Do you “Zillow?”

Back in October 2010, I wrote about a cute 3-bedroom foreclosure I’d bought. (“And Speaking of Fortunes Being Made”  October 2010.)  Before buying it, I went to to check the values of the other homes in the neighborhood.  Zillow is a large, excellent website that contains lots of interesting information about real estate across the country. 

When I checked out the home I was buying (listed at 30K) I found the others around it were valued between 80-85K — wonderful!  Zillow also showed other homes listed for sale in the area, comparable homes.  This house was truly a bargain, so I bought it, put about 5K in it, and am renting it out for $825/month.  It’s giving me an excellent return on my investment and I’m thrilled.  (After putting it on Craig’s List, several interested parties contacted me and it was rented quickly.  No problem!)

I recently read through that Zillow is going to start estimating rental prices for homes and apartments, whether they’re available for rent or not.  Interesting!  With all the foreclosures over the past few years, the rental market is strong, and will continue on that path for the next few years.  Thus far, about 90 million homes are listed for rental estimates on the site.  Zillow plans to include rent “zestimates” for about 70% of all US homes and apartments.  I checked my little foreclosure to see if it was listed for a rental amount and it wasn’t.  (But the value estimate was 88K — yippee!  Great investment.)

These numbers will be valuable not just for the person looking for a rental, but for the homeowner who is moving and doesn’t want to try and sell their home in this down market.  Why not rent it for awhile, make some income on it, and sell later, when the prices rebound a bit? 

So, for those of you who are buying, renting, investing or thinking about jumping in, check out Zillow.  It’s legit, and there’s a lot of good information there, now including approximate rental values . . . the wave of the future.

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