Zillow faces lawsuit over ‘Zestimate’ tool that calculates a house’s worth

 

Zillow faces lawsuit over ‘Zestimate’ tool that calculates a house’s worth

It was bound to happen: A homeowner has filed suit against online realty giant Zillow, claiming the company’s controversial “Zestimate” tool repeatedly undervalued her house, creating a “tremendous road block” to its sale.

The suit, which may be the first of its kind, was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by a Glenview, Ill., real estate lawyer, Barbara Andersen. The suit alleges that despite Zillow’s denial that Zestimates constitute “appraisals,” the fact that they offer market-value estimates and “are promoted as a tool for potential buyers to use in assessing [the] market value of a given property,” shows that they meet the definition of an appraisal under state law. Not only should Zillow be licensed to perform appraisals before offering such estimates, the suit argues, but it also should obtain “the consent of the homeowner” before posting them online for everyone to see.

In an interview, Andersen told me she is considering bringing the issue to the Illinois attorney general because it affects all property owners in the state. She has also been approached about turning the matter into a class action, which could touch millions of owners across the country.

In the suit, Andersen said that she has been trying to sell her townhouse, which overlooks a golf course and is in a prime location, for $626,000 — roughly what she paid for it in 2009. Houses directly across the street but with greater square footage sell for $100,000 more, according to her court filing. But Zillow’s automated valuation system has apparently used sales of newly constructed houses from a different and less costly part of town as comparables in valuing her townhouse, she says. The most recent Zestimate is for $562,000. Andersen is seeking an injunction against Zillow and wants the company to either remove her Zestimate or amend it. For the time being, she is not seeking monetary damages, she told me.

Emily Heffter, a spokeswoman for Zillow, dismissed Andersen’s litigation as “without merit.” A publicly traded real estate marketing company based in Seattle, Zillow has been offering Zestimates since 2006. At present, it provides them for upwards of 110 million houses, whether for sale or not. Type in almost any house’s street address, and you’ll probably get a property description and a Zestimate. The value estimates are based on public records and other data using “a proprietary formula,” according to Zillow.

The Zestimate feature is the cornerstone of Zillow’s business model because it pulls in millions of house shoppers, allowing the company to sell advertising space to realty agents. Zillow makes big money with the help of its Zestimates: In the first quarter of this year, it reported $245.8 million in revenue — a 32 percent jump over the year before — including $175 million in payments from “premier” agents, who pay for advertising.

But there’s a flip side to Zestimates. Homeowners, realty agents and appraisers have been critical for years about the valuation tool, citing estimates that too often are far off the mark — sometimes 20 percent or 30 percent too low or too high — and misleading to consumers. Zillow itself acknowledges errors. Nationwide, according to Heffter, it has a median error rate of 5 percent. Zestimates are within 5 percent of the sale price 53.9 percent of the time, within 10 percent 75.6 percent of the time and within 20 percent 89.7 percent of the time, Zillow claims.

A Zestimate “is not an appraisal,” the company says on its website, but instead is “Zillow’s estimated market value” using its proprietary formula. Another way of looking at the Zestimate error rate: Roughly one quarter of the time, the value estimate is off by 10 percent or more of the selling price, and wrong by 20 percent or more 10 percent of the time. The 5 percent median error rate may sound modest, but when computed against median sales prices, the errors can translate into tens of thousands of dollars — hundreds of thousands in high-cost areas. Also, in some counties, error rates zoom beyond the 5 percent median: 33.9 percent, for example, in Ogle County, Ill., and 10 percent to 20 percent in a handful of counties in Ohio, Maryland, Florida, Oklahoma and Illinois.

Some appraisers are cheering Andersen’s suit and welcomed the idea of state-by-state legal challenges. “They’ve been playing appraiser without being licensed for years, and doing a bad job,” said Pat Turner, a Richmond appraiser. “It’s about time they got called on it.”

Riverside County Migration Patterns show plenty of income coming and going

 

$92,559 is highest annual income moving to Riverside County. Where’s it coming from?

Contra Costa County provided Riverside with 136 new taxpayers — with an average 1.72 dependents — who had an average federal taxable income of $92,559.

PUBLISHED: May 10, 2017 at 12:01 am | UPDATED: May 11, 2017 at 9:15 am

Riverside County migration patterns show plenty of income coming and going.

IRS filing data for 2015, the latest figures available, details how many taxpayers came from, or relocated to, Riverside County and what level of adjusted gross income was on the move.

Where were the big dollars moving? Contra Costa County provided Riverside with 136 new taxpayers — with an average 1.72 dependents — who had an average federal taxable income of $92,559. That’s the county that sent Riverside the highest per-filer average incomes in 2015.

Here are the other counties with the highest-paid taxpayers who came to or left Riverside County.

Coming to Riverside from …

  • Santa Clara County: 204 filers with an average 1.88 dependents and income of $83,137
  • New York County (Manhattan) : 176 filers with 1.64 dependents and income of $79,455
  • Snohomish (Washington) County : 166 filers with 1.81 dependents and income of $78,163
  • King County (Seattle): 190 filers with 1.78 dependents and income of $66,842

Compare that wealth to typical inbound movers. Countywide, 38,159 filers came here from around the state and nation with an average 2.09 dependents and income of $49,256.

Leaving Riverside to …

Contra Costa County : 153 filers moved with an average 1.88 dependents and income of $86,948.
Pierce County (Tacoma): 133 filers with 2.04 dependents and income of $58,677.
Orange County: 4,653 filers with 1.95 dependents and income of $57,920.
Alameda County: 212 filers with 1.50 dependents and income of $57,363.
San Bernardino County: 7,032 filers with 2.15 dependents and income of $54,611.

Across Riverside County, 35,353 filers left with an average 2 dependents and income of $50,222.

When you look at income migration on a state-by-state basis, IRS data show California gaining the largest per-filer average incomes in 2015 from Connecticut at $127,017; District of Columbia at $102,704 and New York at $102,681. The largest departing incomes went to Florida ($113,488); Delaware ($105,090) and Vermont ($102,621).

Seattle, Detroit, Baltimore Best for Recent Grads

 

Seattle, Detroit, Baltimore Best for Recent Grads

For recent college graduates, Seattle, Detroit, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh are some of the country’s best places to live, according to new Trulia research released on Wednesday. Trulia used real estate listings on its site, as well as job postings on Indeed.com, to determine the “sweet spots” that offer both good jobs (ones appropriate for recent graduates) and in-budget housing (properties that a recent graduate could presumably afford).

About 6 percent of young college graduates moved locations for a new job last year—more than four times the amount of all adults in general.

“These educated young adults are particularly prone to move for a job or a job search,” Trulia reported. “Whereas just 1.4 percent of all adults moved in the past year to take or look for a new job, 6.2 percent of young college grads did.”

Ultimately, Trulia found, the markets with the most job opportunities and the highest earning potential are the most out-of-budget for recent graduates. These areas include Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Houston, New York, and San Jose, California. Still, there are some metros that are affordable and offer a decent job market for a young grad.

“The bad news is that the local markets with the most opportunities for young grads are among the least affordable,” Trulia reported. “The good news is that some lower-cost markets also offer numerous opportunities for recent grads, though not as many as the priciest markets. While there’s no place that offers the magic combination of extensive job opportunities and easily affordable housing (and if that place existed, it probably wouldn’t stay affordable for long), we found six metros where you can spend a bit less on housing without giving up too much on the job options.”

Detroit came in at No. 3 in terms of living affordability, while nearly 42 percent of listings in Dayton, Ohio, meet the typical new grad’s budget. In Seattle, Trulia revealed, nearly 24 percent of all job listings are appropriate for new graduates, while Baltimore has a strong job market and Hartford, Connecticut, offers great median income.

Pittsburgh offers the best of both worlds, according to Trulia. It ranks No. 17 in affordability and No. 37 for jobs.

The Hot New Millennial Housing Trend Is a Repeat of the Middle Ages

 

The Hot New Millennial Housing Trend Is a Repeat of the Middle Ages

Communal living is hardly a departure from tradition—it’s a return to how humans have been making their homes for thousands of years.

For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They lived in large camps, depending on one another for food, childcare, and everything else—all without walls, doors, or picket fences. In comparison, the number of people living in most households in today’s developed countries is quite small. According to the Census Bureau, fewer than three people lived in the average American household in 2010. The members of most American households can be counted on one hand, or even, increasingly, one finger: Single-person households only made up about 13 percent of all American households in 1960. Now, that figure is about 28 percent.

Belonging to a relatively small household has become the norm even though it can make daily life more difficult in many ways. Privacy may be nice, but cooking and doing chores become much less time-consuming when shared with an additional person, or even several people. Water, electric, and internet bills also become more bearable when divided among multiple residents. There are social downsides to living alone, too. Many elderly people, young professionals, stay-at-home parents, and single people routinely spend long stretches of time at home alone, no matter how lonely they may feel; more distressingly, many single parents face the catch-22 of working and paying for childcare. Living in smaller numbers can be a drain on money, time, and feelings of community, and the rise of the two-parent dual-earning household only compounds the problems of being time-poor.

It wasn’t always like this. Living arrangements have been changing for thousands of years, and the concept of the nuclear family originated relatively recently. Even as the economy has moved away from the sort of agricultural labor that would encourage large households, people still have just as much of a need for the support of friends, family, and neighbors. Perhaps that is why so many people today—from young coders to lonely septuagenarians to families—are experimenting with communal living, a way of life that, whether they know it or not, echoes how things worked for most of human history. This sort of experimentation is all too appropriate at a time when, for the typical American child, having two married parents is on the decline, and there is no longer a single dominant family structure as there was a half-century ago.

Tens of thousands of years ago, all living was communal. Being a hunter-gatherer meant being free of many of the distinctions that govern life today. “There’s no division between your social life and your private life,” says Mark Dyble, a postdoctoral researcher at University College London who studies modern-day hunter-gatherers in the Philippines. “Your whole life is open to other people. There’s no way to be isolated.” The hunter-gatherer camps Dyble studied, whose members change week by week, consist of anywhere from five to 18 deeply interdependent “households,” each usually made up of parents, their children, and perhaps another relative or two. These households are involved in virtually every aspect of each others’ lives.

While relatives often stick together, these families are anything but self-sufficient. “A chimp mother is capable of feeding herself and her offspring. That’s not the case with humans,” Dyble says, pointing out that human children take a long time to mature and take care of themselves. “By our biology, we are obliged to have support from others. You couldn’t survive as a single-family household among hunter-gatherers.”

The Middle Ages, when homes were essentially gathering places for small groups of revolving residents, represent a conceptual midpoint between hunter-gatherers’ living arrangements and those common today. As the historian John Gillis described in his 1997 book A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values, people in medieval Europe lived with a mix of friends and extended family. At that time, single-family households were uncommon in most of the world, and Western Europe became, around the 12th century, one of the first places where households were organized around monogamous couples and their children. But these households still didn’t look much like today’s nuclear families. In addition to parents and their children, medieval households frequently included various townspeople, poor married couples, other people’s children, widows, orphans, unrelated elderly people, servants, boarders, long-term visitors, friends, and assorted relatives.

On top of that, people moved constantly among houses. “Home was the place that sheltered you at the moment, not the one special place associated with childhood or family of origin,” Gillis writes. Single people sometimes ran households, and marriage was not as narrowly defined as it is today. Most kids spent time living away from their families, especially as teenagers. Living with strangers was common, and locals would often treat houses like public property. “People entered without knocking, even without acknowledgement,” writes Gillis. “It was often difficult to tell which family belonged where … In big as well as little houses, the constant traffic of people precluded the cozy home life we imagine to have existed in the past.”

By the 1500s, the idea of a household as a father, a mother, and their biological children caught on among Europe’s new urban middle class, at least as something to strive for. This “godly household” owes a lot to the Protestant Reformation, in which religious leaders started rejecting the Catholic Church as the center of life and replaced it with a domestic divine: the father as a stand-in for God, the mother for a priest, and the children for congregants. It’s around this time that nativity scenes became popular, emphasizing Jesus’s role as a member of a nuclear family rather than as a lone preacher.

For all its popularity as a comforting idea, the godly household was hardly common 500 years ago. It was completely unrealistic for most people to find the time, money, and resources to run a household on their own. Even those who did usually had big households full of unrelated people; they relied on the larger community far too much to survive as a single-family unit.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that people began drawing a sharp distinction between family and friends when it came to who they lived with. So, during the latter half of the 19th century, the godly family started to take shape in reality. Industrialization made extended communities less vital for earning a living. When societies were mostly agricultural, production was centered near the home, and families needed all the labor they could get to run the farm during busy seasons. But as industrialization took hold, people started leaving home to go to work, commuting to factories and, later, offices. Something communal was lost, and by the early 20th century, industrial efficiency permitted a lifestyle of domestic privacy: Households shrank down to nuclear families, much more closed-off from relatives and neighbors than ever before.

* * *

Homeownership is still viewed as a central component of living out the American dream, but the ways that many present-day Americans are pushing back on modern living arrangements closely resemble what came centuries, even millennia, before in other parts of the world.  Family members, relatives, neighbors, and strangers are coming together to live in groups that work for them—a bit like medieval Europe. “Today, all across the nation, Americans are living the new happily ever after,” writes the social psychologist Bella DePaulo in her 2015 book How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century. “The ‘new’ part is that people with whom they are sharing homes and lives are not just spouses or romantic partners.”

Instead of limiting their households to children, parents, and grandparents, plenty of people are going a step further, making homes with friends and even strangers. Cohousing, in which a large community lives together and shares household duties, is gaining popularity. In cohousing, individuals or families generally have their own houses, bedrooms, or apartments but share things like kitchens and community spaces. They’ll commonly trade off on responsibilities like cooking and chores. Milagro Housing, for instance, is a cohousing community located in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. There, families, couples, and single people live in 28 homes in a tight-knit community that shares a kitchen, laundry room, library, meeting room, playroom, and storage rooms.

And Milagro Housing isn’t all that unusual; the Fellowship for Intentional Community, an organization that champions communities “where people live together on the basis of explicit common values,” lists 1,539 cohousing communities around the country, some already formed and others in the process of forming. That’s likely a low estimate, since plenty of shared-living communities aren’t reported to any national databases. While some residents hire developers to build cohousing villages from scratch, most have turned already-existing houses and apartments into shared communities.

Cohousing has shown itself to be a useful living arrangement for groups of people with all sorts of priorities. In Silicon Valley’s hacker houses, dozens of computer programmers, most of them very young, bunk together while they work at start-ups or on their own projects. The website CoAbode links single mothers who want to live and raise children together. In Los Angeles, about a dozen young adults live together in one large house called Synchronicity LA. There, they make art together, hold salons, divide up chores, and trade off cooking communal meals four days a week. “It really feels like living in a big family,” Grant Hoffner, a longtime Synchronicity resident, told me.

Cohousing models can get pretty creative. In Hope Meadows, a neighborhood near Chicago that DePaulo describes in her book, retired people live together with at-risk foster kids. There, retired folks, many of whom used to describe their lives as boring and lonely, raise the kids together. And in Deventer, a town in the eastern region of the Netherlands, that model is flipped: Some college students there live in nursing homes alongside elderly people, who they socialize with and assist with various chores.

The modern cohousing movement began in Denmark in the 1970s, and there are now more than 700 “living communities” in Denmark alone, according to DePaulo. In each, dozens or even hundreds of Danish families live in homes built around shared spaces and common houses. “The residents wanted to see each other over the course of their everyday lives, and be there for each other in ways large and small,” writes DePaulo. The idea spread to several other countries, and Sweden even has a number of state-owned cohousing buildings, each populated by hundreds of residents. And that’s just this particular brand of shared living; 120,000 Israelis live in communal villages called kibbutzim, which originated about 100 years ago.

Developers are starting to see how appealing cohousing is to some people. Commonspace, for instance, is a company that designs and runs apartments consisting of about 20 small units around a common area occupied mostly by young and single people, sort of like a dorm for adults. The first distinctive cohousing setup in the U.S. was built by developers 25 years ago, but the concept hasn’t gained much traction, as there are now only 160 American cohousing communities built from scratch. Perhaps that will change as developers court young people who envision a lifestyle different than the one they’ve inherited from the 20th century.

Among other things, many residents are drawn to the company that cohousing offers, which DePaulo says is the main reason people choose to live like this. Cohousing can feel a bit like summer camp, with people always around to talk to and spend time with. But it also provides deep support systems. “If someone is hospitalized, cohousing friends are there to visit,” writes DePaulo. “When a cohouser is ailing at home, neighbors show up with chicken soup and the latest news from the community.”

One anthropologist DePaulo interviewed decided to live with more people after being unhappy on her own, even though her boyfriend lived nearby and she had some friends in her building. “I would come home and cry,” Leanna Wolfe, the anthropologist, told DePaulo. “I was just so lonely.” She wasn’t the only one: Americans have fewer close friends than they used to. Since 1985, the number of Americans who have no friends to confide in has tripled, reported a 2006 American Sociological Review study.

In addition to the sense of community it builds, there’s an obvious upside to shared living: saving time and money. In a typical American house or apartment, individuals or small families are in charge of each meal themselves. But cohousing communities can divide up cooking schedules. Many residents only cook once a week and come home to cooked meals everyday.

One of cohousing’s biggest draws is that it eases the burdens of child-rearing. It takes a village to raise a child, as the saying goes, and most modern-day parents could use the help. Among the Efe, a group of hunter-gatherers in the Congo, some infants more than three weeks old spend 80 percent of their time with someone other than their mothers. By comparison, the majority of American communities are designed to keep people apart. “I like to think of dwellings as people: If a group of people wanted to get to know each other, they would not line up facing each other in two straight, rigid rows, too far apart to really see anyone else clearly,” writes DePaulo. “That’s how houses are arranged on many conventional streets.” Under other housing models, a village really could raise a child.

DePaulo argues that it would be particularly helpful to integrate cohousing into public-housing policy. “People who work on housing for the poor have to deal with people’s whole lives,” she argues in her book. “They can’t just give them a place to live and forget about them.” Keeping rent affordable is the foremost concern for people in charge of managing public housing, but cohousing can fill in other difficulties of living without much money: Splitting cooking, childcare, and household expenses can save lots of time and money. For these reasons and others, Danish and Swedish governments have long supported cohousing. American governments (especially local ones) could do the same, perhaps by converting abandoned hotels into mixed-income cohousing, building affordable shared-living buildings, or even just by connecting interested locals and helping them refashion their neighborhoods into something that better fosters community.

Humans have never lived the same way for long, and many people are finding today’s urban and suburban neighborhoods, which are based on an idealized version of home that is by now hundreds of years old, to be lacking. Humans may never return to the days of having strangers and distant relatives dropping in to live for extended periods of time, but it’s clear that a group of people are tapping into the past that John Gillis wrote about: “Until well into the nineteenth century, heaven was represented not as a community of families but as one large community of friends.”

City of Riverside – INNOVATION DISTRICT

INNOVATION DISTRICT

DANAriverside | DANA | Development Projects pg 4

For Riverside, the Innovation District is envisioned to be (at least):

Uniquely Riverside/Authentic

Rooted in Local Assets

Community-Based

Arts, Culture, Heritage, Health/Wellness,
Environment, Education, Technology,
Information, & “Makers”-Driven

Inspired by the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Highly Walkable, Bikeable, and Transit
Supportive

Office of the Mayor

Phone: (951) 826-5551
Email: 2Mayor@riversideca.gov

UCR  CERT

Alta Vasquez

Phone: (951) 781-5791
Email: avasquez@cert.ucr.edu

Map Reveals What the Cost Obsession Is in Your State

~ I always find these funny and interesting. ~

Map Reveals What the Cost Obsession Is in Your State

Everyone worries about how much things cost. But what you worry about depends on where you live.

Cost obsessions mapFixr

Fortunately for the voyeur in us all, Google reported the top cost-related search terms for each state in America, and Fixr created a handy state map based on the data.

The results are surprising (or maybe not so surprising):

  • In California, “facelift” is the most-searched cost-related term.
  • In Nevada, it’s “prostitute” (prostitution is legal in parts of the state outside Las Vegas).
  • In Colorado, it’s “weed” (marijuana is legal in that state).

Other search terms are more perplexing. Here are five of them and possible explanations:

1. North Dakota: “a minor”

a minor in north dakotafixr

People searching for the cost of “a minor” are likely not involved in child trafficking. Instead, they are probably searching for the penalty fee for being a minor in possession of alcohol.

North Dakota has one of the highest rates of binge and underage drinking in the country, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

2. Alaska: “gallon of milk”

milk in alaskafixr

The price of a gallon of milk is a good measure of the overall cost of living in a state, which can be higher in Alaska because of its remote location. Alaskans pay exorbitant prices for food in general (e.g., $16 for breadsticks).

The high cost of living in Alaska has inspired people to document the shocking prices, as in this video of a shopping trip in Bethel, Alaska, that garnered almost 215,000 views on YouTube.

One of the featured items is the product in question: A gallon of milk, which appears to cost a whopping $7.99. To put this in perspective, the average cost of a gallon of milk in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive American cities, is $2.42.

3. New York: “pound of weed”

pound of weed in new yorkfixr

This search term reflects the plight of New Yorkers who live in one of the 25 states that have legalized medical marijuana yet still restrict its sale.

In order to obtain medical marijuana in New York, you must have a serious condition such as cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease. Patients who qualify are “only allowed to use tinctures and oils, which can be vaporized, inhaled, or consumed orally in capsules,” Vice reported. “Smoking or growing marijuana is still strictly forbidden.”

Since medical marijuana in New York only comes in a non-smokable form, it makes sense that people are buying weed illegally and searching for the cost. The cost of an ounce of weed in New York, $341, is slightly more than the national average of $324, probably because of the status of legalization in the state.

4. Arizona: “vasectomy”

ArizonaFixr

The reason Arizona residents are so curious about the cost of this reversible sterilization surgery for men might have to do mostly with the age of the population there.

The average age of a vasectomy patient is 41, although ages range from 22 to 72. Arizona has one of the oldest populations in the country.

Men who get vasectomies are not representative of the general male population and instead typically are “non-Hispanic and white, well-educated, married, relatively affluent, and privately insured,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Arizona lines up with that description: Arizona is 84 percent white, compared to the United States as a whole, which is 77.7 percent white.

Here’s why police are telling people to replace the screws on your front door

~ every little bit helps ~

 

Here’s why police are telling people to replace the screws on your front door


door-screws-fi

When Mariana Harrison bought her first place, her father came over to help her settle in. When he arrived, he had a drill and some priceless advice. Mariana shared this advice in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.

burglar-front-house-dark

A burglary takes place about every eighteen seconds in the United States. That adds up to nearly 200 per hour, and approximately 4,800 every day. These are startling statistics, but they highlight the fact that burglary is a crime you need to be aware of. The good news is, you can protect your home just by changing out the screws in your door!

 

Einbrecher an einem Fenster

Mariana shared her father’s advice on social media: “My dad gave me this advice a long time ago when I moved into my first apartment. He even came out and changed the screws for me as soon as I moved in. A good home security tip that you may have never thought about. Most contractors install the plates with the supplied screws which are only a half inch long and come out with one kick by a burglar.” Make sure your family is safe from harm!

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-4-11-52-pm

 

“He installed 4 inch screws in their place that go through the door frame and into the framing of the house. They can kick for a long time before they get tired! You can see in the picture the screw in his hand is the screw supplied with the door hardware. Making a burglar make a bunch of noise and be foiled in their initial plan can not only give you time to arm yourself but they will most likely move on to an easier target.”

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