How to Increase Your Zillow Zestimate

In 2016, 44 percent of home buyers looked for properties online before they even contacted a real estate agent, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. And the most popular of those sites is Zillow, so it's no wonder that homeowners want their Zillow Zestimate to match what their home is actually worth.

Unfortunately for homeowners, Zestimates have a margin of error. As of November 14, 2017, Zestimates in Washington, D.C. only have a 3 percent margin of error, but an 8.8 percent margin of error in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas. So, what accounts for that margin?

How do Zestimates work?

A Zestimate is not an accurate appraisal, and it doesn't claim to be. Zillow has stated often that their Zestimate tool is designed to just be a starting place for finding a home's value. In order to get your Zestimate, Zillow takes data like your home's features, location, market conditions, and any upgrades and runs those through a formula to get your final number.

Zillow gets this data from public records and user-submitted data, which means it might not have up-to-date information about things like home additions that increased your square footage or upgrades, like putting in hardwood floors throughout.

The most important thing to remember about your Zestimate is that it's just an estimate. You'll need to get a proper appraisal if you want to know how much a home is truly worth. 

How to change your Zestimate

One of the easiest ways to change your Zesimate is by editing your home's facts on the site. A real appraiser will look at the features of your home to decide it's worth. Now you can update your home facts in Zillow to reflect some of the things an appraisal would typically show. 

Step 1: Claim your home on Zillow

The first step to claiming your home is to register with Zillow. After you do that, you can find your home on the site and use the "More" dropdown to navigate to the "Verify your ownership" tab. The site will ask you the verify your identity 

Step 2: Correct your facts

After you've claimed your home, you'll be able to edit the information that Zillow uses to create a Zestimate by navigating to your home's page on Zillow and toggling over to the home view. They include:

  • Home type (single family, duplex, etc.)
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of baths (full, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4)
  • Lot size
  • Year built
  • Remodel year
  • Basement and garage square footage
  • HOA dues
  • Room details (like appliances, flooring, or specific amenities)

You'll even be able to put in a description of your home, a "What I love about this home" blurb, photos, and a walkthrough video. All of that can be great for marketing your home if you're trying to sell. If you're selling, the details you put in will also help your home be found more easily in searches.

For example, lots of people find a fenced in yard a must. If they include that in their Zillow search, you'll show up if you update your home profile to show that your home has these features. 

According to Zillow, your Zestimate should be updated immediately after you update your facts. However, you might not see any change if your updates didn't make a big difference in the overall Zestimate. 

More Zestimate improvements coming

If you're frustrated with your Zestimate, you're not the only one. In 2017 Zillow faced a class-action lawsuit claiming that the Zestimates misled home buyers by leading them to believe that the number was an accurate appraisal.

Zillow said the claims are meritless since they've always been clear that the number is just a starting point, not an official appraisal--and the courts agreed. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

Still, Zillow is taking steps to improve their algorithm in order to make their Zestimates more accurately match what a home is sold for. 

In 2017, the company launched a competition to crowdsource a better solution. 

The second and final round of the competition opened on Feb. 1, 2018. Once that round closes, Zillow says there will be a three-month sales tracking period to see how close the competitors' predictions came to the actual sale price of the homes. The competition is set to end January 15, 2019, and the winner will be awarded $1,000,000.