By Julie Watts

(CBS 5) –, the popular real estate website known for its instant home appraisals, has changed its way of calculating those values. The change is catching some homeowners who frequently check the instant snapshot of what their home is worth, by surprise.

“We’ve updated our algorithm to reflect the fluctuations in the market,” said Zillow’s Amy Bohutinsky. The change has reduced the margin of error on Zillow’s ”Zestimates” from 10% to 7%., according to Bohutinsky.

The new algorithm, which remains a closely guarded trade secret, has sent Zestimates in all directions, some up, some down. Bohutinsky said Zestimates are just a starting point in any serious calculation of what a home is actually worth.

Real estate experts advise homeowners should take the values on Zillow with a grain of salt and seek further corroboration.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (3)
  1. Bill says:

    Zillow tells homeowners that this is not serious and just for entertainment, but banks and mortgage lenders import Zillow values into their systems, reviewing loan portfolios, etc.. When a bank denies someone a home loan, it’s not just fun anymore. Who gave Zillow the authority to apply “secrets” to the US housing market?

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