Real Estate Insider Blog

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Are Sites Like Zillow Reliable When Estimating Your Home's Value?

In this day and age, it's not surprising to learn that we now have websites capable of estimating your home's value like Zillow. On the surface, it may sound like a great resource for determining home prices, but in reality, can a computer database hope to compare to the knowledge, experience and professional training of real estate agents?

About Zillow

Zillow is a company that provides free real estate valuation services for residential homes and rentals. The company is located in Seattle and was founded by two Microsoft executives; Lloyd Frink and Rich Barton in 2006. Today, Zillow operates and updates a database featuring 110 million houses in the U.S.

This data is intended to be helpful to consumers looking for information about home selling, buying, financing and renting. One of the main purposes of their business is to provide estimates of the market value of homes using Zestimates.


A Zestimate can be used as a tool for both sellers and buyers trying to determine the value of a home. The company claims, these estimates are a good base for determining the value. Unfortunately, many folks using the website fail to remember or understand that this is truly just a starting point and not necessarily the real market value.

According to the site, Zestimates are calculated from user-submitted data and public sources. Data collected may include:

  • Previous selling prices of the house
  • Selling prices of nearby homes
  • Some market...
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A Closer Look at Pinellas County Schools

When looking for a new home, the quality of local schools is an important consideration. Even if you don't have children now, you might someday, or the future buyers of your home will be a family that will have education at the top of its search criteria. There are over 250 schools in Pinellas County at the present time, and some areas are much better choices than others in this respect. Luckily, the northern part of the county has some of the highest-performing public schools in the district. Here is a breakdown of the best areas in Pinellas County regarding quality public education.

Palm Harbor Schools

Hands down, the best public schools in Pinellas County are in the Palm Harbor area. Several of the top-rated schools here are Ozona Elementary, Palm Harbor Middle, and Palm Harbor University High School. This thriving suburban community offers its residents a strong sense of community and many choices in quality homes. Its prime location, with easy access to Clearwater and the Gulf beaches, makes living in Palm Harbor appealing to many.

East Lake Schools

After Palm Harbor, the East Lake area has some very high-rated schools as well as many choices in affordable homes. Located to the west of Lake Tarpon and north of Tampa Road, East Lake includes the large East Lake Woodlands development as well as many other smaller home developments with generous amenities. The top-rated schools in East Lake include Cypress Woods and Brooker Creek...

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How are Mortgage Rates Affecting Buying?

There is good news to report for both buyers and sellers at the start of 2016. When mortgage rates were raised by the Federal Reserve in December for the first time in almost a decade, many assumed that end was near for record-low mortgage rates. So, far this hasn't been the case.

Mortgage Rates and Real Estate

What we are currently seeing in the mortgage market tells us that the Federal Reserve isn't the sole determinant of U.S. mortgage rates.  According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year mortgage rate fell for a fourth straight week to 3.79%.   Rates on 15-year fixed mortgages have also dropped to 3.07%.

While some adjustments in mortgage disclosure rules slowed down closings at the end of 2015, the market was able to adapt and end the year on a high note. According to the most recent report by the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing homes increased 14.7% in the last month of 2015. According to the same report, homes are moving faster as well. The average days on market in December was 58, down from an average of 66 the year before.

As favorable mortgage rates continue to make homes affordable, we can expect to see first-time home buyers and repeat buyers both show interest in home ownership and gain loan approvals more quickly. Whether you are looking to buy or sell a home, right now is an excellent time to be in the real estate market.

Tampa Bay Real Estate

Locally, the Tampa-St. Petersburg market...

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The initial estimate of fourth quarter US GDP released recently has confirmed that the country is experiencing a slight economic slowdown. This should come as no surprise. We've seen the manufacturing sector continue to suffer from a strong dollar, while the energy sector has been hurt by the low price of oil. What's more surprising is that consumer spending, which has helped power US growth over the past few years, moderated in the fourth quarter.

So what, if anything, is working for the US economy? One area of continued strength is the housing sector. Recall that housing was the epicenter of the global financial crisis nearly a decade ago. It experienced a sluggish rebound for years but is well on the path to recovery at this point. It has been helped along by ultra-low interest rates, which have translated into historically low mortgage rates. This has, in turn, helped counter the more strict credit conditions that have persisted since the crisis and has helped result in a solid increase in home prices, of course with variations by region.


Home Prices Trend Upward

The November Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) House Price Index, released last week, showed home prices are up 5.9% year-over-year. Similarly, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose an impressive 0.9% in November, on the heels of solid gains of 0.8% and 0.6% in the previous two months, respectively. Also, the Case-Shiller Index indicated significant breadth, with all 20...

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