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Welcome to Heyday’s Info Vault.

A wealth of information and advice from the experts.

Agent Estimate vs. Zillow Zestimate

How much is my house worth

You want to sell your home and get the most you can for it, right? The oh-so-common dilemma when considering listing your house for sale is bound to arise: Agent Estimate vs. Zillow Zestimate? Should you reach out to a professional real estate agent for an estimate? Or should you first jump on Zillow for a Zestimate? What about appraisals? When are those done?

The thing with Zillow is that before a house is actually listed, Zestimates will not be an accurate reflection of the actual market value. As much as it claims to have a high accuracy rate, from practical experience, many home sellers claim significant gaps between the Zestimate their home got to what it actually sold for. For example, a home can be estimated on Zillow at $400,000 when in the real-time market, it is worth only $350,000. Interestingly, if the house will be listed at $300,000 Zillow’s Zestimate will suddenly dip to the range of $300,000. Once the home is listed, Zillow will adjust the Zestimate to a range closer to the listing price. This has been confirmed by Investopedia, Upnest, and other reputable sites.

Bottom line – asking Zillow what your house is worth before it’s listed is worthless. The price will be either way above or below the actual market value. 

So in the conflict of Agent Estimate vs. Zillow Zestimate, the former seems to triumph. Turning to an honest, professional agent seems to be the more prudent route. If the agent knows his work, after your initial meeting, he’ll provide you with a CMA – a Comparative Market Analysis, a report that estimates your home’s price based on recently sold, similar properties in your immediate area. The agent will use the CMA to name a price he feels confident listing. 

If you list a house with an agent, usually he’ll do a CMA report free of extra charge. Sometimes agents offer free CMA’s as part of their marketing, even without your commitment to list with them. In some cases, agents will charge a nominal fee, ranging from $100 to $200 for a CMA and you are under no obligation to list with them.

Then there are appraisals. What is an appraisal and when do you need one?

And when do you need one? A home appraisal is a valuation of a property conducted by a State certified appraiser, determining the home’s value to ensure that the price reflects the home’s condition, age, location, and features such as the number of bathrooms. (Not to be confused with inspections, which only determine the condition of the home and identify any potentially serious issues before a buyer moves forward with closing.)

Appraisals are almost always required by banks and lenders prior to authorizing a mortgage loan. Thus, appraisals are usually ordered and paid for by buyers, not sellers. 

But what you may not know is that there is another route to home valuation that may be the most worthwhile. 

Once you have a CMA, you now have a pretty accurate price range for the house you wish to sell. By the way, getting a CMA report from an agent does not bind you to sell through that agent. In fact, it is acceptable and advised to interview multiple agents and get multiple CMAs. 

So, once you have a price estimate based on one or preferably several CMA reports, you can reach out to a cash buyer and ask them what they would offer for your house. You’d be surprised but often, it can be within the range of prices you were given by agents. 

And remember, cash buyers won’t shave off any fees so you’ll be getting that entire sum, clear and fair. 

To illustrate with an example. 

Say, you interviewed four agents, and based on the CMA’s they each provided, the asking price range for your home is between $330,000 and $350,000. In other words, you know that the median price is $340,000. (In this example, we will assume that the house does not need repairs, so there will be no repair costs factored in. But bear in mind that in most instances, repair costs are very often part and parcel of the selling experience.)

You can now ask a cash buyer how much they would pay for your house. 

Scenario 1:

Cash buyer says “We’ll buy your house for $340,000.” 

If an agent will sell for that exact price, 6% will be shaved off for commissions. 

6% of $340,000 is $20,400. 

Aside for agent fees, there are additional closing costs such as lawyers’ fees, taxes etc. which are usually estimated at 1% of the selling price. 

1% of $340,000 is $3,400. 

So if you sell through the agent, you will pocket only $316,200. (Go ahead, do the math: $340,000 – $20,400 – $3,400) 

Whereas if you sell it to the cash buyer, you will pocket the full $340,000. 

In this case, selling to the cash buyer is a no-brainer. I mean, why would sell through an agent if you can pocket MORE money through a cash buyer?! 

Scenario 2:

Cash buyer says “We’ll buy your house for $315,000. 

OK, this is considerably less than the price range you’ve been given. 

BUT, one minute! We already calculated that close to $25,000 will be shaved off if an agent clinches the ideal price of $340,000. Remember? You’ll be pocketing only $316,200. 

In this case, you may want to ask the cash buyer if he would consider paying a bit more, say, $318,000. 

And once again, you may be in for a surprise! 

The cash buyer may agree and you’ll be pocketing $318,000 within a week or two instead of waiting months for an agent to find a buyer at the ideal price. And even when/if the agent will find a buyer at the ideal price (in the area of $340,000), you still may pocket less than $318,000! 

Bottom line: Getting a price estimate from a cash buyer in your area costs you nothing, does not obligate you in any way and may pleasantly surprise you, especially if you have a CMA as a point of reference! 

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