How Do I Know What My Home is Really Worth?

The market value of your home will be an important consideration in several decisions you might make, including refinancing, borrowing against the home's accumulated equity, putting the home up for sale, estimating homeowner's insurance, estimating annual property taxes, estimating the return from remodeling jobs, estate planning, and so forth. Remember, how much was paid for the home when it was first purchased is irrelevant to its current market value.

It's a good idea to use several different sources for information-gathering to allow you to make fair comparisons. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Contact a real estate agent. You might not be ready to sell immediately, but most agents will do a comparable market analysis for you now so that they can obtain your business when you do decide to sell. The analysis will show the prices of both sold and still for sale comparable, local homes. A seasoned agent can give you a good approximation of what your home would be worth in current local market conditions and in consideration to its condition and size.
  2. Pay for an appraisal. A professional appraisal won't likely be free of charge. In fact, it's likely to cost a couple hundred dollars. That said, it could be worth it when you consider how many decisions are based upon the value of your home. The appraiser uses the information he/she obtains from physically inspecting your home and other data he/or she obtains from the market to issue an appraiser's report. The report will include what criteria was used to arrive at the appraised value and a full description of your home.
  3. Visit open houses in your neighborhood. You'll get the opportunity to see for yourself how comparable homes compare. You may also learn some valuable information as you inevitably chat with attending local real estate professionals. You should, however, be mindful that the listing price doesn't necessarily reflect a real market value. This is because many people find it hard to be objective about their own homes' value and will price them how they personally value them, even against their real estate agent's advice, instead of how they should be priced in relation to the market.
  4. Research home valuation online. There are an array of websites offering either free or for-fee information on home valuation.
  5. Price-per-square-foot is a common real estate valuation tool, especially online. However, don't forget that there are plenty of other factors that contribute to a home's value aside from square footage, as tiny, costly apartments in New York can attest. In other words, be sure to consider factors like whether the home is move-in-ready, recent updated, where it's located, and other non-personal factors. Another consideration is how the square footage is calculated — with or without detached buildings, garages, and other typically non-living spaces.

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