I have been reading a lot lately about the impact of Zillow, Trulia and a few other web sites on the real estate business and consumer actions.
While these mega websites have their fans, in my opinion, they provide a limited service. The challenge for consumers is to understand the limitations.
People will always seek information that best substantiates their position. If they are selling a Brevard County, Florida house or condo then a high estimate of value will be the justification for their opinion of price.
On the other side, if they are buyers, a lower value on a site like a property appraiser web site is likely a good piece of useful information. You can bet they will want to use that information to justify a low ball offer. Problem here is the property appraiser site does not assign a value that represents the current market price of a property.
But there are other critical factors that are not explained in these sites like the circumstances of the sale (estate sale, short sale, foreclosure, divorce, fair market sale). Just this factor alone can cause a price to be an outlier for the area.
And there are the particulars like the condition, updates, school boundaries, future development, traffic and other factors.
And then there are often issues with accuracy and timeliness information.
So what does a consumer do? Whether buyer or seller, if one is serious and ready to act, then the place to go is a local Realtor®.
Local knowledge (boots on the ground, where the rubber meets the road, or however you chose to say it), is critical to making an informed decision.
Your local real estate agent will have access to current information on what is for sale. Your local real estate agent will have a knowledge of the laws, customs and local practices in the purchase and sale of real estate. You local real estate agent is available to answer questions and advise. Your local real estate agent likely lives in the area as well.
Your local real estate agent has some very important reasons to provide the best service and accurate information. It is their livelihood. There business reputation depends on providing superior service. And lets not forget they can be sued because their license implies they are "experts."
Are these web sites local experts? Your local real estate agent will have a local professional referral network for the additional expert services required in the process (inspectors, surveyors, home stagers, mortgage lenders, etc).
The Internet is a very useful tool to begin your real estaet search but the key is culminating that search with the services of a local real estate expert.