What’s My Home Worth?

With real estate prices swinging wilder than a pendulum on steroids over the past few years, the question on every homeowner’s mind today is – What’s my home worth? 

Maybe you’re not an owner, but a buyer – you still are obviously asking the home value question.  If you’re looking to refinance your home with current low rates, or, maybe you need to pull some equity out of your home for college tuition – the question will still arise – how much is my home worth?

My first suggestion to you – take a deep breath, step back and realize that regardless of the answer a) There’s not a lot you can do about it today; and, b) Everything will be alright – eventually. 
Ok, back to the question of the value of my home. Let me offer four easy and very do-able steps you can begin taking today to find your answer. 
Your four fundamental steps to begin answering the question of how much is my house worth? Include:

  1. Start with your home assessment to determine the value of homes in your area. Most assessor’s office or appraisal district data is on line these days, and the search process is pretty simple to follow. If not, call your local office and ask for your current total assessment, or, better, drive there and get a current print out. First – get your home valuation expert hat on and ask yourself – is my home worth this much or more? Remember, everyone has an opinion of value and yours matters too.  Get a few other assessments in your area for comparison purposes.
  2. Compare your assessment with current listings in your neighborhood.  With your assessment in hand, do some investigating of home listings in your area. Most Multiple Listing Services (MLS) can be searched on line, or, you can simply look in your local paper’s classifieds. Does your current home appraisal by the Assessor’s office stack up, or is it wildly different from current listings?  Remember that current listings generally represent the upper limits of value in your area, while your assessment is either at, or potentially below the actual value of your home. You certainly hope your assessment is below real market value, and, if it is not, I would advise protesting your home value in efforts of reducing your property taxes.
  3. Call a realtor who you feel confident knows home market values in your area. Most successful realtors are pretty talkative, but also remember they are very busy. If you have a realtor friend, start with them. Be straight forward – ask them what home values are doing in your neighborhood. Make more than one call as realtors opinions vary as well. Talk to a realtor who you know has sold a home in your neighborhood recently. Be professional and courteous and you will get solid information.
  4. Have a limited appraisal performed on your home.   Even though I appraise homes for a living, I put this last simply because you can do a lot on your own without spending money. However, if you really want to know and you don’t mind spending from $100 to $400 or so dollars, this is your best bet. With the market downturn many appraisers are either slow or downright starving for business now. Call a few and see if you can locate an appraiser that works your area and may be looking for work.   Many appraisers are open to bartering – that is, offer your business service to them in return for a limited appraisal.   If money is tight, ask an appraiser if he/she will “run comps” in your neighborhood. They may be willing to do this for under $100, depending on your area. But, if you’re going to spend money, my advice is to get some type of real appraisal. Also, remember, if you’re in the process of re-financing your lender will require an appraisal anyway. Wait for them to order it so you don’t pay twice, and remember to ask for a copy of the appraisal when it’s complete.

So, tackle these steps and you will be well on your way to answering the question of how much is my home worth? Don’t procrastinate – take action today and you can have solid answers quickly.

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