Home Value Estimates Online - 5 Helpful Websites

by Brandon Cornett | © 2014, all rights reserved

The Internet has made the home selling process a lot easier. Among other things, you can go online to get a free estimate of your home's value. Typically, these estimates are based on recent sales data in your area -- the same data a real estate agent would use to price your home for you.

A few years ago, there were only one or two websites that offered home value estimates online, but this niche industry has grown a lot since then. Today, there are many websites that provide free estimates to homeowners. In this lesson, I'll explain how these websites work, and I'll also give you list of home value websites worth considering.

What Do Home Value Websites Do?

In essence, these websites all perform the same basic function. Sure, they'll offer different tools and features, and they may process their data in different ways. But the core process is usually the same. These websites will give you an estimate of your home's value based on recent sales data in your area. The data they use is public information. Some of these websites claim to have a "proprietary formula" that gives you a more accurate estimate. But the primary source of the home value always comes from recent sales data.

Be Prepared for Agent Phone Calls

Most of these websites will distribute your personal information to local real estate agents who pay for such "leads." So when you use these sites to get an estimate of your home's value, you can probably expect some phone calls within a day or two: "Hi. My name is Sally, and I'm a real estate agent here in town. Are you thinking of selling your home soon? I can help." That sort of thing.

If you actually are planning to sell your home in the near future, then this might be a welcomed phone call. Or it might be an intrusion. I just want you to be aware of how the process works, and what you can expect afterward. Some of the home value websites -- the good ones -- will give you the chance to "opt out" from receiving such calls. This is the mark of a truly professional service that respects the privacy of consumers. But not all of the estimate websites give you this option. Some will farm out your contact information whether you like it or not. Consider yourself advised.

Popular Websites for Estimates

Here are some websites I recommend visiting, for starters. Some of these sites offer a variety of services for consumers, but all of them focus on the concept of providing home value estimates online -- usually free of charge. These websites are in alphabetical order. They are not ranked by popularity or quality.


Eppraisal.com

EppraisalThis name of this website is a contraction of the phrase "electronic appraisal," which tells you what it's all about. I experimented with it while writing this article. From the home page, I entered my street address along with my city and state. I was then presented with a street map with icons representing homes for sale in my area, but no prices were shown for those properties.

I was also given a value estimate for my home, but it was presented as a huge range (the high end of the estimate was $70,000 above the low end). I did not find this site very helpful.


HomeGain.com

Home GainThis process started like some of the others. I was initially asked for my zip code, which I provided. The next screen is what impressed me the most. I was immediately presented with a map of homes that have sold in my zip code recently, with street address as well as the actual selling price.

The map was interactive, which allowed me to click and drag it to different areas (to get closer to my neighborhood). Each sold property showed up as an icon, which revealed the exact address and selling price upon being clicked. Very helpful.

There were a lot of others tools as well, too many to be described in this article. If you are serious about selling your home in the near future, and you want an effective way to get a home value estimate online, I recommend this website.


HouseValues.com

HouseValuesFrom the home page, this looks like a quick and easy way to get a free online estimate of my home value. It only asks for my zip code at first, followed by a button labeled with "free report."

When you enter your zip and click the button, however, you are asked for a lot more information (when compared to the other sites on this list). But maybe they need this information to provide you with a more accurate estimate of the value, in which case it's all well and good. I wouldn't know, because I never got to the end of the process.

After the first screen of information, I was asked for even more information. At this point, I felt like I was being pumped for information and not given anything in return. So I bailed out.

There's something else I disliked about this website. I couldn't find any information about how they come up with their home value estimates. It might have been buried in the terms of use somewhere, but I shouldn't have to dig for it. In fact, the entire process felt like a "funnel" designed to extract information from me, while make the information that I needed very hard to find.


Yahoo Real Estate

Eppraisal.comOver the last couple of years, Yahoo has been putting a lot of time, effort and money into the real estate section of their website. I know this, because the tools they offer today are much better than anything they've had in the past.

The home value tool is par for the course. Some of their data (or possibly all of it) seems to be provided by Zillow and eppraisal.com, which are also covered on this list. But Yahoo has contributed a nice interface and solid programming to the mix. The end result is that you get a comprehensive data base with easy-to-use tools. I recommend this site as well.


Zillow.com

Eppraisal.comZillow is one of the original players in the online home value area. Their website has evolved over time, and it now provides a wealth of real estate information and tools. But providing value estimates is still one of their core services.

From the home page, you would select "homes" in the main search box, and then provide your street address. You'll then be shown an aerial satellite photo of your neighborhood, with prices from recent sales in the area. You can toggle the map from map between the aerial view and a regular street map, or a hybrid of the two.

You can also sign up for email updates through the site, which is a great way to stay informed about homes being sold in the area, how much they are selling for, how long they stay on the market, etc. If you want to know what they base their home value estimates on (they refer to it as a "Zestimate"), you can click the link at the bottom of their website that says "Values and Accuracy."

Data Alone is Not Enough

Keep mind that all of these websites provide estimates based on data (property tax information, recent home sales, etc.). But they do not take into account upgrades you've made to the property, landscaping, etc. In other words, online home estimates are based on part of the picture -- not the entire picture.

So if you really want to know what your home is worth in the current market, it's probably best to hire a professional appraiser. This person will visit your home and do a room-by-room assessment. They'll look at the lot, the view, the upgrades you've made, etc. Then they will factor in the recent sales data they have your area (and they'll have a lot of it). This will give you a more accurate picture of your home's value -- more accurate than any of the estimates you can get online for free. The old saying holds true. You get what you pay for.