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Why an online appraisal isn't the best choice for your home

You might think that an online appraisal can save you money and get you an answer quickly. While that might be true, an online appraisal can actually falsely inflate your home's value, and that can seriously impact your divorce.

Why is there a discrepancy? The first reason is because the online appraisal ignores the interior condition of your home. If you recently added new flooring or a new kitchen, those additions will not be considered in an online appraisal. If you added a pool or a balcony, those might be considered, but you'd still need to double check that they are identified on the online appraisal.

There's also a margin of error that is much too high to be accurate. The website Zillow, which offers online appraisals, states that it has a margin of error of 7.9 percent. In a case where you're trying to decide on your home's value for the division of your assets, 7.9 percent is a major difference.

Based on Zillow statistics, only around 40.9 percent of homes in Santa Cruz sold within 5 percent of the online estimate. In San Francisco, that number dropped to 28.8 percent.

If a home is worth $200,000, there is a $10,000 margin of error. In a divorce, $10,000 can be the difference between negotiating for more or fewer assets.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, so it's important to get an appraisal in person. You and your spouse may want to get one together or have two that you can compare.

Source: Divorce and Your Money, "3 Reasons Online Appraisals Can Falsely Inflate Your Marital Home Value," Shawn Leamon, accessed Dec. 30, 2016

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