Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Last week a new website introduced what claims to be a revolutionary system for valuing property -- important information sought by anyone looking to buy or sell a home regardless of their locale. This new website, known as zillow.com, claims to provide that information and relieve consumers from dependence upon appraisers and people just like me, your local area real estate professional.
I would like to share some comments about Zillow from a well-known and highly-respected Realtor from the Baltimore, Maryland area. Margaret Rome, a friend of mine, shares her insightful thoughts in a post I'd like to reprint here:

"In the last few days, a new Web site launched with great fanfare but spotty performance. When CNN included a story about it on their evening news, the site couldn’t keep up with the hits.
Why all the fuss? Zillow promises to give homebuyers and sellers up to date and complete information about the value of their home and comparables in their area. Some have suggested this will make real estate agents obsolete because people will be able to price their own homes to be competitive.

The early returns are that the site’s information is incomplete and sometimes wrong, which makes the suggested price ranges they give hard to justify. In some cases, the range is optimistically high, and for others, I’ve negotiated sales higher than their top amount.
The site depends on public records for its data. But public records will not show factors, like recent additions and improvements or the condition of the interior, that affect price. Public records can also be wrong; a friend of mine checked her house and said she wants that fireplace she’s supposed to have, but will not give up the second bathroom they didn’t count. If the information about a house is wrong, how valid is the price estimate? In time, the site will undoubtedly improve, but for now – caution.

There is no question about real estate agents becoming an endangered species because of this or any other site. Price is only one factor in buying or selling your home, and getting to the settlement table means avoiding traps and overcoming obstacles. A top agent will be experienced at:
  • negotiating the terms of your contract,
  • makting sure only qualified buyer troop through your home,
  • meeting and dealing with appraisers, and
  • working with home inspectors and title companies to be sure you are protected from start to finish.

Buying or selling a home is an emotionally-charged transaction. Now more than ever it pays to have an experienced professional on your side. Embrace the benefits of new technology, but don’t fall into the trap of believing it will replace market knowledge and personal service.

The end of real estate agents? Not any time soon.

Margaret's entire blog is found at http://sellyourhomewithmargaretrome.blogspot.com.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


The Chicagoland area again faired extremely well in 2005 (see chart below), a repeat of 2004 findings, among the major metro areas of the nation in terms of cost recovery and potential for return on investment made in many common home improvement projects. As compared to the Midwest in general and the nation as a whole, fortunate homeowners in the Chicagoland area can comfortably proceed with home improvement plans knowing that the majority of those projects will return almost all or more than the dollars spent upon sale of their homes. If you are considering a move or know of someone who may be moving and would like additional information on how to prepare your home for sale, please contact me for a complimentary copy of the informative and engaging e-book titled: 450 Ideas ... to Help Your Home Sell FASTER!

(Information Courtesy of REALTOR Magazine, December 2005 in conjunction with Remodeling Magazine’s “Cost vs. Value Report” © 2005 by Hanley Wood LLC. Information is based on surveys to appraisers, brokers & sales agents. Accuracy rate estimated to plus or minus 4% to 7%. NOTE: Numbers have been rounded to the nearest whole above.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Home sales during the last quarter of 2005 were off the 2004 pace by roughly 6%. This decline, which was anticipated, may in part be fueled by a cooling off of speculation, particularly in the condominium and townhome sectors.
Despite the fourth quarter decline, the North Suburban residential real estate market averaged a 6% increase in prices during 2005, a lesser increase than the more robust double-digit numbers that endured throughout most of the past six years. With inflation concerns on the horizon and higher interest rates likely, due to today's fourteenth consistent increase in short term rates by the Federal Reserve, home buyers and sellers should anticipate future market adjustments. Two of the more significant changes include increased inventory and longer market times which now are 30-40% longer than they were in 2004. Realistic pricing for those needing faster sales will be critical to achieving that result.