(Editor’s note: Bank of America no longer offers the HomeWorth service detailed in this 1998 story)

People who are wondering about the value of a home can get an online answer in seconds through Bank of America’s Web site.

The HomeWorth Service is an interactive program that allows people to pull up last sales date and price, square footage, construction year, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and other details on properties in 24 states.

How does it work? Just pop in the address of a home and in less than a minute a profile of the property appears, as well as information about a similar property located within a half mile.

A valuable tool

The service is targeted to home sellers and buyers and people who are considering refinancing or applying for a home equity loan or line of credit. It could even help lower property taxes, Bank of America says. A detailed report listing comparable properties near a home could be sent to a local tax assessor’s office when requesting a lower property assessment.

“It’s not just snooping. It truly helps you set the value of your home,” said Jim Bruene, editor of the Online Banking Report. “It’s a valuable tool. It could be worth thousands of dollars to you.”

The information is provided by San Diego-based DataQuick Information Systems, an Acxiom company. DataQuick collects and compiles the data from public records on file with county recorders and assessors.

“This is an example of a tool or information that we can give our customers or any visitor so they can make better and more informed decisions,” said Karen Shapiro, vice president and online channel manager with Bank of America’s Interactive Banking Division. “This information isn’t readily available elsewhere.”

Details available for a fee

In addition to the free property profiles, consumers are given the option of ordering a more detailed report for $9.95. The report lists as many as 30 nearby homes or condominiums that sold in the past year.

HomeWorth was launched March 13. Since then, “We’ve had thousands of requests,” Shapiro said. “A lot of people are looking at the free information and a subset are buying the full report.”

She would not comment on how the service would be affected by Bank of America’s merger with NationsBank. Bruene estimates that the banks, when merged, will have more than 1 million online customers.

Experts say consumers can expect more interactive features like HomeWorth on bank and financial service Web sites.

“You’re going to see more and more experimenting with the Internet,” said Navtej Nandra, vice president in the financial services group for Booz Allen & Hamilton in New York. “People want more and more value-adds.”

BofA building whole new business

Nandra said financial service companies with sites on the Web fall into two groups: those who see the Internet as just another access channel and those who are working to build a whole new business around the Internet. He said Bank of America falls into the latter, more aggressive category.

He also expects the more aggressive financial service companies to follow Bank of America’s lead and tie products such as mortgages with tools like Home Worth.

The reason? It drives more potential customers to the bank’s Web site. Online Banking Report’s Bruene agreed.

“It identifies Bank of America to people shopping for a home. And it gives Bank of America first crack at them.” 

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