Lawmakers on Monday took action to make sure that Arizonans will be able to receive free estimates of their value of their homes.
The House agreed without dissent to block a state agency from preventing homeowners from getting such an estimate.
State representatives spelled out that an Internet Web site that gives a free opinion on the value of real estate is not engaged in “appraisal.” The stipulation, crafted by Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, was tacked on to SB1291, which makes various changes in state appraisal laws.
That measure already had been approved by the Senate. But that vote took place before the Arizona Board of Appraisal sent a letter to Zillow.com, a Seattle-based company that offers free estimates of home values across the nation, ordering it to shut down.
According to the state, Zillow.com engages in the practice of appraising property, something that can be done only in Arizona by those who have been certified as qualified by the board.
But Reagan, who chairs the House Commerce Committee, said the agency is overreacting to a nonexistent problem.
“I don’t see why a state board would be trying to limit information to consumers,” Reagan said. “Giving consumers information shouldn’t be illegal.”
Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, said the appraisal board “needs to be reined in.”
The Web site allows users to input any address and get what the company calls a “Zestimate” of its value — a figure the company believes is the approximate market value.
Deborah Pearson, the board’s executive director, wrote to the company, saying state law prohibits anyone other than a licensed or certified appraiser from doing anything that might appear to be an actual appraisal of the property.
But Lloyd Frink, the company’s co-founder and president, said in a statement that the Zillow.com Web site clearly states that the value provided is not an appraisal. Instead, it says it is a “starting point in determining a home’s value,” based on a computer model.
Reagan’s amendment, if it becomes law, would make it clear there is no violation as long as the valuation is referred to as an “opinion” and not as an “appraisal.”
Frink said his Web site has estimates of the value of more than 50 million homes nationwide.