It’s up to Arizona’s governor to decide the fate of a bill that would clearly exempt automated home-valuation Web sites from appraiser licensing requirements in the state, as long as those sites provide clear disclosure that their estimates are not appraisals.
The Arizona House of Representatives voted 55-4 Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 1291, which followed a 28-0 state Senate vote on Monday. The bill contains an emergency clause that would make it effective immediately with Gov. Janet Napolitano’s signature.
The legislation provides that any “Internet Web site, automated valuation or other software program or other means of comparative market analysis” does not need to be licensed as an appraiser in the state in order to provide property-value estimates.
The bill also exempts from licensing requirements a “natural person, a corporation through its officers or a partnership through its partners that gives an opinion of value of that person’s or its own property and does not receive special compensation for the transaction if this opinion is not referred to as an appraisal.”
And licensed real estate brokers or salespersons who offer price opinions on properties do not require licensing as appraisers “if this opinion is not referred to as an appraisal,” the bill text states.
Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, the chairwoman of the House Commerce Committee who offered the amendment to the legislation providing licensing exemptions for valuation Web sites, said in a statement, “Government should not be trying to deny its citizens access to information.”
Valuation and property-marketing site Zillow.com has come under fire from the Arizona Board of Appraisals, which has requested that Zillow cease operations in the state because it lacks an appraiser license. Company and board representatives have engaged in discussions about the board requests, and Zillow has continued to offer value estimates for properties in Arizona.
Senate Bill 1291 “became necessary when the Arizona Board of Appraisal threatened to shut down Zillow,” according to a Tuesday announcement by Reagan. “The Arizona Board of Appraisal sent two cease and desist letters ordering Zillow.com to stop offering its free service in the state. The board is also considering suing the Seattle-based company … (and) the board asked the Arizona attorney general to prosecute Zillow.com” for offering automated home-value estimates.
While Zillow is just one of several Web sites that offer real estate value estimates online — other examples include Cyberhomes.com and RealEstateABC.com — Zillow is reportedly the only company to receive the cease-and-desist letters.
Deborah G. Pearson, executive director for the Arizona Board of Appraisal, could not be reached for comment.
Zillow’s Web site provides a statement noting that its value estimates, called Zestimates, are not appraisals and should not be used in place of appraisals.
Zillow president Lloyd Frink said in a statement, “We are very pleased that the Arizona Legislature has passed SB1291, which protects Zillow and other automated valuation models from laws regulating appraisals. We will continue to provide the people of Arizona with open and transparent real estate information.”