Home Appraisals and Online Home Value Estimates Are NOT the Same Thing
On-site vs. Online: Proper Home Appraisals Need to be Done in Person
With so many types of transactions solely being handled online these days, it’s tempting to want to complete your required home appraisals entirely online and leave it at that. Online home value estimates, however, are not a substitute for a house appraisal carried out by a licensed real estate appraiser.
Online home value estimators can sometimes come close to providing the right answers, but they will never completely beat out the accuracy of an on-site visit by a professional. Nothing can beat the human touch when it comes to home appraisals! The following blog post explores why this is.
What is a Home Appraisal?
A home or house appraisal is a third-party report written by a professional appraiser who visits the property and does market research to analyze how much the house is worth in today’s market. An appraisal report informs homeowners, home buyers, and mortgage lenders on the market value of the home.
What is an Online Home Value Estimator?
An online home value estimator is a website or online tool that gives you a rough idea of what your home is worth, based on things like its address, square footage, lot size, and age. There are several competing websites and online platforms and tools offering home value estimators or home value estimating services. Sometimes these online services are referred to more formally as Automated Valuation Models (AVMs), or more casually, home value calculators.
There are online home value estimation tools for homeowners, realtors, and also for banks. While there are free online tools available to homeowners, the Realtors Property Resource is only available to real estate agents. Furthermore, some B2B home valuation services require a subscription, making them suitable for financial institutions and other companies who have recently started providing home estimates to accompany their other financial services.
Each of these tools, however, are likely to provide slightly varying results making them difficult to rely on for any definitive answers.
There are websites that provide home value estimations just by searching an address, while others may provide an estimate only upon request. The most basic ones are featured front row centre on real estate agent and mortgage broker websites. They start by simply asking you “What is your home worth?” or invite you to “Find out how much your house is worth.”
To use the tool, you simply enter your address, and then a few other property details, such as the age and type of property you have, how many bedrooms and bathrooms, and how big the lot size is. Many of the tools ask you for your contact details or ask you to create an account so they can follow up with you. These free online calculators are essentially marketing tools but can provide a nice starting point for homeowners just starting to think about listing.
How Online Home Value Estimators Work
Online home value estimators provide estimated values for properties based on algorithms and calculations using different sets of property data, taken from MLS and BC Assessment, for example. They look for patterns and relationships between stored property values and the information you have input. These tools often look at past property tax records, what nearby homes have sold for recently, and the average price per square foot in the area.
Home value estimators are limited in what they can estimate, relying solely on the user’s answers to a handful of generic questions. They may or may not be able to calculate the desirability of the city the properties are located in. As such, they should not be considered as a substitute for formal home appraisals. This is because they are incapable of carrying out an up-to-the-minute comparative market analysis on your property, nor do they have intimate, in-depth knowledge of your local area like a local real estate appraiser would have.
Limitations of Home Value Estimators
Home value estimators can give you a rough estimate of what your home is worth, but they cannot account for things like:
- unique features of a home
- recent repairs or renovations
- add-ons or upgrades
- local markets
- neighbourhood charm
- nearby attractions and amenities
- future amenities
- quality of the views
- how well-cared for the home is
In contrast, a licenced property appraisal professional looks at all of those things and more to deliver a thorough, trustworthy and confidential appraisal.
As technologies get better and better and more data becomes available, the number of companies offering online home value estimates may grow. As it stands, although online home valuation calculators are not thorough or robust enough to replace a human appraiser, they are still commonly used to get both high and low ratio mortgages approved.
A good example of this is CMHC’s auto valuation tool called Emili. Described by the CMHC as “a groundbreaking on-line mortgage loan insurance [decision-making] system,” Emili is essentially a database of properties that uses different factors as way of determining what a house is worth.
Most of these online estimators will highlight the importance of meeting with a real estate professional or home appraiser to receive an in-depth, in-person appraisal of the property that factors in local markets.
A Homeowner’s Next Steps
If you require a general sense of how much your home is worth, an online home value estimator may be a good place to start as they are free and fast. Some realtors, financial institutions, and professional property appraisers do use sophisticated versions of them as a starting point before doing an on-site appraisal.
After you have checked your home’s value online, consider meeting with a real estate agent to see what they would list your house for. If the numbers are aligned, that’s a good thing! But if the numbers are wildly off, a professional home appraiser can help.
If you receive a home appraisal that is a lot different than the amount an online value home estimator provided you, do not be alarmed. It’s common for these numbers to be different, and when they are, we recommend trusting the person who looked at your property in person. Artificial Intelligence cannot yet beat human input when it comes to home appraisals!
Contact D. Fritz Appraisals today to book your next appraisal in Victoria, BC. We specialize in real estate appraisals for all situations, such as mortgage refinancing, new construction, division of assets, and estates.