He’s typing in your address as we speak. He’s scanning satellite photos, homing in on your bedroom window. No, we’re not talking about phone records. But your colleague, your boss, maybe even the intern – any one of them could, right this minute, be nosing into your net worth.
“I call it real estate porn”, says Bradley Inman of Inman.com. "You know, real estate's become an obsession."
With one click of the mouse anyone can find out the value of your home or what you paid for it years ago. Today, they have yet another way to do it with the launch of move.com -- the latest in a series of sites providing a wealth of information about real estate to Web surfers.
“We want to give the consumers the best data but then make sure that they understand the importance of connecting with a real estate professional to really get an accurate valuation. says Move Inc.’s Allan Merrill. "We don't think there's a computer program that could be written that's going to tell consumers exactly what their home is worth.”
Move.com is really a portal into the already existing realtor.com -- a marketing strategy designed to dress up and add on to what is already the largest realty database. It too offers a new appeal to the prying eyes that are turning home valuator Zillow.com into the biggest party game since charades.
“It's kind of a fun parlor game but at a point you understand directionally that those answers are interesting but they're not very precise”, says Merrill.
This is because of teh age of the data and market volatility. But even in a real estate market where everyone’s screaming bust, home values are still a booming curiosity. Home prices are up 50 percent over the last five years and in that same time housing climbed from 24 percent to 34 percent of household assets; it’s all creating a new jones for keeping-up-with-the-Joneses.
“We love to find out what's the price of the home of our ex-wife or ex-husband”, says Inman. "Also how much is the boss really, what's his house really worth. So I think there's a curiosity here, but it's more than anything else our obsession with real estate."
Buyer and snooper beware. Many of these sites are based on old tax appraisal records that don’t reflect additions and renovations. I just zillowed my own house and it says it’s worth $20,000 less that I paid for it. Now that can’t be right... can it?