Zillow and other Web services and automated valuation providers can continue doing business in Arizona without having to obtain an appraiser’s license.
A three-month-long battle ended Monday when Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed legislation that 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.
Senate Bill 1291 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.
The bill passed in the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate in late June. It contains an emergency clause that makes it effective immediately following the governor’s signature.
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 an earlier statement, “Government should not be trying to deny its citizens access to information.”
Zillow had come under fire from the Arizona Board of Appraisals, which requested that the valuation and property-marketing site cease operations in the state because it lacks an appraiser license. Company and board representatives 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 June 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 President Lloyd Frink noted in the company’s blog that “In late June, the Board of Appraisal itself rescinded the letters to cease and desist.”
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.
“We believe consumers have rights to open and transparent real estate information, for free. We believe attempts to limit or restrict access to this information are not in the best interest of consumers anywhere,” Frink wrote at the company’s blog today in response to the news.
“(W)e’re extremely pleased at the passing of this bill, and appreciate the leadership shown by Rep. Michele Reagan and Sen. Barbara Leff in response to actions by the Board of Appraisal, not to mention the citizens of Arizona who insisted their legislature do the right thing. We’d also like to thank the Board of Appraisal and Vice Chair Charlie Havranek for responding quickly and reconsidering the issues at hand,” Frink added.