Ways To Find Out What Your Home Is Really Worth

What don't the computer models that determine home values tell you?  Well, lots and lots of things. There are so many reasons that these models are flawed . . . many obvious, many not so obvious.

If you used one of the online services to determine the value of your home, our advice is definitely don't use that information to set your selling price. These models may be wildly inaccurate, and often are.

A computer program can't physically inspect your home. It doesn't know whether unique features of your property might add to or detract from market value. It can't account for a sewage treatment facility next door, or the railroad tracks nearby with trains that blow their whistles all night. It also doesn't know that you recently added high-end finishes in your kitchens and baths and invested money in staging your property with the colors and furnishings that today's buyers are looking for.

Many online home valuation services rely on public assessment records. In many areas the tax value may be nearly three years old and may contain numerous inaccuracies (which is not uncommon). You can usually visit your county Auditor's website and look up the tax value on your home to get an idea of what the valuation models see.

A computer might compare your subject property to another property with similar square footage that sold three months ago a quarter of a mile away even if that "comparable" property is in a different, less desirable, neighborhood or school district, and fronts a highway with adverse traffic influences.  A computer doesn't know if the property was sold under conditions of duress, or sold to a family member at a 'special' price.  A computer simply does not know all the adjustments that might need to be made to a "comparable" property's sales price to make that property equivalent to your property.

There are only two ways to get an accurate determination of what the value of your home is today.

The first way is to hire a licensed appraiser.  An appraiser will come to your home, take measurements and notes, spend considerable time gathering and analyzing information about your home and your neighborhood, and provide you with a detailed report of how the value of your home was determined. The cost of an appraisal depends on the location, type of property, square footage and type of report (which is based on the purpose of the appraisal). A standard residential appraisal can cost $250-$1,000 or more, but averages around $300-$500.  Here is an example of a professional appraisal report, courtesy of Fannie Mae.

A professional appraisal report is most often ordered on residential properties by a lender after the home is under contract, or may be ordered by an attorney settling an estate or working on divorce proceedings.  Homeowners rarely order appraisals on their own.

If you want to determine the market value of your home because you are thinking of selling it sometime in the near future, then contacting a real estate agent is the way to go. A professional agent will perform much of the same processes as the appraiser, but will actually sit down with you after their market analysis has been completed and go through the report, explain how the value was determined, and answer all your questions. An agent's report is free of charge and there is no obligation.  It's a process agents perform as part of preparing to list a property.

An agent's report is usually called a Comparative Market Analysis and will contain much of the same information as an appraiser's report.  The agent will gather the information they need about your home on the initial visit.  Then they will verify public records, and compare your home to similar properties that are currently listed, under contract (pending), recently sold, expired or withdrawn from the market.  They will look at price per square foot, how your home stacks up against competitive listings, and their knowledge of the current market, whether it's a buyer's market, seller's market, or neutral.  All of these factors are important to determine the market value of your home.

Determining the best listing price and probable selling price is just one of the important things that a professional real estate agent does.

If you want to know what your home is worth in today's real estate market, please contact us anytime. One of our local professionals will be happy to meet with you, tour your home and property, and prepare a Comparative Market Analysis for you.