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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

HouseFront Offers Home Values by Text Message

Move over Zillow... HouseFront.com offers a new AVM you can easily take with you!

If you have a cell phone with text messaging, you can text the address of any U.S. home to 46873 (HOUSE).  Within a minute or so, you'll receive a text message with all kinds of information about that home, including:

  • Property Owner's Name
  • Estimated Value Range
  • Number of Bedrooms
  • Number of Baths
  • Total Square Footage
  • Year Built
  • Lot Size
  • Last Sold Date & Price
  • 1 year Area Trends including Appreciation Rate, Average Sale Price & Price per Square Foot

The information you actually get may be different based on the area where the house is located (it depends on availability of public record information).  But this is a great tool for when you're out looking at houses.  Perhaps you see an interesting property for sale that wasn't on MLS and you or your clients want to know more about it.  You can call the number on the 'For Sale' sign, which usually results in a voice mail and is not helpful.  Or you can use your cell phone and HouseFront.com to find out the square footage and other information immediately, without viewing the home or the MLS sheet.  Even without the list price, the square footage and other data provided by HouseFront can help you determine whether or not that property is a possibility worth following up on.  I would guess that HouseFront.com will be offering 'for sale listings' similar to Zillow, so perhaps the list price will also be provided in the text message if the homes is for sale.

Many of us have cell phones or PDA's with internet access these days.  But with such a small screen and slow load time, most websites are pretty useless to mobile users.  Even with higher broadband speeds, I rarely use the internet on my Treo unless I need directions while I'm away from home.  Or if I have a really long wait somewhere, I may use it to watch the news or look at the stock market.

But text messaging gets used by many.  In fact, I read an interesting statistic about the number of adults who use text messaging - I can't remember the exact numbers, but it was a staggering percentage and the article said that adults, NOT teenagers, are the fastest growing demographic when it comes to text messaging.  I always thought texting was more of a teenage fad (it is in my house anyway - my kids literally text thousands of messages per month to their friends - I don't even know how they type so fast on the cell phone keypad!  I just thank God for unlimited text messaging plans!).

But like Zillow.com, the real test of how useful HouseFront.com will be is accuracy.  I did a test of my old house in Gilbert, AZ and it seems pretty accurate.  I expected it to give me the same values as Zillow since they both rely on public records data.  However, I was surprised to see that HouseFront.com came up with a lower, closer to reality value than Zillow did.  I also tested my current home in Mesa, which is 4301 square feet, but public records shows it as 2939 square feet (they didn't assess the basement square footage for some reason).  Because of the incorrect square footage, Zillow's Zestimate is incorrect by approximately $150,000.  HouseFront.com also has the incorrect square footage, number of bathrooms and bedrooms.  Yet, somehow it still came up with a closer to realistic value range.  It was higher than I think my home is worth, but closer than Zillow.  I then tested a few homes that don't even come up in Zillow, and HouseFront.com gave me value ranges very close to what I came up with based on MLS comps.  I'll have to play with it a little more before I can say for sure that it's more or less accurate than Zillow.  And of course, no AVM will ever be able to replace a Comparative Market Analysis provided by a real person (i.e. your friendly neighborhood Realtor®!).

Most people thought Zillow was pretty cool when it came out, and if it was accurate, I agree that it would be pretty cool.  But Zillow's Maricopa County "Zestimates" are usually not accurate in my opinion.  In fact, I believe Maricopa County Zestimates are significantly inaccurate more often than not.  I believe this is because they get their information from public records.  The Maricopa County Assessor's Office has a several month delay in recording real estate sales, which is troublesome since you should never use a comp that's more than 3 months old when determining the price of a home.

For more information, here are some other BlogArizona articles related to Zillow and AVM's:

Visit Shannon Hubbard's Home Page     Written By: Shannon Hubbard

Great American Realty, Inc.

Cell: (480) 695-6672
Email me

Posted by Shannon Hubbard, AZ Realtor & Computer Guru on April 25, 2007 | Permalink



Great information. Wow. I'm impressed that the estimates actually check out.


Posted by: Shailesh | Apr 25, 2007 4:19:06 PM

Great blog Shannon. Happy that you like the service. Here is a nice and mostly useless facts about text messaging: 18 billion texts were sent in December of 2006.

We think text messaging will increasingly become a tool for consumers, not only in real estate, but in many industries. Did you know that after you send a text to HOUSE, you can log onto our website and view a saved database of the texted address as well as every other one you have ever done? Great research tool.

By the way, you are on point about needing a professional to give you a true value for a home as well. Nothing can replace a realtor's expert opinion.

Take care,

Ryan Boykin

Posted by: Ryan Boykin | Apr 27, 2007 11:46:26 AM

Hi Ryan-

"18 billion texts were sent in December of 2006."

Useless fact maybe - but very interesting to me. About 3,000 of those 18 billion text messages were sent by members of my family (more specifically, my kids!). Thanks for stopping by BlogArizona!

Posted by: Shannon Hubbard | Apr 27, 2007 2:48:54 PM

Ha. LOL. We talked to an investor when we were getting this thing off the ground and he had no idea what text messaging was. Three weeks later, he came to us and told us he found out what it was by looking at his phone bill. His daughter had sent over 4,000 that month. Unfortunately he didn't have an unlimited text message plan. I think she got cut off...

Take care!

P.S. I am sitting with my mother, a marketer, and she loves the HouseFront tool but is also concerned..."Is there any freaking privacy left in this world?!"

Ryan Boykin

Posted by: Ryan Boykin | May 7, 2007 1:16:25 PM

Ryan - your mother is correct about her privacy concerns and I have similar concerns myself. But that's just a drawback of living in the information age! The way I look at it, this information is already out there and available to anyone who wants it. New tools are just making it easier for the average person to access the info.

Posted by: Shannon Hubbard | May 8, 2007 10:41:15 AM


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