Home & Leisure

House Calls: Worried About Zillow

Edith Lank on

Dear Edith: I have a question about appraisals and home values.

Our house is appraised for tax purposes at a lower value than the house next door, which has greater square footage. The houses were built on same-sized lots about 20 years ago. But our neighbor's house is dated inside, while ours has an updated kitchen and interior and updated bathrooms. In addition, our yard is professionally landscaped and well-maintained.

We are thinking of putting our home on the market for sale but wonder how real estate agents determine a listing price. How do comparables take into account condition of a home and yard, as well as location and square footage?

Also, the Zillow estimate for our property is less than our neighbor's. Won't prospective purchasers try to use Zestimate to negotiate a lower selling price, even though Zillow has never set foot in our home? --

Answer: Don't worry too much about Zillow. Your best bet for an estimate of current market value and listing price is an experienced local real estate broker. It won't cost anything or obligate you if you consult two or three agents who are active in your neighborhood and take advantage of their expertise.

Your place sounds lovely, but if it's overimproved for the neighborhood, you'd better be prepared to hear that it might not bring as much as it would on a more prestigious street.

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If your home is properly advertised so that a wide pool of potential buyers knows about it, you can trust the laws of supply and demand to produce true market value. Again, don't worry too much about Zillow.

Co-ops and Condos

Dear Edith: Since we've been married, we've owned our own home with no problems. But now we are changing to jobs in New York City. If we can afford to, we will probably be buying a condo or a co-op. We have no experience with these. What is the difference between them? Can you give us any tips on what to look out for? Any help will be appreciated. -- K. W.

Answer: Co-operatives are the older form of organization, found mainly in New York, Chicago and a few other places. When you buy one, you don't own any real estate. Instead, you receive shares in a corporation that owns the whole development and a proprietary lease on your own unit. You will be told ahead of time how much of your monthly payment would be income-tax deductible as your share of the overall property taxes and mortgage interest.


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