From time to time I will happen upon a site that I believe deserves praise for the information it provides … at no cost, and the ease with which you can navigate its contents.

Zillow.com is, very simply, a real estate valuation tool. Type your home address into its search field and, in seconds, the site will provide you with a host of information ranging from an estimated property value and square footage to the year it was constructed. The site also provides an aerial photo (courtesy of Microsoft’s Virtual Earth), estimated taxes as well as the last sale date.

The site generates its information on over seventy million homes on a county by county basis. Naturally, not all county municipalities carry matching data and in some instances the estimates are provided as a range. The site will, however, let you know how complete the data is for the area you’re searching in. My guess is that the site originated as a tool for the real estate trade and has broadened to the consumer market with close to 1.7 million page views per month. And yes, it accepts advertising.

Want to know what your neighbor’s home is worth? Can’t wait to drop the “confidential” information on that house that sold in the Hamptons last month at the next cocktail party? Want to explore the value of your own home or NYC condo in today’s market and put it up for sale? Zillow it!

While the sale of a home is a matter of public record and is accessible with a simple visit to a town clerk’s office, most owners would rather the information be kept private …. or as private as possible and not necessarily open to broad public view “on demand”.

Although home values rise and fall with the country’s economy, the digital revolution has forever changed its landscape.

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