Zillow has been often criticized and at the same time hailed for providing a service on their website where homeowners may get an instant estimate of value for any home. Simply by providing an address and zip code, the website returns a dollar amount along with an aerial map of the property in question.
The criticism comes from the fact that zillow uses a statistical method based on public sales numbers on recently sold homes. This can often result in wildly inaccurate estimates of value. Published sales statistics work better when a home is surrounded by similar homes. It does not work well with custom or unique homes. Zillow won't know whether a home has been renovated or upgraded so you won't get that in the price prediction.
Zillow makes it clear that this is not an appraisal. Only a certified appraiser can do the footwork and dig beneath the published sales data. Realtors also have more local information including knowledge about amenities, upgrades, buying trends, etc.
Still, Zillow provides a cool service. And now you can drive up to any home and get a text message showing you Zillow's estimate of value. Use Zillow's Mobile service. Here's how:
1) Create a text message using your cell phone addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2) In the subject line, enter the home's street address and zip code. For example, 123 Broadway, 92101
3) Send the message. A few minutes later you'll get a reply message from Zillow!