While there are websites that will provide an idea of your home's value (www.zillow.com is one example), they are not a substitute for a BPO or appraisal if there is real concern about having un-exempt equity. If a Trustee is really considering going after a property, they would likely consult a real estate agent, broker, or appraiser they have worked with before to give them an idea of a home's value.
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There's no "official" place or source that trustees use to value real estate. They may start with zillow.com like the rest of us. But if it gets "down to it" and they want to know more accurately, they'll get realtor comps and probably later, if necessary, a professional appraisal if it comes down to a hearing before the judge about the value of the property.
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Generally bankruptcy trustees will initially look to standard home valuation websites like www.zillow.com to determine valuations. Depending on the value, relative to how much is owed on the property (ie. if there is equity), a trustee may seek either a real estate professional's opinion or (in rare circumstances) a full appraisal. If your home has equity or is close to having equity, you may seek the advice or opinion of a real estate professional/appraiser so you have competent evidence to base your value (and therefore exemptions) on. I hope this helps you. If you have any additional questions, feel free to visit my website and email my firm. www.NewChapterLaw.com
I would be very careful about using an on-line appraisal unless you are very familiar with the real estate market in that particular area. You have to be careful about real estate values in bankruptcy. I can not stress this enough! It is often very, very important that you have a broker's price opinion or an actual real estate appraisal before you file the bankruptcy. You must be certain of the property value before you file otherwise you may be placing your home in jeopardy. Please consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney before attempting to file. It is much easier to go to the hearing prepared and sure of the result than to try and fix a problem afterwards.
Most Trustee's start with www.Zillow.com to find value. I also like www.eppraisal.com, with this site they will give you the Zillow values also (In most cases). In some cases I will recommend that an AVM is ordered. Automated valuation model (AVM) is the name given to a service that can provide real estate property valuations using mathematical modelling combined with a database. Most AVMs calculate a property’s value at a specific point in time by analyzing values of comparable properties. Some also take into account previous surveyor valuations, historical house price movements and user inputs (i.e. number of bedrooms, property improvements, etc.). These usaully run between $25 - $75. But if you are in a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7 and you want to remove a lien from your property then in most cases a full appraisal will be needed.
Zillow, eppraisal, and tax assessed value are the three most common resources I've seen attorneys use to get a quick valuation for a home. If these resources cause you to question whether your homestead will be exempt, you should call a local and experienced bankruptcy attorney to get another perspective.
Zillow.com is the go-to site, and works like 90% of the time. Beware, though, if the zillow valuation is really close to, or less than, the amount secured against the property, the trustee will probably look to another source. Also keep in mind, zillow assumes that the property is perfect and needs no work done. Rule of,thumb: zillow works unless it doesn't work for you (c)
In the bankruptcy petitions that we prepare we are required to submit the most recent City Assessment of the property. However due to the unsteady real estate market here for the past 4 in each of our cases. The property values run higher with the Zilo estimates. Rarely are they challenged.
I do know that particular trustees do have professional realtors that help them with specific properties. Rarely do we ever have to pay for an appraisal.