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It’s the most popular online real estate site!  Zillow gets millions of visitors every year, all hoping to get an edge up on the home buying process.

But “Zestimates” often give consumers “off the mark” information, and it creates a lot of problems.

Adam Stults is a Listing Partner with Amanda Howard Real Estate. He says the price gap Zillow offers creates false hope.

“Here locally, it’s about an 8 or 9% swing,” explained Stults. “So with our average price point of a home being $200,000, and we use, say 8%, that’s a $16,000 difference one way or another.”

A disparity, which can really make or break a deal.

Along with listing properties for sale and getting a “Zestimate”, Zillow also provides information on houses that are not on the market. The site allows you to select homes and find out square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths, photos, etc.

But that creates confusion, especially if consumers don’t consider those homes may have been renovated since data was recovered. And in some cases, that data may be quite old.

“If there is not an actual person behind the computer looking at a home and doing a correct market analysis on it, that can be very misleading,” says Stults.

So where are these “Zestimates” coming from?

Zillow issued WHNT News 19 this statement:

“Zestimates in Huntsville are calculated using public county records, current sales and listing data, sent to Zillow as often as every 15 minutes directly from the Northern Alabama Multiple Listing Service, and homeowner input. We encourage homeowners to claim their home and update their home facts to include any renovations or remodeling projects which may impact their Zestimate. Additionally, we recently introduced a new pricing tool that enables homeowners to select nearby comparable homes in order to calculate a custom, private estimate of their home’s value. We always encourage people to use the Zestimate as a starting point for determining their home’s value and then connect with a real estate professional when they are ready to take the next step toward buying or selling. ”

So consider Zillow and all of its house hunting tools as a fun and helpful starting point in the home buying process. But don’t look at the numbers and make a decision. Pick up the phone and call a realtor.