Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Zoocasa: When an Appraisal Isn't Worth the Paper It Isn't Written On,

Big splash in the Globe and Mail this morning about a new function on's do it yourself real-estate search site. Now with a few keystrokes consumers can get an appraisal of their property.
Zoocasa, which is owned by media giant Rogers Communications, has partnered with Centract Settlement Services, an appraisal firm owned by Brookfield Residential PropertyServices. Brookfield, by the way, also owns Royal LePage and Via Capital.
As usual, the news story is full of quotes about how this service will deal yet another blow to rotten real estate agents who hoard information and then charge people money to access it instead of giving it away for free.
First off, pretty much any agent on the planet will give a homeowner a free valuation of their property as part of their sales pitch. We don't get paid until we sell the house.
Second, the Zoopraisal function is only an estimate, based on the sale of similar properties in the neighborhood. That might work in a subdivion where all the houses or condos are cookie-cutter, but it won't do you any good in a neighborhood where the houses are different. It also doesn't account for improvements or differences in location within a neighborhood. For instance, next to the crackhouse is almost always worth less than two blocks away from the crackhouse, right?
I took the service out for a spin, using it to appraise my own home. Punching in my address, the software next prompted me to choose a housing type but wouldn't let me choose "bungalow", only two storey, side-split or condo. Hmmmm.
I chose side-split, because the fun I was having was, you know, side-splitting.
Within a nanosecond the computer churned out a value, that was conservatively $100,000 more than my house is actually worth. That was the mid-range value. The low range was about $25,000 below, while the highest value was about $175,000 too high.
My house is worth X, give or take $175,000. Thanks so much Zoocasa for clearing that up.
If I were to put my house up for sale tomorrow, which of the appraisal website's proposed values would I use to price my house?
Never mind algorithms, the best way to price a house is to have someone who knows the market walk through and study the comparable sales in the neighborhood within the last 6-12 months.
The dinkus who runs the service says that "hoarding of information" is a "crutch" that has hurt agents. This from a guy who works for a media conglomerate that sells specialty television packages, cable TV service, cellular telephone and Internet services and a host of magazines, among other things. How come when Rogers charges for information it's business and when I give mine away for free it is "hoarding"?
Things that make me go hmnnnn.
As the old saying goes, Beware Greeks bearing gifts. By which I don't mean Greeks and I certainly don't mean gifts.

Later. . .

And another thing. Don't you think that if they wanted to they could have put a really good appraisal tool online? I mean, Brookfield has an in-house appraisal firm so it must be able to collate the data. Could it be that Brookfield prefers to "hoard" the information?  @%#&ers!

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