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Real estate valuation online - not very useful
Real estate valuation online - not very useful

Egal, ob Sie die Zeitung aufschlagen, im Internet surfen oder abends gemütlich fernsehen wollen. Ständig werden Ihnen Angebote zur kostenlosen Immobilienbewertung vor Augen geführt, ja fast schon aufgedrängt.It doesn’t matter whether you open the newspaper, surf the Internet or just want to watch TV in the evening. Offers for free property valuation are constantly shown to you, almost imposed.

One property - three opinions

Of course, it is tempting to “determine a property value in three minutes” and all of this for free. This attracts many property owners who want to know how much house or apartment has recently increased in value.

A self-experiment shows what the analyzes by McMakler, Check24 and Immobilienscout24 are good for.

Determine a property value in three minutes, that’s what the online platform Immobilienscout24 promises - and it’s all free of charge. This attracts many property owners who want to know how much house or apartment has recently increased in value.

The Berlin real estate platform is just one of many addresses on the Internet that use the growing demand for real estate valuations for their own business. With the three big providers Immobilienscout24, McMakler and Check24 tens of thousands of owners have their houses or apartments appraised every month. They come to very different results. The reason for this is the evaluation methods used and the data used.

In a self-test with a single-family house in Wolfsburg, I tested all three offers: once as a normal customer with a free online tool and in a second round as an official request from WirtschaftsWoche. McMakler and Immobilienscout24 each received a complete data set for the house including floor plan and development plan. A site visit under corona conditions is therefore not necessary.

Immobilienscout24: Agent reports

The main business of the real estate division of the Munich-based Scout24 Group is an online platform for real estate offers. Brokers and private individuals can place houses and apartments for rent or buy there for a fee. Potential sellers can also have their property valued on the platform - currently free of charge and soon to be paid for.

In Immobilienscout24’s free online valuation tool, I only have to enter a few values ​​such as the postcode at the location of the property, living space or year of construction. For this I get a range of 357,000 to 602,000 euros. Precise is different.

In a second attempt with Immobilienscout24, the tool asks me between entering the data and the estimation result, whether I can imagine selling the house through an agent. When I enter “maybe” there, I get an estimate that a broker will contact me for a more precise result.

I find that irritating. Instead of using the tool, I could have turned on a real estate agent!

McMakler: Self-made database

Like Immobilienscout24, the Berlin company McMakler also has a free valuation tool. It asks for the same data, but doesn’t give me a price range. Instead, the tool shows me that further information is required for an assessment. A customer advisor will contact me. I actually hoped for more. On the other hand, McMakler indirectly admits that a property cannot be precisely valued with a few data and clicks on the Internet. At least that’s honest.

Shortly after I had McMakler rate the Wolfsburg house free of charge on the Internet, a consultant got in touch with me on the phone. I explain to him that I don’t want to sell the house, I’m just a curious journalist. Otherwise, Mr. von McMakler would have offered me a more detailed assessment and a viewing appointment against further information.

However, McMakler also offers in-depth reviews. You finance yourself through possible brokerage contracts by the owner of the property being valued. For a more precise assessment, the brokerage company collects real estate data on its 290 permanent brokers and the deals they have concluded. According to McMakler, the brokers would collect up to 300 characteristics during their site visits. From this data, real estate appraisers at the Berlin headquarters calculate around 4,000 appraisals per month, according to company information.

McMakler compares the property to be valued with properties from its own database. Depending on how closely these houses are comparable to that of the customer, the broker assigns a value from 0 to 100. The comparison factors include the year of construction, the living space and the number of rooms. An algorithm then uses the suitable comparison objects to calculate the value of the property.

One property, three opinions

In order to test the more sophisticated valuation model from McMakler, I had the value of a single-family home in Wolfsburg calculated. The property with 175 square meters of living space and a plot of 671 square meters corresponds almost exactly to the average German home. It is located in the middle-class district of Vorsfelde, formerly a village with an allotment and rifle club.

The expert Hartmut Häusler from Plau am See in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has already calculated this property in an appraisal. Result: 352,527 euros. Appraisers like Häusler calculate differently than the online tools from the Internet and they use other data sources such as the property market reports of the municipal appraisal committees. In the case of single-family houses, they usually use the material value method, which works with standardized construction costs for certain types of property.

The result of the material value method is a market value which should not be confused with the price that can possibly be achieved on the market. A broker who assesses the same property would therefore usually come to a different conclusion. In the current real estate boom, many buyers are willing to pay more than the house or apartment is actually worth. Although an appraiser adapts the value of a property to the respective local market development via certain surcharges and discounts, this does not result in collector’s prices.

McMakler delivers a 19-page dossier for the Wolfsburg house. The brokerage company valued the property using two methods. McMakler comes to 432,000 euros in the material value procedure. That is 22.5 percent more than the expert Harmut Häusler calculated. Calculated with comparable prices, McMakler comes to 461,000 euros. In addition to other properties, the valuation is based on twelve comparable houses in Wolfsburg, which are shown individually in the dossier. The Berliners calculate an average value of 450,000 euros from the material value and the comparative value. An appraiser, on the other hand, would choose a procedure and not calculate an average.

Immobilienscout24 temporarily had a fee-based offer that is no longer available to users. According to the online platform, a new tool is currently being developed. A direct comparison with McMakler was therefore not possible.

Check24: Free of charge with a wide range

I then had the same property valued for free on the financial platform Check24. The comparison portal only offers free reviews on its website. The data for the calculations come from the service provider PriceHubble, which in turn evaluates various sources such as real estate portals. PriceHubble is one of the digital real estate companies, which are called proptechs in technical jargon.

Users can find the Check24 evaluation tool on its website under the heading Construction financing. For the Wolfsburg single-family house, Check24 calculates a value of 446,100 euros, almost exactly in the middle of the stated price range of 388,000 to 504,000 euros. The value calculated in this way is roughly as high as that of McMakler.

Check24’s range is a little smaller than Immobilienscout24, but still imprecise. Check24 rates the reliability of its own estimate as “medium”. PriceHubble wants to say that there is an average amount of data available for the real estate market in Wolfsburg. The more data there is, the more precise the assessment can be, says Check24.

For a fee or better not at all

My conclusion: Free evaluations of real estate on the Internet are usually worthless. They are a promotional tool for other services and a tool to collect addresses for real estate brokers. Compared to the market value determined by the appraiser, the price ranges for the free internet tools are far too high. This increases the chances that an owner willing to sell will also rely on your services when selling.

Real estate seller who wants a precise assessment has to pay for better or worse. Whether he opts for an appraiser or a broker depends on his needs. If the owner wants to know what he can currently achieve on the market for a price, a serious broker would be the right contact. However, if the person willing to sell is concerned with determining a reliable value that is independent of short-term market fluctuations, then the appraiser is the better alternative.

In both cases, an on-site inspection is essential. Of course with a protective mask and sufficient distance.