How Accurate are Zillow’s Zestimates?

Can you trust Zillow’s Zestimate to accurately determine the value of your home? It depends on these key factors.

Buying a home? Click here to search all homes for sale.
Selling your home? Click here for a free home value report.

Many people love to use Zillow to evaluate a home if they’re thinking about buying or selling a home. How accurate are Zillow’s home value estimates, or Zestimates, though?

Zillow uses an algorithm to determine home value, much like the algorithms used to assess the value of a large pool of mortgages bought and sold in the market. According to market research and even Zillow’s website, Zestimates can range from 5% to 25% too high or too low.

If your home is worth is $200,000 but Zillow says it’s worth $220,000, it will sound exciting, but buyers will know what the home’s true value is. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and you don’t want to ruin it by pricing your home too high just because you relied on false information from an algorithm.


Even Zillow admits that Zestimates should only be used as a starting point.


Even Zillow says that their Zestimates are a good place to start, and state on their site to “Please know that we, Zillow, do not intend for the Zestimate to replace a comparative market analysis, as they can take into account market intricacies that the Zillow Zestimate can not.”

The Zestimate simply can’t replace the market expertise of an agent like myself who studies the market all day long.

If your home is in a good neighborhood with other similar homes and you haven’t made any major home improvements over the area standard, Zillow might be close. However, if your house is in an area in a transition, has a wide variety of home types and sizes, or is in an area that’s very urban or rural, Zillow will be way off. Zillow can’t see inside your home or distinguish between a three-acre flat lot and a three-acre lot with woods, a pond, and a stream.

We offer homes on Zillow in Kettering Ohio as well!

If you’re curious what your home is really worth or you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, give me a call or send me an email. I’d be happy to help!

3 Ways Local Real Estate Websites Surpass National Websites

Why do local real estate websites matter? They hold three important advantages over national websites that I’d like to show you.

Buying a home? Click here to search all homes for sale.
Selling your home? Click here for a free home value report.

If you’re looking to enter the real estate market, are you better off using a local real estate website or a national one?

Many people want to know about the real estate market either because they plan on entering it or they’re just curious. The curious types might get some good information from national real estate websites, but there are three reasons why you should use local real estate websites to keep yourself better informed.

First, local real estate websites will have much more reliable local data. National real estate websites are designed to focus on a huge geographic area, which means little details that go into your specific area’s data aren’t taken into account.


Local real estate websites are more reliable and efficient.


Second, local websites don’t bombard you with advertisements. Because national websites make most of their money from advertising sales, you have to be prepared for a lot of annoying pop-ups or pre-loaded videos. When you use a local website, you can do your market research without a ton of interruptions.

Lastly, local websites support local professionals. Unlike national websites that sponsor professionals you have probably never heard of or are nowhere near your area, local websites will sponsor people who can help you with your real estate needs right there in your community.

If you have any questions about real estate or have any topic ideas for me to discuss in a future video, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you!

What 5 Major Shifts Will Take Place in Our Market in 2017?


A new year always brings about change, and today I want to share the five major shifts predicted to take place in our housing market in 2017.

Buying a home? Click here to search all homes for sale.

Selling your home? Click here for a free home value report.

According to a recent study conducted by the National Association of Realtors, there are five huge shifts on the horizon in 2017 for the residential housing market:

1. First-time buyers will make up over half of the 2017 home buying population. While that percentage currently hovers around 33%, it’s expected to rise next year to 52%. It’s reported that 61% of these first-time buyers will be millennials.

2. Due to the emergence of this first-time buyers market, affordability andt mortgage qualification will replace lack of inventory as the biggest national issue preventing home ownership. Since the mortgage collapse, standards to obtain a mortgage have definitely become more stringent.

3. Safe neighborhoods, more living space, and large yards will be at the top of the list for key home attributes. Many people are moving from smaller spaces. 39% are planning to buy single-family homes, 32% are planning to move into a townhome, and only 10% are interested in condos.

Despite the forecast, now is as good a time as any to sell.

4. Competition in the suburbs will heat up. 50% of all expected home buyers cite the suburbs as their main choice for housing instead of a closer commute. If you’re a buyer looking to buy, we need to get started!

5. Spring and summer will still be the hottest times to sell. However, with nearly 30 years of experience, I can tell you that now is as good a time as any to sell. Think about it—in busy times, there will be even more competition from other homes on the market. Furthermore, buyers in the market now are far more motivated.

If you’re looking to make a real estate transaction in 2017 and beyond, we’d like to apply for the job of helping you do just that. Just give us a call or visit us on the web and we can get started. We look forward to hearing from you!

What Kind of Financing Do You Qualify for?


Today I’m joined by Rick Barrick, the Branch Manager of the Bank of England Cincinnati Branch, to discuss financing options for home buyers.

As far as the types of financing that exist, the first determination of what type of loan program you use depends on your credit score. The second determination is the down payment amount. There are certain loan programs that require zero down payment, such as a USDA loan. As long as your house is qualified for a USDA loan and your credit score is over the minimum needed, then you can do a USDA loan with no money down. USDA loans, however, are only applicable to rural areas, so the address of the property has to qualify first.

USDA loans and VA loans are the main types of financing to use that require no down payment, but there are other programs available with down payment assistance. An FHA loan, for example, requires a minimum of 3.5% down, but you can do down payment assistance of 3%, so you only end up paying 0.5% down. This kind of loan is both credit score-driven and income-driven, so there are income limits that you have to meet to qualify for it.

If you have a credit score of more than 700 and put between 5% and 20% down, you can qualify for a conventional loan. If you’re a first-time home buyer, a conventional loan requires as little as 3% down. If your credit score is lower, perhaps closer to 600, you’ll probably be looking at an FHA loan, which is the 3.5% down payment standard. However, this is far from bad news, as interest rates aren’t really affected by credit scores with an FHA loan. Right now, you’re in a range of 3.5% to 4% for an interest rate. In Rick’s opinion, rates will likely stay in that range for the foreseeable future.  

The benefit to putting more money down instead of keeping it in the market is the ability to afford private mortgage insurance. By putting at least 20% down, you will avoid private mortgage insurance. If you do go under 20% down, you will have private mortgage insurance on the loan. You always have the option of getting rid of the private mortgage insurance, but that does come at a higher interest rate. An additional benefit of this is the equity you’re able to build.

If you have any questions for Rick, you can visit his branch’s website at or give him a call at (513) 229-9660.

If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email. I’m happy to help in any way I can!

The Top 10 Renovations that Are Sure to Save You Money


Buying a home? Click here to perform a full home search
Selling a home? Click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation 
Call us at (937) 432-2644 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation

Today I’d like to share an interesting video I found on HGTV. It documents the ten best renovations that you can make on your home that won’t cause you to go broke! Renovations can get expensive, but here are some ideas to help you get more bang for your buck. 

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Using subway tiles is an inexpensive way to redo your kitchen and add a retro feel to it.

9Speaking of a retro feel, using vintage furniture and fixtures can look and feel great on your wallet. 

8. You can create an ‘art wall’ by collecting used wood. This hand-crafted, old-school look is sure to impress your guests.

7Instead of ripping out your hardwood floors entirely, just replace the ones that cannot be used anymore. Lacing new boards in with old ones has an eye-catching look.

Changing the knobs on your cabinets and doors can create a whole different feel in a kitchen.

5Instead of updating your entire bathroom, just refinish your tub. It makes everything else look new again.

4Painting your home by yourself can be a huge money-saver.

3. Hiring a good Realtor can save you money as well. They know how to negotiate deals and get you the best price on a home that you’re buying or selling. Talk to me about this!

2. Waterproofing your roof can save you tons and tons of money down the road. Being proactive about major structural issues in your home is always a good idea.

1. The last couple saved nearly $20,000 renovating their home because they knew a good mill-worker. While I can’t promise that you’ll save that much, I do know good contractors that can offer you discounts on their services!

So, there you have it. Ten easy ways to save money while renovating your home. While these are all great ideas, I’d prefer if you spoke with me before you went about ripping up your house.

Not all renovations are necessary if you’re trying to get top dollar before a sale. Often times the most expensive renovations will not make you the most money back – if you get any money back at all.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about this video, or if you have any Dayton real estate needs!

What Common Mistakes do Sellers Make?

Looking to buy or sell a home in Dayton, Ohio? Click here to perform a full home search, or if you’re thinking of selling your home, click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation so you know what buyers will pay for your home in today’s market. You may also call us at (937) 432-2644 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation to answer any of your real estate questions.

Today, let’s discuss some common pitfalls that home sellers fall victim to when they are not prepared. So, what are some common home selling mistakes?

Overestimating your home’s value
Often times, sellers rely too much on automated home value sites to get their home’s value, instead of talking to a valued professional and getting their personal opinion. 
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Choosing the wrong upgrades
Some improvements simply won’t net you enough profit on your home sale for it to be worth it. It’s really important that you make those key, minor fixes that are going to allow your home to appear its best during showings

Sabotaging your own deal
By neglecting certain practices, many home sellers are missing out on selling their home quickly. If you don’t have your home staged to sell, many buyers will have a hard time picturing themselves and their family in it. We provide a 75 point checklist to all of our clients so they know what they need to do in order to get their home ready to sell. 

Not listening to the initial market response
In our opinion, this is the biggest mistake sellers make. How the market perceives your home in its first 30 days is key to its sale. This is when buyers, who have been waiting and waiting for a good home, are going to come out and look at yours. Buyers are always looking for that home that is fresh on the market.

How do we help our clients avoid these pitfalls? By providing an in-depth equity evaluation to look at the market, property, and tax trends to make sure you have a complete picture of your home’s value. This, combined with honesty and promptness, makes sure you are ahead of the game. 

If you have any questions for us, make sure to reach out to us via phone or email. We’d love to answer them for you!

4 Important Factors Not To Overlook In Your Next Kitchen

If there is one thing I have always stressed in real estate, it is the importance of a great kitchen. It’s on nearly everyone’s must-have list, and rightfully so. That’s where the parents go when it’s time for dinner, where the kids go when it’s time for a snack, and where the dog hangs out, praying for something to drop onto the floor. Don’t fool yourself, everyone cares about the kitchen.

In the past, I have talked a lot about the importance of kitchens and have even offered advice about kitchen trends, such as this one about alternatives to granite countertops: Still, though, there are so many pieces that go into a well-designed kitchen.

Today’s kitchen trends are most notably about granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and custom kitchen cabinets. This is why when we’re watching television or reading an article in a magazine, many home buyers look for those three factors and then move right along; it’s not that easy. Here are 4 important factors not to overlook when renovating your kitchen or searching for your dream kitchen.

1. Go for that “traditionally modern” look.

It is easy to get sucked into the “totally modern” desires we see on television and in the latest design magazines. It’s true; a lot of modern design tips are big improvements over traditional kitchens, but not necessarily all of them. Try to balance modern and traditional styles to make your kitchen current, but also homey.

One modern style is to opt for non-wooden kitchen cabinets, such as stainless steel, to give the kitchen a more “sleek” look. Do you really want to live your life like you’re in a scene from The Matrix? Wood cabinets are still very desirable and people enjoy the homey feeling of well-carved wooden cabinets. (Insider Tip: Try to avoid Honey Oak. They’re a little too traditional.)

2. Make sure stainless steel appliances are what you want.

Professional kitchens have been using stainless steel appliances for many years. They have a long lifespan and they are easy to clean, so what’s the problem? If that’s what you want, then there is nothing wrong with stainless steel appliances. They are all the rage right now, and they will probably stay in style for at least a little while longer. Something to consider, though, is the fingerprints.

We’ve all had that car that we go the entire winter season without washing. It’s cold outside: sue me. We’ve also had friends, kids, or other family members write “CLEAN ME” on our back windshield through the several layers of dirt. Stainless steel appliances are similar in that they show fingerprints very prevalently. If you have children that are going to make finger paintings every time they open the refrigerator door, make sure you’re okay with the mess or the constant upkeep of wiping them down.

3. Opt for the backsplash.

Backsplashes are definitely in right now, and they can provide a lot of added value to your kitchen. Most importantly, we are all crazy about having an open kitchen, and a backsplash can provide the visual sensation that makes the kitchen is its own, separate space without the walls enclosing it.

There are many different styles, the most popular being tile, that can bring some character to your kitchen. Try to stick with natural colors that tie your cabinets into your countertops. Also, though, don’t be afraid to splash some color into your backsplash for personal preference.

4. Really think about the layout.

Sometimes you’re so busy looking at the style of the countertops, color of the cabinets, and type of flooring that you fail to think about probably the most important aspect of your kitchen: functionality. Imagine that you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen and think about how far away the refrigerator is from the oven. Are you going to be able to entertain while cooking? Is the pantry in a corner that will bother you when your kids come to raid it?

This can sometimes be easier to visualize when renovating your own kitchen because you’ve probably thought about the things you dislike most about your kitchen beforehand. Look at where the storage is in your current kitchen. Where would you rather have it? Renovating or buying a new home provides you with the opportunity to finally fix these problems, so don’t be distracted by the fancy granite!

Now that you know what to look for, I hope you treat your kitchen renovation or home search like your chance to start fresh. Look at the small details even more than the big details, because only you know what you want. If you’d like some help in searching for your next kitchen, check out to speak with one of our buyer specialists and to see current homes listed in the Dayton area. If you want some advice on renovating your own kitchen, click the “Contact” button above and I am happy to provide our recommended contractor list to you or even do a value assessment of your newly renovated home. Have a wonderful day, and happy cooking!

Has the Real Estate Market Recovered?

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Looking to buy or sell a home in Dayton, Ohio? Click here to perform a full home search, or if you’re thinking of selling your home, click here for a FREE Home Price Evaluation so you know what buyers will pay for your home in today’s market. You may also call us at (937) 432-2644 for a FREE home buying or selling consultation to answer any of your real estate questions.


There are two key factors real estate professionals look at to determine what kind of market we’re in: absorption rates and mortgage applications. So, what’s the Dayton market looking like?

  • Homes for sale: 9,000 homes
  • Homes sold: 1,300 a month on average
  • Inventory: 7 month supply (price declining market)

What do these numbers mean for you? Well, our market is still struggling a bit, but it is improving. For example, just a few years ago we had a 12- to 14-month supply in just about every market we were in. When looking at it that way, we have seen a huge improvement overall.

The bad news is we’ve seen mortgage applications decline over the past few months. We think this might have something to do with the rise of interest rates or low buyer confidence. Either way, it’s not something we like to see.

Regardless of current conditions, there is never a bad time to buy or sell. It all comes down to working with an agent who knows how to make things happen. There are still extremely motivated buyers out there and sellers now have less competition to deal with, so things are looking up for both sides.

If you have any questions about how you can make a profitable move in our current market, give us a call or shoot us an email. We would love to help you maximize your real estate transaction!

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The Sweet Side of Real Estate: Cookies

While much of my advice is aimed towards buyers, sellers, and homeowners, today I am going to cover one of my favorite things: COOKIES! Cookies are one of life’s greatest treats. Will Ferrell once said, “Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions.” I have to think that cookies are a close second.

Wait a minute, Denise; cookies have nothing to do with real estate!

That may be what you think, but cookies play many roles in the real estate world. Albeit some of them are absolutely ridiculous, many of them are rational and delicious (unintended rhyme).

Cookies play a role in each step of the home-owning process, whether you want to believe it or not. I will explain my logic and give you some examples of how you could employ “cookie tactics” to sell your home.

Those of you that know me well know that I love sharing recipes with friends, family, and past clients alike! So, I will conclude by sharing one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes to assist you in your real estate adventures.

Step 1: Selling Your Home

Let’s assume that you already own a home and are looking for an upgrade on  You have found a couple of suitable options, but you need to sell your home first. For those that believe in pampering potential buyers, cookies are a staple that have been used for years to entice people at showings. However, MSN Real Estate recently reported on how free cookies at your showing have no effect on whether or not your house will sell.

Okay, that one is pretty believable. However, there is plenty of evidence that suggests cookies do have an impact on your open house or showing, but in a different way than you would imagine: scent marketing. That’s right, free cookies may not affect how appealing your home is, but baking some chocolate chip cookies beforehand can leave your home smelling like heaven. Many realtors use this tactic as it leaves people thinking about home and imagining living and cooking in the environment.

Step 2: Buying Your Home

As I mentioned before, many realtors employ “cookie tactics” for different reasons. Some of them like to provide a free snack for interested buyers, others like to leave properties smelling like fresh cookies, but what about when you buy your new home and get settled in? Some realtors will send small gifts to past clients, but you’re forgetting something very important!!

After you have successfully moved into your house, it will just be you, your house, and your neighbors. Oh yeah, the neighbors! What better way to make a great first impression with your neighbors than to drop off some freshly baked cookies?

Step 3: Living in Your Home

Oh boy, my favorite! Cookies are great anytime of the year. Sugar, chocolate chip, peanut butter, you name it, and you could be adding that extra touch during Christmas time, fall, Halloween, Easter, and many other times of the year! But with so many family recipes, commercial recipes, and pre-made options, how do you know which cookies are the best?!

Recipe Time!

This recipe can be found by following this URL: Made famous by Alton Brown on his television show Good Eats, this recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies that are to die for! I know, I know, what makes them the best, Denise?! Using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour provides extra glucose, making the cookies chewy and dense instead of light and airy. That’s my kind of cookie.

This week’s post was a little different, but I hope you enjoyed it and give those cookies a try, you won’t regret it. There is much more to real estate than just buying and selling all the time. Try to find some fun in the process! That being said, if you would like to come in to the office and talk about your real estate goals, click the “Contact” button above, and I might be able to arrange some cookies for the meeting. I can’t make any promises that they’ll last all day though, this office loves their sweets!

3 Trends to Keep You Ahead of the Real Estate Market

The Real Estate Market is constantly changing; you don’t need an expert to figure that out. As I have talked about in previous blogs, designing tips such as choice of flooring, kitchen countertops, or paint colors have all drastically changed in the past several years. How do you stay ahead of the game to make sure your home is always at the forefront of new trends?

The answer is research and a few weekends you can set aside every year. Watching television, reading magazines, or subscribing to blogs (such as this one!) are all great ways to stay current on your information. You can pick up easy tips that will make your home more inviting and on the cutting edge of the industry. More important than getting your HGTV fix, if you are serious about continuing to invest in your property value, you have to be willing to make some changes to your home. Making small changes will keep your home from being passed up when you decide to make your next move.

So, how do you know which trends are facts vs. fiction? This can be hard to determine. Just because you know some guy that put a hot tub in his kitchen down the street, doesn’t mean you should follow suit. My best advice to you is to keep tabs on things you hear, and then see if they are still happening a few months or even years later. My point is: you don’t need to be the first one with a hot tub in your kitchen. It might be cool now, but some trends disappear faster than Silly Bandz (too soon?).

Without further ado, I have three trends that I believe are the safest to commit to as of October 2014.

1. Technology Savvy Homes

The iPhone 6 just came out and people are already thinking about what the iPhone 7 will be able to do. Technology is always a safe bet when making changes in your home. Let’s face it, even your grandparents can’t go a day without Facebook. You have probably seen the television commercials of the mobile apps allowing people to turn their water, lights, and furnace off before locking the front door, all while they are driving down the road. Apps like this have been on the rise in the past year or so, and they show no signs of slowing down. Even if you prefer to lock your own door, something as simple as installing window blinds controlled from your phone can be enough to show that guy with the hot tub what new technology looks like.

2. Home Offices

What’s so great about a home office? Okay, I’ll admit, a home office isn’t going to make your home jump off the page, but this is a feature many of today’s homebuyers have on their must-have lists. Technology makes it possible for almost anyone in any occupation to work from home. Some people permanently work from home now because they don’t need to be in the office. Even if your home doesn’t have a designated office space, taking your smallest bedroom and making it a little more formal can show potential homebuyers that the space can be made into whatever they need it to be.

3. Personal Fitness

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you probably know that personal fitness is huge right now! Running, jogging, walking, and biking are bigger than ever and potential homebuyers will keep this in mind when looking at your home. Is your home close to any bike paths or nature trails? Is your neighborhood exercise friendly with plenty of sidewalks? If you answered yes to either of these questions, use it to your advantage! This can be a major selling point. If not, don’t worry, you can still sell your house. Maybe you have an awesome basement that could be great for a workout space or you live really close to a gym. Health and wellness are trends that are going to stick around for a while, so get your house in shape.

In the end, these are just a few of today’s most popular real estate trends. Keep your eyes and ears open, and try to work on your home a few times a year with fresh ideas. At Denise Swick and Company, we are always willing to give advice about home projects or other ways to increase your property value. If you are interested in buying a house with these features, click the “Contact” button above and our buyer specialists will start their search for your trendy home today. Check out current homes for sale on to get some more ideas or see what is available now! And if you find a house with hot tub in the kitchen, let me know. I might have a buyer…