13 ingenious real estate tips from Zillow's CEO

Real-estate site Zillow has been collecting information about the residential real estate market for a decade. It’s learned a ton about how houses are priced, bought, and sold.

Now, the company has taken what it’s learned and put it into a book.

We got a copy of “Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate” by Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and chief economist Stan Humphries, and scoured it for some of the most useful tips on buying and selling a home.

Buy a home near a Starbucks.

A Starbucks is a great indicator of a neighbourhood that is undergoing gentrification, which means rising housing prices.

Zillow looked at a decade's worth of data on home prices versus Starbucks locations, and found an amazingly tight correlation. In the last 17 years, the average American home has appreciated 65%. But properties adjacent to a Starbucks have appreciated 96%. To check the data, it looked at houses near Dunkin Doughnuts, and found that Starbucks really is different. It also found that houses within a quarter mile of a Starbucks appreciated more in the last five years (21%) than houses just slightly farther away (17%).

Don't renovate your kitchen to increase the value of your house.

Kitchen renovations are not a good return on investment: Zillow found that every dollar spent on a kitchen renovation only increases the value of the home by 50 cents.

If you want a new kitchen, buy one for yourself -- not as an investment.

NEVER use the word 'unique' in a listing.

Using the word 'unique' in a home listing can make the house sell for as much as 50% less than expected, Zillow has found.

Why? Because the word 'unique' tends to be code word for 'this house requires a lot of work.' Save the word for describing snowflakes!

Also avoid 'charming,' 'quaint,' and 'cute.'

All are code-words for 'small.'

There are a ton of other words you should avoid, too, especially anything hinting that the house is a 'fixer' or needs a little 'TLC.'

So what words should you use?

People apparently love the words 'impeccable,' 'gentle,' and 'remodeled' -- as in, you've already done the work for them. Descriptive words that hint at a new kitchen like 'granite' and 'stainless' also help.

Put your home on sale in late March.

Zillow's analysis of four million homes listed on the service shows there's a peak in newly listed homes in late February and early March, a peak in agent contacts in May and July, and a peak in sold homes in June.

So why list in late March? Because it's after the peak of listed homes, so they don't get lost in a mass of other listings. Zillow found these houses sell faster and for more than 2% more than the average listing.

Homeowners have less sex than renters.

Toward the end of the book, Zillow shares some statistics about homeownership gathered from Gallup survey. Perhaps the most surprising? Homeowners in almost age groups have lower rates of weekly sexual activity than renters. The only exception is the 'over 60' age group, which showed no difference.

Of course, as Zillow warns, correlation is not causation, so selling your house and starting to rent won't necessarily improve your sex life. Although at least you won't be arguing in bed with your significant other about the cost of that deck renovation, so maybe....

Now, see which cities offer the best opportunities....

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