Zillow and housing prices

I remember back on June 27th that someone named Slashchick wrote that we’d never sell our house for more than Zillow listed it for. And, if we did, it would have taken weeks or months.

Long story short: she was wrong. It sold in four days. For way more than Zillow was listing it for. (We didn’t want to jinx the sale by blogging about it, but everything is pretty much finished up now, so I can blog about it finally).

This gets to something that I’ve noticed. Many bloggers and commenters are pessimistic. I’m an optimist! Well, that, and we have a real estate agent who looks out for us.

Remember how we bought this place? We were going to Stan’s office to sign papers to buy another house. Maryam had looked at 50 houses back three years ago. When we got there he said “another place just came on the market and I think you should see it.”

He didn’t go for the quick and easy sale. He didn’t need to do that, he already could feel his 3% lining his pockets. But, he decided to do some extra work. Something Maryam and I have always appreciated about Stan.

Anyway, that turned out to be a HUGE windfall for us. This house went up in price much faster than the other place we were thinking of buying.

It sold for almost what we were asking for the house (in the $440,000 range — Zillow listed its value as $414,000 — we bought this house for $295,000 three years ago). One thing Zillow can’t show is how much was invested in the house after buying. We put thousands of dollars in the house in repairs and upgrades.

Other houses in our neighborhood have not sold as fast. The market is switching from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market but some markets remain hot. If you have a great house that the market wants it’ll pay the price. Stan knew that because he knew our market. If I tried to sell myself I probably would have just asked for Zillow’s price, which would have been a mistake. One thing I learned in the camera store I used to work at: it’s very easy to lower your price, it’s nearly impossible to raise it.

Down in Silicon Valley I know a guy who just got into a bidding war over a house (he won, but paid FAR above the original asking price). So, even in “over priced” California the housing market is still strong.

Why did our house sell? Well, it had all the attributes that home buyers look for. Quiet street. Roomy. Great yard. Curb appeal. Nice neighbors.

So, why did we get a house in Half Moon Bay and pay WAY UNDER Zillow’s estimated price? We bought that for $900,000, where the owners were asking $930,000 and Zillow said it should sell for $1.127 million.

We win on both sides of this deal.

Why didn’t the owners of that home get what they wanted? Well, because the Half Moon Bay house was put on the market in the summertime. There’s a few things you should know about that. First, the heat in the valley pulls in ocean air. That means fog. Cold. Wet. We ignored that.

Second, there’s a major road into the Half Moon Bay area that’s out right now (Hwy 1, which is out at Devil’s Slide until late September). So, that means traffic. Traffic. Horrible commutes. We ignored that too.

But other buyers didn’t.

Oh, how did we find that house in Half Moon Bay? One of Maryam’s best high-school-friends, Katherinne Garzon, is now a real estate agent. She was looking for the best housing investments for us in the San Francisco area. She also encouraged us to low-ball our offer and see what happens. We held back our enthusiasm for the house (it was the first and only house I looked at because I fell immediately in love with it) and knew we were playing a game of chicken. If another buyer had showed up we would have lost that game. I’ve learned to listen to the professionals, though, and it all worked out.

Aside: I see George Ou talking about the heat and power problems that they are having in Silicon Valley right now. I can see nuclear power in our future. The pressure on the system to keep supplying us with cheap power is going to be extreme. We’ve gotten addicted to our computers and our air conditioners and our HDTVs.

Anyway, I’ve come to appreciate the Zillow blog. It’s informative, well written, and I love the heat maps. Not the temperature, but how “hot” a market is.

But, the lesson here is that Zillow’s prices are a guideline and you shouldn’t take them as gospel. Real prices will vary by neighborhood and, even, by house as we’ve found.

Personal note to Slashchick: stick to your day job. :-)

We’ll miss Bothell. I definitely have mixed emotions today.

Comments

  1. Robert,

    I disagree w/ your idea that Nuclear power will be comming. There are too many people that tremble w/ fear when the word nuclear is used. Everyone thinks “Not in my neighborhood.” and so we will not have nuclear power. Plus the red tape that a power company would go through to create a new plant is incredible.

  2. Robert,

    I disagree w/ your idea that Nuclear power will be comming. There are too many people that tremble w/ fear when the word nuclear is used. Everyone thinks “Not in my neighborhood.” and so we will not have nuclear power. Plus the red tape that a power company would go through to create a new plant is incredible.

  3. Jonathan: well, sticking a coal burning plant in your backyard is far worse for your health than a nuclear plant (such a thing throws thousands of times more radiation into the air than a nuclear plant would). And is far more expensive.

    It won’t happen this year, for sure. But 20 years from now? I bet we see a lot more nuclear plants in the world than we do now.

  4. Jonathan: well, sticking a coal burning plant in your backyard is far worse for your health than a nuclear plant (such a thing throws thousands of times more radiation into the air than a nuclear plant would). And is far more expensive.

    It won’t happen this year, for sure. But 20 years from now? I bet we see a lot more nuclear plants in the world than we do now.

  5. The following about nuclear fuel taken from socialist alternative.org

    “Nuclear power is no solution; it is part of the problem. It is unsafe, dirty, unsustainable, and produces the fuel for nuclear weapons. All nuclear reactors produce, as a by-product, the world’s most deadly material, plutonium, the material for nuclear bombs. A disaster similar to or worse than that at Chernobyl could happen at any reactor.

    Nuclear power produces vast amounts of radioactive waste, for which we have no long term safe storage solution and every reactor at the end of its operational life becomes nuclear waste as the reactor core is radioactive. Uranium mining is a potent example of continued denial of Australia’s indigenous people’s right to their land. Like any other mineral, there are also limited supplies of uranium. Currently, about 17% of the world’s electricity is nuclear. If we increase this greatly, uranium will start to run out. It also takes at least ten years to build an average sized nuclear power plant. Enrichment of uranium, mostly done using centrifuge, is extremely costly and energy-intensive. Far from being “clean and green” the nuclear industry uses large amounts of fossil fuels. South Australia’s Roxby mine used 15% of that state’s electricity in 1995.

    In the last 9 months the price of uranium has increased by over 300% as a result of the end of Russian surplus supplies.”

  6. The following about nuclear fuel taken from socialist alternative.org

    “Nuclear power is no solution; it is part of the problem. It is unsafe, dirty, unsustainable, and produces the fuel for nuclear weapons. All nuclear reactors produce, as a by-product, the world’s most deadly material, plutonium, the material for nuclear bombs. A disaster similar to or worse than that at Chernobyl could happen at any reactor.

    Nuclear power produces vast amounts of radioactive waste, for which we have no long term safe storage solution and every reactor at the end of its operational life becomes nuclear waste as the reactor core is radioactive. Uranium mining is a potent example of continued denial of Australia’s indigenous people’s right to their land. Like any other mineral, there are also limited supplies of uranium. Currently, about 17% of the world’s electricity is nuclear. If we increase this greatly, uranium will start to run out. It also takes at least ten years to build an average sized nuclear power plant. Enrichment of uranium, mostly done using centrifuge, is extremely costly and energy-intensive. Far from being “clean and green” the nuclear industry uses large amounts of fossil fuels. South Australia’s Roxby mine used 15% of that state’s electricity in 1995.

    In the last 9 months the price of uranium has increased by over 300% as a result of the end of Russian surplus supplies.”

  7. Zillow is a great tool for guesstimating a price range, but it is still a computer-based application. Some “guessing” software does a decent job, but not nearly as much when there’s so much that’s left up the the people part of it.

    A lot of Zillow’s estimates are drawn from the county’s records, and I’m sure their assessed value is way off from the sale prices. I know my house’s value isn’t close to either the county’s or Zillow’s guess. But hey, it is a great tool to get closer to the ballpark range.

  8. Zillow is a great tool for guesstimating a price range, but it is still a computer-based application. Some “guessing” software does a decent job, but not nearly as much when there’s so much that’s left up the the people part of it.

    A lot of Zillow’s estimates are drawn from the county’s records, and I’m sure their assessed value is way off from the sale prices. I know my house’s value isn’t close to either the county’s or Zillow’s guess. But hey, it is a great tool to get closer to the ballpark range.

  9. Zillow’s pricing fluctuates daily. Since I first used them back in March – to get an idea on value for refi’g my place in Moss Beach – the “base” price has fluctuated from 907K$ to 1,020K$ – today it’s 927K$.

    But one correction on your post: you can include upgrades and investmentts that you have made to your property, and even correct any errors that Zillow may have.

    For example, Zillow has our house as a 3BR/2BA. It’s actually 4BR/3BA, and, according to the son of the original owners [a USN mid-shipman who stopped by while on leave a few years ago] has been so all his life. He should know he was raised here. ;-)

    Back to the point… Zillow does allow one to make those changes, add things like the cherry wood floors and cabinets, the granite countertops and hearth, new roofs, windows, landscaping, etc, etc. You can even add things that are needed to be done, reducing the value. You can use these things to get an idea of the current value. What you CAN’T do right now is store those changes. Zillow says it’s coming though.

    After all that though, I think the best tool on Zillow is the ability to chose “comps” for the home you’re evaluating. By choosing comps with similar home-size, lot-size, neighborhood, age, etc, and that recently sold, one can get a fair idea of the average sale price per square foot, and apply that to your home.

    I found it to be a good tool, and it seems to be getting better all the time.

  10. Zillow’s pricing fluctuates daily. Since I first used them back in March – to get an idea on value for refi’g my place in Moss Beach – the “base” price has fluctuated from 907K$ to 1,020K$ – today it’s 927K$.

    But one correction on your post: you can include upgrades and investmentts that you have made to your property, and even correct any errors that Zillow may have.

    For example, Zillow has our house as a 3BR/2BA. It’s actually 4BR/3BA, and, according to the son of the original owners [a USN mid-shipman who stopped by while on leave a few years ago] has been so all his life. He should know he was raised here. ;-)

    Back to the point… Zillow does allow one to make those changes, add things like the cherry wood floors and cabinets, the granite countertops and hearth, new roofs, windows, landscaping, etc, etc. You can even add things that are needed to be done, reducing the value. You can use these things to get an idea of the current value. What you CAN’T do right now is store those changes. Zillow says it’s coming though.

    After all that though, I think the best tool on Zillow is the ability to chose “comps” for the home you’re evaluating. By choosing comps with similar home-size, lot-size, neighborhood, age, etc, and that recently sold, one can get a fair idea of the average sale price per square foot, and apply that to your home.

    I found it to be a good tool, and it seems to be getting better all the time.

  11. First, Robert/Maryam… BIG congrats on the house. Hope the move is easy on the nerves.

    Robert’s right: Nuclear’s going to ramp up as our electricity demands rise.

    Until another source with safe/efficient conversion plants like Tritium – Hydrogen3 or Deuterium – Hydrogen3 are proven out economically… We’re going in the nuclear direction folks. Get used to it. Three Mile Island and the Russian mess (forgetting the name right now) put a black eye on the industry. Deservedly so.

    For reference, France derives 70% of it’s electricity from nuclear sources. Grok that! Safely to boot!

    Deke, we have all kinds of storage options… Yucca mountain for one. And, it’s even economical to recycle the “waste” for other purposes such as nuclear medicine (among others… weapons are only one of the ‘others’).

    Good books to read on the topic, “Thousand Barrels a Second” by Tertzakian and “Return to the Moon” by Schmidtt (this guys BRILLIANT and the last man to stand on the moon and a nice fellow to know).

    More CLEAN energy is coming online every day. Coal is plentiful and is less dirty than it used to be. LNG is kinda sorta coming… Salt water to hydrogen is too costly to convert at present – takes more energy than it delivers. That could all change with smart scientists pressed against the problem. Univ of Wisconsin – Madison is pumping out crazy brilliant physicists working on these very problems. Watch them produce the next real life “Manhattan Project” only for the energy industry!

  12. First, Robert/Maryam… BIG congrats on the house. Hope the move is easy on the nerves.

    Robert’s right: Nuclear’s going to ramp up as our electricity demands rise.

    Until another source with safe/efficient conversion plants like Tritium – Hydrogen3 or Deuterium – Hydrogen3 are proven out economically… We’re going in the nuclear direction folks. Get used to it. Three Mile Island and the Russian mess (forgetting the name right now) put a black eye on the industry. Deservedly so.

    For reference, France derives 70% of it’s electricity from nuclear sources. Grok that! Safely to boot!

    Deke, we have all kinds of storage options… Yucca mountain for one. And, it’s even economical to recycle the “waste” for other purposes such as nuclear medicine (among others… weapons are only one of the ‘others’).

    Good books to read on the topic, “Thousand Barrels a Second” by Tertzakian and “Return to the Moon” by Schmidtt (this guys BRILLIANT and the last man to stand on the moon and a nice fellow to know).

    More CLEAN energy is coming online every day. Coal is plentiful and is less dirty than it used to be. LNG is kinda sorta coming… Salt water to hydrogen is too costly to convert at present – takes more energy than it delivers. That could all change with smart scientists pressed against the problem. Univ of Wisconsin – Madison is pumping out crazy brilliant physicists working on these very problems. Watch them produce the next real life “Manhattan Project” only for the energy industry!

  13. Deke: well, the problem is we’re gonna need a lot more power in the future. What do you suggest? There aren’t very many choices here.

    Oil burners? They throw a lot more radioactivity into the air than any nuclear plant. And contribute to global warming. And, are more expensive over the long term.

    Coal? Same thing.

    Hydroelectric? We could dam up Yosemite. But there aren’t many other places that are open for this.

    Solar? Very expensive and inefficient. Certainly can’t keep a data center running with solar yet.

    Wind? Not enough of it in California to meet demand.

    Translation: we’re left with bad, bad, and bad choices.

    What happens when we’re left with that? We go with what’s cheapest.

    As to what to do with the waste? It doesn’t rain much in Nevada. And with global warming we aren’t likely to see more rain there. Just stick it in there in a cave.

    I’d rather live next to a nuclear plant than an oil or coal burner.

  14. Deke: well, the problem is we’re gonna need a lot more power in the future. What do you suggest? There aren’t very many choices here.

    Oil burners? They throw a lot more radioactivity into the air than any nuclear plant. And contribute to global warming. And, are more expensive over the long term.

    Coal? Same thing.

    Hydroelectric? We could dam up Yosemite. But there aren’t many other places that are open for this.

    Solar? Very expensive and inefficient. Certainly can’t keep a data center running with solar yet.

    Wind? Not enough of it in California to meet demand.

    Translation: we’re left with bad, bad, and bad choices.

    What happens when we’re left with that? We go with what’s cheapest.

    As to what to do with the waste? It doesn’t rain much in Nevada. And with global warming we aren’t likely to see more rain there. Just stick it in there in a cave.

    I’d rather live next to a nuclear plant than an oil or coal burner.

  15. Congrats on the success with your real estate. Success is essential in the bay area. I lived in San Jose most of my life. It seems since I left Dublin in 2000, the prices have really taken off. I love this since my parents don’t need to worry about their retirement. But, of course, the cost of living is astronomical for anyone entering that real estate market.

    I blogged the Steve Jobs video where he announced plans to stay in Cupertino (pruneridge and tantau). And, of course, this has a wonderful impact on the home owners in that area. It’s interesting to see what a cool dude Jobs is during that presentation: http://viper64.blogspot.com/2006/07/apple-computers-ceo-steve-jobs.html

    Also, don’t worry about the commute. You probably know, the bay area is really about BART. I’m not sure how far you are from work, but I’ve heard of plans to finally extend BART to the south bay.

    Congrats

  16. Congrats on the success with your real estate. Success is essential in the bay area. I lived in San Jose most of my life. It seems since I left Dublin in 2000, the prices have really taken off. I love this since my parents don’t need to worry about their retirement. But, of course, the cost of living is astronomical for anyone entering that real estate market.

    I blogged the Steve Jobs video where he announced plans to stay in Cupertino (pruneridge and tantau). And, of course, this has a wonderful impact on the home owners in that area. It’s interesting to see what a cool dude Jobs is during that presentation: http://viper64.blogspot.com/2006/07/apple-computers-ceo-steve-jobs.html

    Also, don’t worry about the commute. You probably know, the bay area is really about BART. I’m not sure how far you are from work, but I’ve heard of plans to finally extend BART to the south bay.

    Congrats

  17. Isn’t there the theory that there’s enough free land on the Earth that if you filled it with Windmill turnbine’s you have enough energy for the world’s current power needs 5+ times over?

  18. Isn’t there the theory that there’s enough free land on the Earth that if you filled it with Windmill turnbine’s you have enough energy for the world’s current power needs 5+ times over?

  19. Nuclear power may be an option in the future, but there are far more dire problems, like the fact that the world oil supply is drying up (in addition to natural gas), but that’s another story. The U.S. wastes more energy per person than anywhere else, so I think that a necessary step is to change the culture to think about each persons energy use. One way to do this is to come up with a monitoring technology that measures the energy use of all electric devices within the home. I know that I would like to know how much energy my computer, refrigerator, washer/dryer use. I bet that once people find out what their usage is they will start to reduce electricity use…

  20. Nuclear power may be an option in the future, but there are far more dire problems, like the fact that the world oil supply is drying up (in addition to natural gas), but that’s another story. The U.S. wastes more energy per person than anywhere else, so I think that a necessary step is to change the culture to think about each persons energy use. One way to do this is to come up with a monitoring technology that measures the energy use of all electric devices within the home. I know that I would like to know how much energy my computer, refrigerator, washer/dryer use. I bet that once people find out what their usage is they will start to reduce electricity use…

  21. Success? Only if you paid in full, a mortgage is legalized robbery. And even the Valley is not immune to housing crashes.

  22. Success? Only if you paid in full, a mortgage is legalized robbery. And even the Valley is not immune to housing crashes.

  23. And on the power generation topic. Yeah, nuclear may be making a resurgence, after the fights over Diablo Canyon and the fear generated by Chernobyl, but I think a better alternative is the use of locally generated power from micro plants using solar, wind, hydro, geo-thermal or waste/bio-fuel. Do some google searches – interesting stuff.

    BTW, I tried to post this immediately after my other comment to this post, but just kept getting a “reset” from the wordpress.com server. Is there an anti-spam limit on the number of seconds between comments from an IP address?

  24. And on the power generation topic. Yeah, nuclear may be making a resurgence, after the fights over Diablo Canyon and the fear generated by Chernobyl, but I think a better alternative is the use of locally generated power from micro plants using solar, wind, hydro, geo-thermal or waste/bio-fuel. Do some google searches – interesting stuff.

    BTW, I tried to post this immediately after my other comment to this post, but just kept getting a “reset” from the wordpress.com server. Is there an anti-spam limit on the number of seconds between comments from an IP address?

  25. I agree! Most people leaving comments are so pesimistic! Why is that? It drives me absolutely nuts!

    Robert youre an optimist and I think thats why things work out well for you.

    What is wrong with people these days???

  26. I agree! Most people leaving comments are so pesimistic! Why is that? It drives me absolutely nuts!

    Robert youre an optimist and I think thats why things work out well for you.

    What is wrong with people these days???

  27. I love Nuclear power! Just like the myth of DDT the Environmentalists have hoodwinked most of America and the Free world. Junkscience.com has the truth!

    Read it and get mad!

  28. I love Nuclear power! Just like the myth of DDT the Environmentalists have hoodwinked most of America and the Free world. Junkscience.com has the truth!

    Read it and get mad!

  29. two agrees on the same post…ugg, what is the world coming to whenI actually agree with Scoble?

    Zillow: Agree. My waterfront neighborhood in WA state has homes selling for up to 40% more than the zillow estimate. For instance, I live on a point and there is almost a $200k difference between houses on the point and similar houses more inland. I suspect that my house is getting grouped in with houses at the beginning of the point and non-waterfront properties.

    Nuclear Power: Agree.

    Post something else quickly…I feel faint.

    Booger

  30. two agrees on the same post…ugg, what is the world coming to whenI actually agree with Scoble?

    Zillow: Agree. My waterfront neighborhood in WA state has homes selling for up to 40% more than the zillow estimate. For instance, I live on a point and there is almost a $200k difference between houses on the point and similar houses more inland. I suspect that my house is getting grouped in with houses at the beginning of the point and non-waterfront properties.

    Nuclear Power: Agree.

    Post something else quickly…I feel faint.

    Booger

  31. Hi Robert glad everything went the way you wanted happy days are yet to come looking at the world the way you do it’s like the cable company it will come but people got to learn that’s good for them and that takes time any way good luck with the new home and the new job you are doing alright .

  32. Hi Robert glad everything went the way you wanted happy days are yet to come looking at the world the way you do it’s like the cable company it will come but people got to learn that’s good for them and that takes time any way good luck with the new home and the new job you are doing alright .

  33. leave it to socialists to say nuclear power is dirty. Way to bring back those 60′s and 70′s arguments, Deke. What’s next? Moving to Haight-Ashbury?

    Compared to the other options, it just about the cleanest. Face it. Environmentalist will be against any alternative options.

  34. leave it to socialists to say nuclear power is dirty. Way to bring back those 60′s and 70′s arguments, Deke. What’s next? Moving to Haight-Ashbury?

    Compared to the other options, it just about the cleanest. Face it. Environmentalist will be against any alternative options.

  35. Why do you put so much stock in zillow? It’s scary that you would make real estate decisions based on that site (“we got it for way less than what ‘zillow’ said”… sounds like a 10 year old). Or is trustworthy because its WEB 2.0?

  36. Why do you put so much stock in zillow? It’s scary that you would make real estate decisions based on that site (“we got it for way less than what ‘zillow’ said”… sounds like a 10 year old). Or is trustworthy because its WEB 2.0?

  37. El Guapo: you weren’t listening. I didn’t put stock in Zillow. If anything I’m warning you to not take its numbers as gospel.

    But, my real estate friends like Zillow and recommend using it, as long as you recognize what it’s good for.

  38. El Guapo: you weren’t listening. I didn’t put stock in Zillow. If anything I’m warning you to not take its numbers as gospel.

    But, my real estate friends like Zillow and recommend using it, as long as you recognize what it’s good for.

  39. I totally agree with your assessment Robert. Zillow provides bits of a puzzle but it doesn’t provide the complete picture. It’s probably more accurate in new development – I think it has a hard time dealing with neighborhoods that are really varied.

    Cale http://www.palmit.com

  40. I totally agree with your assessment Robert. Zillow provides bits of a puzzle but it doesn’t provide the complete picture. It’s probably more accurate in new development – I think it has a hard time dealing with neighborhoods that are really varied.

    Cale http://www.palmit.com

  41. Hmmm…gee.. now what possible reason would your real estate friends have for liking Zillow? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m sure it will come to me. Now I could be wrong, but I think what motivates a real estate agent is selling a house for the highest price possible. I wonder if there is a connection between that and the prices their clients will see on Zillow? Nah, that can’t be it.

  42. Hmmm…gee.. now what possible reason would your real estate friends have for liking Zillow? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m sure it will come to me. Now I could be wrong, but I think what motivates a real estate agent is selling a house for the highest price possible. I wonder if there is a connection between that and the prices their clients will see on Zillow? Nah, that can’t be it.

  43. zillow.com

    I was reading Scoble’s post about selling his house and buying a new one associated with his move. Being in the housing counseling line of work, I’m usually intrigued by this stuff. He was discussing zillow.com, so I went to check it out….

  44. Hmm…visited zillow as a result of this post. Didn’t know my house was still a duplex. I thought it had been a business for 45+ years after the duplex stage. I guess the work I did on it two years ago was a bit too recent for zillows database.

  45. Hmm…visited zillow as a result of this post. Didn’t know my house was still a duplex. I thought it had been a business for 45+ years after the duplex stage. I guess the work I did on it two years ago was a bit too recent for zillows database.

  46. Nuclear power? I’m not anti-nuclear but nuclear waste disposal is a bitch. I wouldn’t want a dump in my neighborhood.

    I’m in the business of promoting geothermal power generation. The home systems which generate geothermal energy for heating/cooling are fun and profitable, but base-load megawatt electricity generation technology for industrial purposes is what everyone is after.

    California is blessed with the hot steam necessary for electricity generation through geothermal heat, but many other locations can’t count on such favorable geology.

    What if there were a solution for generating electricity in any location (backyard, urban center, mountain area, desert, protected acquifers used for sourcing drinking water) which is commercially profitable, economically viable and 100% ecological?

    There is, but almost no one has heard about it yet.

    You can find a 10 page document, which will give you a concise overview of existing technologies and explains how advanced geothermal technologies can be applied to supplementing existing energy sources, on my site: http://www.bassfeld.eu

  47. Nuclear power? I’m not anti-nuclear but nuclear waste disposal is a bitch. I wouldn’t want a dump in my neighborhood.

    I’m in the business of promoting geothermal power generation. The home systems which generate geothermal energy for heating/cooling are fun and profitable, but base-load megawatt electricity generation technology for industrial purposes is what everyone is after.

    California is blessed with the hot steam necessary for electricity generation through geothermal heat, but many other locations can’t count on such favorable geology.

    What if there were a solution for generating electricity in any location (backyard, urban center, mountain area, desert, protected acquifers used for sourcing drinking water) which is commercially profitable, economically viable and 100% ecological?

    There is, but almost no one has heard about it yet.

    You can find a 10 page document, which will give you a concise overview of existing technologies and explains how advanced geothermal technologies can be applied to supplementing existing energy sources, on my site: http://www.bassfeld.eu

  48. The problem with generating clean energy is the profits. There has to come a time in this country when people just decide to help people because it’s the right thing to do and not worry about profits.
    One of the problems with the US is that big business unfortunately controls everything and isn’t really interested in anything but what is profitable now — namely oil, coal, gas.
    Europe is leaving the US behind in renewable energy research because they realize their future depends on it. Coastal areas could use wave power generation, an occaisional wind farm in the areas where it’s continually windy and there are few people to complain about the wind farm propellors being an eyesore. Solar is more beneficial than one poster stated. A full third of Portugal gets its power from solar, wind, and wave power. Totally renewable. It they can do it so can we. Why don’t we? Because big business does not really profit from it. Screw big business. It’s not always about the profits, people.

  49. The problem with generating clean energy is the profits. There has to come a time in this country when people just decide to help people because it’s the right thing to do and not worry about profits.
    One of the problems with the US is that big business unfortunately controls everything and isn’t really interested in anything but what is profitable now — namely oil, coal, gas.
    Europe is leaving the US behind in renewable energy research because they realize their future depends on it. Coastal areas could use wave power generation, an occaisional wind farm in the areas where it’s continually windy and there are few people to complain about the wind farm propellors being an eyesore. Solar is more beneficial than one poster stated. A full third of Portugal gets its power from solar, wind, and wave power. Totally renewable. It they can do it so can we. Why don’t we? Because big business does not really profit from it. Screw big business. It’s not always about the profits, people.

  50. > You probably know, the bay area is really about BART.

    Nope. BART is the black hole that sucks transit dollars.

    > I’m not sure how far you are from work, but I’ve heard of plans to finally extend BART to the south bay.

    There are always plans. In this batch, it would be cheaper to ferry the expected riders in mini-vans made of gold.

  51. > You probably know, the bay area is really about BART.

    Nope. BART is the black hole that sucks transit dollars.

    > I’m not sure how far you are from work, but I’ve heard of plans to finally extend BART to the south bay.

    There are always plans. In this batch, it would be cheaper to ferry the expected riders in mini-vans made of gold.

  52. Robert,

    Zillow offers you the ability to input improvements into its database. Saying it miscalculated your price when you didn’t input your home improvements is a bit unfair.

    To be sure, Zillow can only predict home prices today, but when you buy a house, it takes two months for it to close. WHat this means is that services like Zillow are essentially two months behind. In a falling market, I would expect it’s predictions to be a little high.

    What is more interesting to me are Zillow’s ranges. Did either house you bought/sold go for proces that fell outside Zillow’s ranges? I would be surprised if they did.

  53. Robert,

    Zillow offers you the ability to input improvements into its database. Saying it miscalculated your price when you didn’t input your home improvements is a bit unfair.

    To be sure, Zillow can only predict home prices today, but when you buy a house, it takes two months for it to close. WHat this means is that services like Zillow are essentially two months behind. In a falling market, I would expect it’s predictions to be a little high.

    What is more interesting to me are Zillow’s ranges. Did either house you bought/sold go for proces that fell outside Zillow’s ranges? I would be surprised if they did.

  54. My thoughts on Zillow. Zillow is a real-estate tool that now makes public information easily accessible. This information has always been available to any citizen who was willing to take the time to check the county records and to real-estate agents willing to buy software products that did it for them.

    I did software development consulting about 10 years ago for Property Data Systems (PDS). They packaged up all the county information and built a software package around it. This was their business and their target market was realtors. They only provided data for the areas around Atlanta, GA and a few places in Alabama because of the amount of work required in getting the data “right”.

    So here is what I learned about county data:

    1) It’s not reliable. Data can be collected or entered incorrectly.
    2) It is often malformed.
    3) It is often out of date.

    What Zillow is offering is a way for you, the consumer, to see what the real-estate agents can see. (Trust me most of them are looking at this stuff.) But like any data you need to keep in mind how accurate it is. When I enter my home’s address into the Zillow search engine, it actually highlights a neighbor’s house. A house which is four plots away AND across a street. This is very inaccurate.

    Now I know from my time with PDS that they spent time and money trying to correct the data that the county sent them. Zillow must do the same thing and it sounds like they are working in that direction. I just encourage everyone to remember that this is a statistic problem. While the numbers on one particular home may be totally whacked, the overall patterns generated by the data are much more relevant.

  55. My thoughts on Zillow. Zillow is a real-estate tool that now makes public information easily accessible. This information has always been available to any citizen who was willing to take the time to check the county records and to real-estate agents willing to buy software products that did it for them.

    I did software development consulting about 10 years ago for Property Data Systems (PDS). They packaged up all the county information and built a software package around it. This was their business and their target market was realtors. They only provided data for the areas around Atlanta, GA and a few places in Alabama because of the amount of work required in getting the data “right”.

    So here is what I learned about county data:

    1) It’s not reliable. Data can be collected or entered incorrectly.
    2) It is often malformed.
    3) It is often out of date.

    What Zillow is offering is a way for you, the consumer, to see what the real-estate agents can see. (Trust me most of them are looking at this stuff.) But like any data you need to keep in mind how accurate it is. When I enter my home’s address into the Zillow search engine, it actually highlights a neighbor’s house. A house which is four plots away AND across a street. This is very inaccurate.

    Now I know from my time with PDS that they spent time and money trying to correct the data that the county sent them. Zillow must do the same thing and it sounds like they are working in that direction. I just encourage everyone to remember that this is a statistic problem. While the numbers on one particular home may be totally whacked, the overall patterns generated by the data are much more relevant.

  56. Hmm, not sure about California real estate laws, but here in NC a bidding war ends when the first bidder hits the asking price.

    In other words the offering price, if met, MUST be accepted, you can’t bid the price past the offering price. You can offer more than asking, (if you are crazy) but legally the seller is obligated to accept the first offer at asking price.

    There are some wiggle areas, such as tacking on other provisions in the offer etc, but a price bidding war on it’s own ends with the first buyer to hit asking. I would be amazed if that is not true in California.

    Now in the UK you can be ‘gazumped’ right up until the closing papers are signed. But in the last 6 states I have lived in here in the US you cannot.

    Cheers,

    Bob

  57. Hmm, not sure about California real estate laws, but here in NC a bidding war ends when the first bidder hits the asking price.

    In other words the offering price, if met, MUST be accepted, you can’t bid the price past the offering price. You can offer more than asking, (if you are crazy) but legally the seller is obligated to accept the first offer at asking price.

    There are some wiggle areas, such as tacking on other provisions in the offer etc, but a price bidding war on it’s own ends with the first buyer to hit asking. I would be amazed if that is not true in California.

    Now in the UK you can be ‘gazumped’ right up until the closing papers are signed. But in the last 6 states I have lived in here in the US you cannot.

    Cheers,

    Bob

  58. I just hope that you’re on a fixed mortgage and avoided ARM/IO (or even more exotics). You will see next year what I’m talking about…

  59. I just hope that you’re on a fixed mortgage and avoided ARM/IO (or even more exotics). You will see next year what I’m talking about…

  60. Well written Robert and look at the debate you started on the source of our power in the future. I have enjoyed reading the comments about Zillow as well. I have an opinion on Zillow, however I will keep it to myself in a public forum such as this. Would be happy to discuss with anyone offline. What Robert didn’t tell you when he talked about the reason his home sold in 4 days and for over 99% of asking price is the he and Maryam and son Patrick worked diligently to heed whatever recommendations were made to have their home sparkle. From day 1, they had it ready for the professional photographer for the virtual tour & they had it looking like a model home for every showing, (yes Robert had to pick up his underwear in the morning). I truly believe that was a key ingredient for not only a quick sale but also in getting the top market dollar. Robert and Maryam, thank you for allowing me to assist again, thank you keeping a level head during the tough processes that are part of any sale prior to closing. Have a great new adventure in Half Moon Bay. But as said in my blog, it’s still a sad day for me as you will be missed. :0( Stan

  61. Well written Robert and look at the debate you started on the source of our power in the future. I have enjoyed reading the comments about Zillow as well. I have an opinion on Zillow, however I will keep it to myself in a public forum such as this. Would be happy to discuss with anyone offline. What Robert didn’t tell you when he talked about the reason his home sold in 4 days and for over 99% of asking price is the he and Maryam and son Patrick worked diligently to heed whatever recommendations were made to have their home sparkle. From day 1, they had it ready for the professional photographer for the virtual tour & they had it looking like a model home for every showing, (yes Robert had to pick up his underwear in the morning). I truly believe that was a key ingredient for not only a quick sale but also in getting the top market dollar. Robert and Maryam, thank you for allowing me to assist again, thank you keeping a level head during the tough processes that are part of any sale prior to closing. Have a great new adventure in Half Moon Bay. But as said in my blog, it’s still a sad day for me as you will be missed. :0( Stan

  62. Robert, I just sent you an email, but I will respond here too. I underestimated the housing insanity that is still going on in Washington! I’m glad you got out when you did, but I will remain a housing bear for the next 6-7 years until 2010/2011 when the markets finally hit bottom. I am a proud renter until the financial fundamentals for owning a house make sense. In the meantime, I will keep investing in my business and in other small businesses and ventures.

    Good luck in California!

    -Erica

  63. Robert, I just sent you an email, but I will respond here too. I underestimated the housing insanity that is still going on in Washington! I’m glad you got out when you did, but I will remain a housing bear for the next 6-7 years until 2010/2011 when the markets finally hit bottom. I am a proud renter until the financial fundamentals for owning a house make sense. In the meantime, I will keep investing in my business and in other small businesses and ventures.

    Good luck in California!

    -Erica

  64. Until the finacial fundamentals about owning a house make sense? Uh… can you cite any time in history when owning your own home turned out to be a money losing propostion…in the long run? Can you cite any scenario in history where owning real estate turned out to be a bad investment..in the long run? Cuz frankly, in the long run, renting vs owning seems to fundamentally not make sense…financially. I’d really like to have some examples of where not owning real estate was financially fundamentally flawed in the long run.

  65. Until the finacial fundamentals about owning a house make sense? Uh… can you cite any time in history when owning your own home turned out to be a money losing propostion…in the long run? Can you cite any scenario in history where owning real estate turned out to be a bad investment..in the long run? Cuz frankly, in the long run, renting vs owning seems to fundamentally not make sense…financially. I’d really like to have some examples of where not owning real estate was financially fundamentally flawed in the long run.

  66. LayZ – if you can hold for years and years, you have money and you’re on a fixed mortgage, everything is OK. If you don’t have money, you’re stretching yourself every month to pay IO/ARM then fundamentals are big.
    Arguing with history is funny – there was never a time when the ratio between affordability/income and prices was so high. Almost 60% all BA mortgages are IO/ARM.
    20% appretiation game per year is over so imagine you have to move out of your house in the first or second year of your heavy IO mortgage…

  67. LayZ – if you can hold for years and years, you have money and you’re on a fixed mortgage, everything is OK. If you don’t have money, you’re stretching yourself every month to pay IO/ARM then fundamentals are big.
    Arguing with history is funny – there was never a time when the ratio between affordability/income and prices was so high. Almost 60% all BA mortgages are IO/ARM.
    20% appretiation game per year is over so imagine you have to move out of your house in the first or second year of your heavy IO mortgage…

  68. I didn’t ask if there are examples of people getting in over their heads and making stupid financial decisions. I asked if there are examples when one LOSES money by investing in real estate..in the long run. Has there ever been a time where real estate did NOT appreciate? Even if I’m stretching myself, unless I was stupid and OVERPAID by QUITE A LOT for my real estate, do you have any examples of when real estate did not appreciate from the day one purchased it?

    So, yes or no, in the long run is real estate not a fundamentally financially sound investment? Would any financial planner not recommend someone owning their own home, if they could afford it?

    Slashchick implied that investing in real estate for the next 6-7 years would be a risky investment. She didn’t say that referred to her, specifically. So, is there historical evidence of there being a sustained period of time where investing in real estate was nota fundamentally sound investment?

  69. I didn’t ask if there are examples of people getting in over their heads and making stupid financial decisions. I asked if there are examples when one LOSES money by investing in real estate..in the long run. Has there ever been a time where real estate did NOT appreciate? Even if I’m stretching myself, unless I was stupid and OVERPAID by QUITE A LOT for my real estate, do you have any examples of when real estate did not appreciate from the day one purchased it?

    So, yes or no, in the long run is real estate not a fundamentally financially sound investment? Would any financial planner not recommend someone owning their own home, if they could afford it?

    Slashchick implied that investing in real estate for the next 6-7 years would be a risky investment. She didn’t say that referred to her, specifically. So, is there historical evidence of there being a sustained period of time where investing in real estate was nota fundamentally sound investment?

  70. All that I can say in a short sentence is, if Robert & Maryam didn’t but 3 years ago, and they just paid rent for that time period (which would not have had any tax write off) they would not have realixed a sales price of over @150,ooo over 3 years. Erica, you do the math.

  71. All that I can say in a short sentence is, if Robert & Maryam didn’t but 3 years ago, and they just paid rent for that time period (which would not have had any tax write off) they would not have realixed a sales price of over @150,ooo over 3 years. Erica, you do the math.

  72. should have said “realized a sales price of over @150,ooo over the purchased price of 3 years prior.”

    Granted there were sales costs, costs of repairs, etc, however, if you consider the tax write off, and still realizing a substantial profit after 3 years of home ownership (which would have been non-existent if paying only rent over the same period)…it would appear to be a wise investment to buy instead of rent.

  73. should have said “realized a sales price of over @150,ooo over the purchased price of 3 years prior.”

    Granted there were sales costs, costs of repairs, etc, however, if you consider the tax write off, and still realizing a substantial profit after 3 years of home ownership (which would have been non-existent if paying only rent over the same period)…it would appear to be a wise investment to buy instead of rent.

  74. > do you have any examples of when real estate did
    > not appreciate from the day one purchased it?

    A bunch of my friends who bought properties in a panic mode in 2004/2005 way over asking price on IO/ARM. They are way down and with comming appretiation boom at the end it will be interesting to watch the game. Some of them cannot miss a month without paid job so that’s what I’m talking about.

    I work in this business (not RE) and I could tell you stories for hours and hours what people in BA are able to do in order to get into the house…

  75. > do you have any examples of when real estate did
    > not appreciate from the day one purchased it?

    A bunch of my friends who bought properties in a panic mode in 2004/2005 way over asking price on IO/ARM. They are way down and with comming appretiation boom at the end it will be interesting to watch the game. Some of them cannot miss a month without paid job so that’s what I’m talking about.

    I work in this business (not RE) and I could tell you stories for hours and hours what people in BA are able to do in order to get into the house…

  76. Stan,

    just minus interest, downpayment, remodeling and plus principal (which is very low in the first years of your mortgage) and tax write off. It’s simple. And 150.000 would be suddenly less than a half.

    And imagine that you will have environment where appreciation will be around 5-6% (copying inflation) as it is today. Do the math again.

    If you are able to hold on for a long time (and you don’t think about your house primarly as an investment but a place to live with your family) you will be fine. If you don’t have at least 4-6 month of mortgage installments ready now and you are on IO/ARM, for example, everything I can say is good luck. That’s probably what Erica is talking about. RE market is changing rapidly and it’s tough to apply historical rules.

  77. Stan,

    just minus interest, downpayment, remodeling and plus principal (which is very low in the first years of your mortgage) and tax write off. It’s simple. And 150.000 would be suddenly less than a half.

    And imagine that you will have environment where appreciation will be around 5-6% (copying inflation) as it is today. Do the math again.

    If you are able to hold on for a long time (and you don’t think about your house primarly as an investment but a place to live with your family) you will be fine. If you don’t have at least 4-6 month of mortgage installments ready now and you are on IO/ARM, for example, everything I can say is good luck. That’s probably what Erica is talking about. RE market is changing rapidly and it’s tough to apply historical rules.

  78. Ken, you gave me an example of people making a stupid decision based on their current financial situation. I’m still waiting for examples of real estate being a money losing proposition as an investment…in the long run. Do you have examples of someone buying depreciating real estate? Again, not asking for examples of people being stupid or examples of people paying ridiculously high prices. Simply examples of people buying real estate the depreciated..in the long run.

  79. Ken, you gave me an example of people making a stupid decision based on their current financial situation. I’m still waiting for examples of real estate being a money losing proposition as an investment…in the long run. Do you have examples of someone buying depreciating real estate? Again, not asking for examples of people being stupid or examples of people paying ridiculously high prices. Simply examples of people buying real estate the depreciated..in the long run.

  80. You’re also forgetting the tax consequences of renting instead of buying (in US you get to write off interest payments). That’s one huge reason I try to buy instead of rent.

  81. You’re also forgetting the tax consequences of renting instead of buying (in US you get to write off interest payments). That’s one huge reason I try to buy instead of rent.

  82. Robert – First let me congratulate you on the sale of your home – as you already know, Stan is THE MAN !!!!

    I also second your suggestion to slashchick to stick to the day job.

    Lastly, regarding energy, gwhiz suggested a book that I’d urge anyone with concerns or interests about the global energy situation to read: “One Thousand Barrels a Second” by Peter Tertzakian.

    The author know what he’s talking about – the title of his book equates to the current daily global oil consumption (1,000 bbl/sec = 85,000,000 bbls/day). In a nutshell, it’s all about a country’s “energy mix” – how much dependence on any one source does a country rely on.

    European countries such as France and Britain made a conscious decision in the late 70′s to increase the nuclear portion of their country’s energy mix, hence they aren’t affected the same way that countries such as the USA (and Canada) are when prices spike.

    The USA must (and will) increase their reliance on nuclear energy — don’t be surprised to see Bush (and future Presidents) harp on this. Coal also plays a growing role in the energy mix.

  83. Robert – First let me congratulate you on the sale of your home – as you already know, Stan is THE MAN !!!!

    I also second your suggestion to slashchick to stick to the day job.

    Lastly, regarding energy, gwhiz suggested a book that I’d urge anyone with concerns or interests about the global energy situation to read: “One Thousand Barrels a Second” by Peter Tertzakian.

    The author know what he’s talking about – the title of his book equates to the current daily global oil consumption (1,000 bbl/sec = 85,000,000 bbls/day). In a nutshell, it’s all about a country’s “energy mix” – how much dependence on any one source does a country rely on.

    European countries such as France and Britain made a conscious decision in the late 70′s to increase the nuclear portion of their country’s energy mix, hence they aren’t affected the same way that countries such as the USA (and Canada) are when prices spike.

    The USA must (and will) increase their reliance on nuclear energy — don’t be surprised to see Bush (and future Presidents) harp on this. Coal also plays a growing role in the energy mix.

  84. Zillow is a great tool to have in your back pocket for illustrative Comparitive Market Analyses, but it is certainly not the be-all and end-all. Still, it’s something consumers should be made aware of to enable them to do their own due diligence. Multiple Listing websites are great for research as well. Licensed Realtors(R) should have access to a host of other tools as well, including comprehensive CMA’s. One thing to consider when using any of these tools is that they are only as current as the data fed into them. That data could be as old as a year, if not more, so Zillow et. al. should not be the sole source of your research. Try to look at the market through a variety of windows. Read the paper. Visit Realtor.com. Eventually, you should get a fairly decent picture. As far as currency of data is concerned, I speak from personal experience, no only as a licensed real estate agent, but as a recent home buyer. We’ve been in our house for over 8 months now, yet the county clerk has yet to update their records. They informed me that it could take up to a year for that to happen. (This is in Suffolk County, New York.) Since Zillow pulls data directly from public records, this has a direct impact on accuracy. Regarding the market overall, I’ve been informed that right now, it’s “Nobody’s Market” (http://skillzdesign.com/blog/2006/07/26/nobodys-market/). All this means is that the market is no more predictable now than it has ever been, except in hindsight. As far as selling your house is concerned, never say never (also true with most things, real estate-related or otherwise). The only rule is there are no hard and fast rules. Go with your gut instinct, and don’t let yourself be influenced by the naysayers. There will always be plenty of them. It’s nice to hear someone speaking positively about real estate agents. Some of us are actually in it for the right reasons. Congratulations on sticking to your guns.

  85. Zillow is a great tool to have in your back pocket for illustrative Comparitive Market Analyses, but it is certainly not the be-all and end-all. Still, it’s something consumers should be made aware of to enable them to do their own due diligence. Multiple Listing websites are great for research as well. Licensed Realtors(R) should have access to a host of other tools as well, including comprehensive CMA’s. One thing to consider when using any of these tools is that they are only as current as the data fed into them. That data could be as old as a year, if not more, so Zillow et. al. should not be the sole source of your research. Try to look at the market through a variety of windows. Read the paper. Visit Realtor.com. Eventually, you should get a fairly decent picture. As far as currency of data is concerned, I speak from personal experience, no only as a licensed real estate agent, but as a recent home buyer. We’ve been in our house for over 8 months now, yet the county clerk has yet to update their records. They informed me that it could take up to a year for that to happen. (This is in Suffolk County, New York.) Since Zillow pulls data directly from public records, this has a direct impact on accuracy. Regarding the market overall, I’ve been informed that right now, it’s “Nobody’s Market” (http://skillzdesign.com/blog/2006/07/26/nobodys-market/). All this means is that the market is no more predictable now than it has ever been, except in hindsight. As far as selling your house is concerned, never say never (also true with most things, real estate-related or otherwise). The only rule is there are no hard and fast rules. Go with your gut instinct, and don’t let yourself be influenced by the naysayers. There will always be plenty of them. It’s nice to hear someone speaking positively about real estate agents. Some of us are actually in it for the right reasons. Congratulations on sticking to your guns.

  86. Wow, has this conversation gone on for awhile. A lot of buttons being pushed, it seems. The conversation has gone into a direction similar to Dan Gillmor’a on-going Housing Bubble conversation.

    I bought my first house in 1979, in Delaware. When I first moved to California, in 1984, I set my limit at 200K$ and looked for two years. I was outbid on every home I attempted to buy [and to answer Robert Porter's question: yep, bidding wars above the asking price are allowed in CA]. I wound up renting for far too long, and kick myself often because of it. Those same homes that sold for ~220K$ in 1986 are going for well over THREE million today. My realator tells me that the home I bought on the Coastside for 395K$ in 1999, and into which I’ve put about 80K$ of improvements over the past 7 years, would list for 975K$ and likely sell quickly for more than that. The tree falling and improving the view, helped too. ;-) Not a bad return, and add in the tax advantages and you have a great return. I agree with LayZ. But, as pointed out, folk can make poor decisions and fail at any investment strategy, or good ones, and succeed in any market environment.

  87. Wow, has this conversation gone on for awhile. A lot of buttons being pushed, it seems. The conversation has gone into a direction similar to Dan Gillmor’a on-going Housing Bubble conversation.

    I bought my first house in 1979, in Delaware. When I first moved to California, in 1984, I set my limit at 200K$ and looked for two years. I was outbid on every home I attempted to buy [and to answer Robert Porter's question: yep, bidding wars above the asking price are allowed in CA]. I wound up renting for far too long, and kick myself often because of it. Those same homes that sold for ~220K$ in 1986 are going for well over THREE million today. My realator tells me that the home I bought on the Coastside for 395K$ in 1999, and into which I’ve put about 80K$ of improvements over the past 7 years, would list for 975K$ and likely sell quickly for more than that. The tree falling and improving the view, helped too. ;-) Not a bad return, and add in the tax advantages and you have a great return. I agree with LayZ. But, as pointed out, folk can make poor decisions and fail at any investment strategy, or good ones, and succeed in any market environment.

  88. I hope that’s not true Matthew. As my first financial investor said “savings are great, IRA’s are fine, the stock market is necessary gambling – but your first and most important investment is a home, then houses.”

  89. I hope that’s not true Matthew. As my first financial investor said “savings are great, IRA’s are fine, the stock market is necessary gambling – but your first and most important investment is a home, then houses.”

  90. Keith, if you aren’t in real estate to make money, then you are in it for the wrong reason. I want a real estate agent to sell my house of the highest price possible. Because that will mean he will make as much money as he can. Otherwise, I’m wasting my money on that agent.

  91. Keith, if you aren’t in real estate to make money, then you are in it for the wrong reason. I want a real estate agent to sell my house of the highest price possible. Because that will mean he will make as much money as he can. Otherwise, I’m wasting my money on that agent.

  92. Interesting reading all the comments on real estate and Zillow. My own story is kind of interesting. After living in L.A. for decades and leaving the advertising and entertainment business, I decided to move to, of all places, Bullhead City, Arizona! I had been visiting the Laughlin, Nevada area for many years and there was just something about this strange river gorge and river valley area 90 miles south of Las Vegas with the Colorado River splitting this twin-city, dual-state area. It was early 2003, and my elderly fatrher, who I had been caring for in L.A. had passed away a few months earlier. I had some cash saved, and inherited a decent piece of change from my father’s estate. At that time, prices in Bullhead City (just across the river from Laughlin) were incredilby low! In fact, after taking a serious hit in the spring of 1990, prices remained totally flat for THIRTEEN YEARS! I had moved to the area just after Thanksgiving 2002 and was living in casino/hotels in Laughlin while diligently and tirelessly shopping for the perfect placeBullhead. It was still a buyer’s market. Prices were so low, but even still you could negotiate a price a few thousand dollars under the asking price. I bought a beautiful, three year old 3 bedroom, 2 bath split floorplan home on over a quarter-acre lot on a cul-de-sac for $139,000! ($6,000 under the asking price). We closed in April 2003, and the VERY NEXT MONTH, the long anticipated rise in prices in Laughlin/Bullhead roared into gear! Just two years later, my home more than doubled, appraised back in April for $335,000 (still a bargain compared to California, I might add). A couple months after I bought the home, I contacted the owner of the lot next door to my home after moving in, I bought the vacant lot next door on the cul-de-sac for $22,000. Vacant land had just started to appreciate as well, but the owner of the lot didn’t have a clue and was sick of holding on to a lot that he bought for over $25,000 and had depreciated to $18,000 and not come back up in value. He was glad to get rid of it. Last month I was offered $155,000 for the land! After a wild three years, prices have now, not surprisingly, leveled off in the area but are by no means going down becaue they are still very cheap compared to California and so many retiring baby boomers are moving to “all points Arizona. Regarding Zillow, in my case, pretty darn accurate, once I entered the proper infomration regarding features, upgrades and the like. Zillow’s “zestimate” came in at $325,000, about $10,000 below the professional appraisal. So there it is. Meanwhile, am loving life in this offbeat part of the Mohave Desert (despite the extreme summer heat and VERY long commute to the Bay Area!) Just another crazy real estate story that some may find interesting. Hey, Robert, looking forward to meeting with you in Menlo Park next week!

  93. Interesting reading all the comments on real estate and Zillow. My own story is kind of interesting. After living in L.A. for decades and leaving the advertising and entertainment business, I decided to move to, of all places, Bullhead City, Arizona! I had been visiting the Laughlin, Nevada area for many years and there was just something about this strange river gorge and river valley area 90 miles south of Las Vegas with the Colorado River splitting this twin-city, dual-state area. It was early 2003, and my elderly fatrher, who I had been caring for in L.A. had passed away a few months earlier. I had some cash saved, and inherited a decent piece of change from my father’s estate. At that time, prices in Bullhead City (just across the river from Laughlin) were incredilby low! In fact, after taking a serious hit in the spring of 1990, prices remained totally flat for THIRTEEN YEARS! I had moved to the area just after Thanksgiving 2002 and was living in casino/hotels in Laughlin while diligently and tirelessly shopping for the perfect placeBullhead. It was still a buyer’s market. Prices were so low, but even still you could negotiate a price a few thousand dollars under the asking price. I bought a beautiful, three year old 3 bedroom, 2 bath split floorplan home on over a quarter-acre lot on a cul-de-sac for $139,000! ($6,000 under the asking price). We closed in April 2003, and the VERY NEXT MONTH, the long anticipated rise in prices in Laughlin/Bullhead roared into gear! Just two years later, my home more than doubled, appraised back in April for $335,000 (still a bargain compared to California, I might add). A couple months after I bought the home, I contacted the owner of the lot next door to my home after moving in, I bought the vacant lot next door on the cul-de-sac for $22,000. Vacant land had just started to appreciate as well, but the owner of the lot didn’t have a clue and was sick of holding on to a lot that he bought for over $25,000 and had depreciated to $18,000 and not come back up in value. He was glad to get rid of it. Last month I was offered $155,000 for the land! After a wild three years, prices have now, not surprisingly, leveled off in the area but are by no means going down becaue they are still very cheap compared to California and so many retiring baby boomers are moving to “all points Arizona. Regarding Zillow, in my case, pretty darn accurate, once I entered the proper infomration regarding features, upgrades and the like. Zillow’s “zestimate” came in at $325,000, about $10,000 below the professional appraisal. So there it is. Meanwhile, am loving life in this offbeat part of the Mohave Desert (despite the extreme summer heat and VERY long commute to the Bay Area!) Just another crazy real estate story that some may find interesting. Hey, Robert, looking forward to meeting with you in Menlo Park next week!

  94. [...] One of the key myths perpetuated by the chicken littles is that sites like zillow.com are going to put agents out of business, because agents (presumably) live on being able to assess value of property.  This is like saying the printing press would put doctors out of business, because anyone can buy a book with medical information in it.  The truth is, when a customer comes in having done some basic research first, it gives the doctor more time to provide the high-value services.  Statistics show that people who have done their homework are more likely to make a qualified purchase of real estate, and waste far less of the agent’s time looking at properties that are not relevant.  As Scoble’s story shows, information from Zillow is just one data point, and a smart real estate agent knows that a better-informed customer is a more satisfied customer. [...]

  95. But, the lesson here is that Zillow’s prices are a guideline…

    To me, it seems the lesson is that it’s who you know, not what you know. Human relationships (between you and your agent, you and your network) are what drive everything. That’s why social software is such a big deal (though we’ve barely scratched the surface) and why it’s so maddening when you look up office furniture and get stores. The web is still just a big, dumb library full of “books.” What it needs to become is a big, smart library full of books that understand their relationships to each other and to the people that use them.

  96. But, the lesson here is that Zillow’s prices are a guideline…

    To me, it seems the lesson is that it’s who you know, not what you know. Human relationships (between you and your agent, you and your network) are what drive everything. That’s why social software is such a big deal (though we’ve barely scratched the surface) and why it’s so maddening when you look up office furniture and get stores. The web is still just a big, dumb library full of “books.” What it needs to become is a big, smart library full of books that understand their relationships to each other and to the people that use them.

  97. Zillows Zestimate is very inaccurate and really a waste of time. If you are the type that is looking for an accurate tool, as good as you can get without a REALTOR, then the Market Insight valuation tool is the ultimate. It is based on up to date MLS data and has virtually wiped out Zestimates. Why waste your time with an inaccurate tool?

    As for the rest of the site it has now turned into a for sale by owner website which is unfortunate as these sites pop up and disappear constantly. Now that the Zestimate is known to be such a poor tool Zillow has nothing left of value to offer unless you are into gimicky features.

    Zillow is the new dot bomb heading into 2007; shame as it had a chance to carve out a little segment of the business to survive in but this Frink guy doesn’t understand the business.

  98. Zillows Zestimate is very inaccurate and really a waste of time. If you are the type that is looking for an accurate tool, as good as you can get without a REALTOR, then the Market Insight valuation tool is the ultimate. It is based on up to date MLS data and has virtually wiped out Zestimates. Why waste your time with an inaccurate tool?

    As for the rest of the site it has now turned into a for sale by owner website which is unfortunate as these sites pop up and disappear constantly. Now that the Zestimate is known to be such a poor tool Zillow has nothing left of value to offer unless you are into gimicky features.

    Zillow is the new dot bomb heading into 2007; shame as it had a chance to carve out a little segment of the business to survive in but this Frink guy doesn’t understand the business.

  99. “Guess-Idiots” at Zillow use outdated public records to formulate real estate valuations. They call those wild calculations – Zestimates. I thinks it’s best to use a trained professional appraiser.

  100. “Guess-Idiots” at Zillow use outdated public records to formulate real estate valuations. They call those wild calculations – Zestimates. I thinks it’s best to use a trained professional appraiser.

  101. Zillow “Guess-Idiots” appear to rely on public tax records that in some cases haven’t been updated in twenty-five years. The zestimator is a sketchy tool to rely on. I believe it’s best to use a Professional Realtor when appraising property.

  102. Zillow “Guess-Idiots” appear to rely on public tax records that in some cases haven’t been updated in twenty-five years. The zestimator is a sketchy tool to rely on. I believe it’s best to use a Professional Realtor when appraising property.

  103. I see I’m not alone in the apprehension of Zillow, and need for dating russian women :) (comment spam above)

    I use HouseFront to find values, and can access on my cell too. The seem to use MLS or something to make it more accurate.

  104. I see I’m not alone in the apprehension of Zillow, and need for dating russian women :) (comment spam above)

    I use HouseFront to find values, and can access on my cell too. The seem to use MLS or something to make it more accurate.

  105. When it comes to selling real estate, one of the biggest obstacles sellers face is a so-called “depressed” market. Even when a property is highly desirable, it can be hard to get the price you want in this real estate environment. You could end up losing a lot of time, money, and opportunities, waiting for a “perfect buyer” who may NEVER materialize!
    The traditional solution is to drop your asking price. But this common strategy doesn’t always work in your favor. In fact, it can work against you, making your home seem undesirable and your position seem weak.

    But there IS a way to turn this challenge into a profitable opportunity! I am trying to let every Realtor know that I can increase your sales and my bottom line. It does not cost anything. Please visit our BLOG for more information. I am not selling anything. I am in the business of paying cash for mortgage notes and trust deeds.
    http://realestatefunding.smilingdogenterprises.com
    http://twitter.com/sgriecci

  106. When it comes to selling real estate, one of the biggest obstacles sellers face is a so-called “depressed” market. Even when a property is highly desirable, it can be hard to get the price you want in this real estate environment. You could end up losing a lot of time, money, and opportunities, waiting for a “perfect buyer” who may NEVER materialize!
    The traditional solution is to drop your asking price. But this common strategy doesn’t always work in your favor. In fact, it can work against you, making your home seem undesirable and your position seem weak.

    But there IS a way to turn this challenge into a profitable opportunity! I am trying to let every Realtor know that I can increase your sales and my bottom line. It does not cost anything. Please visit our BLOG for more information. I am not selling anything. I am in the business of paying cash for mortgage notes and trust deeds.
    http://realestatefunding.smilingdogenterprises.com
    http://twitter.com/sgriecci

  107. Zillows estimates are meant to be estimates and not guaranteed values. I have seen both sides where there prices are completely too high and completely two low. There are a lot of variables they don’t take into effect when calculating values.

  108. Zillows estimates are meant to be estimates and not guaranteed values. I have seen both sides where there prices are completely too high and completely two low. There are a lot of variables they don’t take into effect when calculating values.