price per square foot as the other.

Also, realtors will consider whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market. If you want to create a frenzy with a lot of eyes on your property in a seller’s market, you can underprice the home and let the bidding begin. This tactic works in many markets including Baltimore.

4. Another Option

In the Baltimore Metro area, homeowners have another option to value their homes. In addition to offering homeowners a FREE 1-hour Consultation, Maryland Home Buyers offers a FREE Home Valuation. They offer an accurate home value based on recent comparable sales in the area and are prepared by one of their real estate professionals, NOT a formula or algorithm like many online services use.

Homeowners can call Steve Groom at Maryland Home Buyers directly at (410) 657-2523 to get their free valuation, or simply go to their website, and enter some information about your house. Steve and his team will respond within 24 hours. Steve is a local real estate expert in the Baltimore area and has been helping Maryland Homeowners since 2002.


Unfortunately, Zillow’s home values are not always accurate.

Because of inaccuracies when selling or buying a home, homeowners should never rely solely on Zillow estimates to make important decisions. Your estimate doesn’t know the neighbors, the parking, the odors from the previous owners, or the roof that might need replacing. Accurate information is readily available through local real estate professionals and not online estimators of home value.


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