The Pitfalls of Using Zillow Home Estimates in Divorce and Property Division
If you and your spouse own a home together and are going through a divorce, that home may be your largest asset. In a divorce proceeding, the goal is to equitably distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties. When you are determining how much your home is worth, many people use the popular website Zillow to determine the value of their property. Although Zillow is a simple way to obtain the value of your home, it is not always accurate. In Broward and Palm Beach Counties, where many factors play into the value of a home (school districts, convenience to major highways, etc.), it is always better to have a professional appraise your home. A qualified family law attorney will assist you in hiring a professional appraiser and will ensure that your assets are fairly distributed between you and your spouse.
Why may using Zillow be a bad idea? Relying on a Zillow estimate in mediation or in negotiations with your spouse may result in your forfeiting money on your side of the equitable distribution ledger. For example, using Zillow, you may estimate the value of your home as $200,000.00. Based on that estimate, you agree that you will keep the $200,000.00 in a bank account and your spouse will receive 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the home. This seems to be a fair distribution of the assets. But how will you feel if the net proceeds from the sale of your home turn out to be $300,000.00, not the Zillow-estimated $200,000.00. By agreeing to the exchange (bank account for house), you have shorted yourself $50,000.00 that you would be entitled to had you not made that agreement.
Although this example may be extreme and your qualified family law attorney would have advised you against an agreement of this nature, this example demonstrates the potential problem of relying on a Zillow estimate. It is important to be aware of your financial situation and the worth of your assets, however, it is equally as important to hire an experienced and qualified family law attorney who will make sure that you do not fall prey to the common pitfalls of a home valuation in a divorce proceeding.