Real estate website values US properties free of charge

Real estate website values US properties free of charge

Thu Feb 9, 10:30 AM ET

A real estate valuation website that could alter US home-buying terrain launched on the Internet.

Zillow.com was crammed with more traffic than it could handle shortly after the beta service went online Wednesday providing estimated home prices, tax records and sales histories.

 

Real estate website values US properties free of charge

Thu Feb 9, 10:30 AM ET

A real estate valuation website that could alter US home-buying terrain launched on the Internet.

Zillow.com was crammed with more traffic than it could handle shortly after the beta service went online Wednesday providing estimated home prices, tax records and sales histories.

More than 300,000 pages were viewed at the Seattle-based website between its midnight launch and 7:00 am, causing intermittent shut-downs of the site, said chief financial officer Spencer Rascoff.

"We've had a busy morning, but it looks like we're out of the woods," developer Bill Nordwall wrote in a company blog. "Feel free to kick the tires and let us know if you run into any problems."

The website made its debut backed by 32 million dollars in venture capital funding and headed by chief executive Rich Barton, creator of online travel service Expedia.

"Until now, finding out a current market value of any home — whether it's yours or one you want to bid on — has been quite difficult," Barton said in a statement.

"We believe you shouldn't need a computer science degree or a real estate license to find out what a home is worth."

Among the Zillow features are free "Zestimate" values of most US homes, according to Barton.

A random request for a Zestimate on a condominium in the long-sizzling San Francisco-area housing market resulted in a value 10 percent lower than the purchase price two years ago.

Home prices in the neighborhood rose 35 percent during that time period, according to appraiser William Brinkman.

"How good can the service be if it shows values have declined when they've gone up in the real world?" Brinkman asked.

The website charts how specific home values have changed over time and compared to others in chosen neighborhoods. Satellite and aerial views of some homes were available, along with details about properties and tax rates.

Zillow is aimed at generating profit from advertising and is not intended to put real estate agents out of work by letting home shoppers and sellers do their own research, according to Barton.

Industry experts expected Zillow to pressure US real estate agents to do more for their money. Agents for buyers and sellers typically split commissions equalling six percent of sales prices.

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