I recently attended a conference on Big Data as it relates to the real estate industry. The keynote speaker owns a company in the U.S. that has an enormous amount of information about homes and their owners across the country.
If you are a member of his website, you can enter any address across the U.S. and pull up when it was purchased, how much is left on the mortgage, how many kids live there, what the annual household income is. It also has, shockingly, links to the owners social media webpages and sometimes even their email and cell numbers.
This may be disturbing to you – I know it was for me. Thankfully in Canada we have stricter privacy laws so companies like this have not been able to operate at this scale (although there are still some pretty scary apps out there!).
The argument for this, from a business perspective, is that companies who want to market their services can obtain information based on huge statistical analysis that can help them target their marketing. An example he gave was that, based on their data, homeowners first start looking for a moving company 21 days prior to their move. So if you are a moving company, you don’t want to be delivering your flyer to them 22 days before their move.
But do any of us really want a knock on the door from a realtor saying “My data shows you may be getting a divorce – would you like to sell your home??”
Another company that was discussed is Zillow, which is a huge U.S. real estate website. On Zillow, you can input your address and it will give you a “zestimate” on what your house is worth.
Although there may be some value in this kind of information for homeowners that are loosely considering plans to sell at some time in the future, if you want to know the real value of your home, I believe it’s important to discuss your plans with a real estate agent that has their boots on the ground.
Numerical values such as square footage, age of the house and number of bedrooms & bathrooms are important factors in valuing a home. But there are certain intangibles that can’t be assessed by algorithms – how bright the house is, how well-maintained it feels, how much wasted space there is, any undesirable odours in the house, what the neighbour’s yard looks like, the amount of road noise. The list goes on.
A realtor can also help you assess the best timing for making a move, which can include sensitive family issues as well as economic factors. Bob and I both believe in the human side of real estate. Yes, we want you to get the best financial deal you can! But we also understand that life has a lot of moving parts and we will work with you to fit all of the pieces together!