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Property Values: Computers Versus the Human Eye

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo

Want to know the value of a house? There are plenty of online resources to help you find the answer, including popular sites like Zillow. But KPLU's John Maynard wants to know whether online sources for property values are enough to go on.

Seattle real estate appraiser Richard Hagar says it's important to keep in mind that many online real estate sites primarily depend on county property tax records. So if the county records are not up to date or accurate, then it's likely the valuations from online sites will be a little off, too.

Also, says Hagar, county records and computer programs don't take everything into account.

"What if the house was recently remodeled and got bigger? What if the house across the street added another story and blocked the view? What if the heavy rains warped the floors? These things can influence the value of a property and they don't always show up in computer programs," he said. 

What to do? Hagar recommends using all the resources out there to get the true value of a house. Online is fine, he says, but it shouldn't be a substitute for  getting a property checked out by a human being.

"Stuff happens," says Hagar, "and a good walk through by someone who knows what to look for can really make a difference."