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How inaccurate are online listings? Very!

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis January 3, 2013 06:22 AM

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You can't believe everything you read, especially if it's an online property description.

That's what I found when I looked at the description of my Natick fixer-upper on several online real estate sites.

If you haven't done it yourself, you should google your home, because it is an eye opening experience.

I have come to learn that I live in a relatively large (2,100 square foot-plus) home with three bathrooms. It's amazing all that you can learn online these days - I could have sworn there are only two bathrooms here, but that's neither here nor there. I have also not been able to find that additional 300 to 400 square feet I am supposedly living in right now - that apparently has gone missing as well.

Well, what are a few inconvenient details when the big picture looks so promising. After all, if I should choose to sell now, well my honey and I could certainly make a bundle.

As it stands now, estimates my Natick fixer-upper is Back Bay worthy, with an estimated value of $418 per square foot!

No wonder there are so many deluded sellers out there.

Apparently, the super busy real estate agents who run the site haven't caught up to the fact that I renovated and expanded my Marion Street fixer-upper in 2008, so I can only imagine what the estimated value might be once they figure out that my house is no longer just 1,100 square feet, but closer to 1,800. We could be pushing a cool million at that point.

Seriously though, given the facts on my humble abode are all public record, the amount of inaccurate information floating around on various sites it's pretty amazing.

In reality, my wife and I bought what was then an incredibly decrepit village colonial back in 2002 for $280,000 and then spent $185,000 to turn it into a functional house for a family with three young children. This included an addition on back and renovations throughout the house, including new windows, a new heating system, new wiring.

OK, and I overlooked yet another online estimate of my home's worth from eppraisal,com, which apparently thinks my home is not worth half a million, but closer to $300,000.

Here's Jim-in-Littleton, who alerted me to my oversight.

I notice you didn't list the value quoted from  They list the current value of your home at $322.7K ($60K under assessed value even with the extra bath and inflated sq. ft.).   Looks like you are down $142K on your investment thusfar going by their numbers.

How much is it worth now? I really have no idea and don't really care since I have no plans to sell anytime soon. And given we have gone through the whole layoff drama with my wife's job and managed to come out in good stead - while I left the workers' paradise otherwise known as the Boston Herald to launch myself as a freelancer - nothing short of an earthquake or old age will move us on.

Anyway, it was certainly amusing to see the amount of inaccurate info floating around out there.

Redfin, Zillow, Trulia, and all mess up the number of bathrooms, - two not three - while significantly overstating the size of the house.

Redfin has a nice picture of my house, but offers no details except for a rather bizarre sales history, stating it twice sold for $1, once in 2007, and then again in 2008.

Trulia makes the same mistake, also listing a sale, for $1, in 2008. That was the year we took out a loan from the now defunct Wachovia to renovate and put on an addition, so clearly someone got confused looking at the records.

Really, about the only thing that was accurate in the various online descriptions of our humble, Marion Street abode was the photo.

I guess that was simply too hard to mess up.

Still, a more serious issue, as pointed out on the comment board, is that the tax records - which the estimates I had some fun with appear at least partly based on - may be wrong.

And if that is the case, I may be getting overcharged on my property taxes, paying for that phantom bathroom. Yikes!

Stay tuned on that one.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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