Are you considering selling your home, looking to see how much equity you have, or just wanting to know your home's value? It's good to know your home value in today's market and to keep tabs on it every once in a while. After all, it's your most valued asset. Who knows, you might be surprised. But what is the most reliable way to arrive at the correct value? One thing is for sure, in today's tech-savvy, instant estimates, social state of mind, quick answers from popular websites and computerized methods can steer you way off course and are the wrong way to go in establishing proper house worth and house value for your largest asset.
Having sold real estate in both Illinois, South Carolina, and Florida markets, I know the inside scoop for getting any home value in any housing market. Because house value is local, as in a mile radius or smaller in some markets, and each local housing market is unique, you need a local, experienced Realtor®, who will be able to provide you an estimated house value with about 95-99.99% accuracy. Get more than one Realtor® to give you a Comparative Market Analysis and you will get an even better picture!
That local Realtor® is a valuable resource when it comes to recent home sales. Furthermore, Realtors® are usually very active in their local communities. They truly have a pulse on the local market and you can get an accurate home price very quickly and at no cost.
The Wrong Way to Estimate Home Value
Here is a typical scenario for home sellers. "Honey, look, our neighbors just listed their house for $300,000. Can you believe that?" "Well, if their house listed for $300,000 and ours is bigger, our house must be worth $450,000." Over and over again, this is how many people I see the place the value of their house in the marketplace. But in a real estate transaction, as in any marketplace, it is the buyer that determines the actual house value.
Has the market changed? I know that when I had a house to sell for a client, and if it was not selling or getting offers, the problem was always the price. One agent I worked with, Leo Silverman, said that the first offer you get is usually the best and you should take it, and then negotiate on other things to close the sale. I was uncertain at first, but I soon learned that he was right.
When it comes to house value, a lot of homeowners, real estate investors, and sellers get it wrong. I will share with you where the confusion comes from and how to get clarity. So you can find out exactly how much is my house worth today! Keep in mind there are many factors involved when trying to find your true home value.
5 Factors That Determine Home Value
Real Estate Location
House Square Footage
House Age and Condition
House Amenities and Upgrades
Local House Market Conditions
You have to consider the location, condition, age, neighborhood, current inventory of homes for sale, current buyer demand, and many more factors. The complexity of this task is why I stress that if you are at all curious about how much a certain house is valued, to get with a local Realtor®.
3 Main House Value Questions for any Accurate Home Value Analysis
#1 How is real estate valued?
I hate to use this analogy for house values, but let's look at the iPhone. Picture buying an iPhone on eBay. Before buying it, wouldn't you look and see what other, identical iPhone's were selling for? If you go to a grocery store to buy bread, you compare which one is the best deal. This process of looking at comparable sales is how you figure out if it's a good deal, or if it's overpriced.
#2 Who is making the comparison?
Computers can calculate efficiently and consistently when it comes to massive number crunching. Take for instance an online mortgage calculator, affordability calculator, or refinance calculators. These are great tools to use with amortization tables that will be accurate down to the penny. But computers don't see the bigger picture, and they need people to find home value data and input it into the system.
#3 Where is the information coming from?
The primary source for house value information is county records. But county records can cause a lot of confusion because every county in America has different departments. Two of the departments that we deal with for county records are the Tax Assessor's Office as well as the Recorder’s Office or the Register of Deeds.
The Register of Deeds is the group that records deeds and other such documents. These records can tell you information such as what the property is, what liens are on the property, who the owner is and how long they've been the owner when that deed was recorded. In some areas the county records and the Recorder’s Office also have sales information, but not in other areas. This is where it gets a little iffy. Some states are non-disclosure states, like Texas, where they are not required to disclose the sales price on the deed that gets recorded. In other areas it is disclosed, so they will show it.
So states like Tennessee, which are a disclosure state, always have a line on the deed where you're supposed to put in the sales price. There are other states that are strict non-disclosure states, like New Mexico, where there is no requirement for a sales price on the deed. From my searches into local house value, I found that South Carolina, South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and West Virginia do provide this data. So as you can see, certain states reveal sales prices at the Recorder’s Office level and some don't. This can be a huge hornet's nest for a house's value. So how can you get reliable information on house value? Keep reading for the answer.
The second source of information is the Tax Assessor's Office. Now the Tax Assessor, their job is to figure out the relative value of each property in their county so they can tax it. They tax it as a percentage of the value as long as they know what type of property it is. Say if it's a duplex, which could be commercial versus a single-family house. Since Tax Assessors are putting a tax appraisal on every single property, some look at that and say, "Oh, the tax appraisal must be a good source."
- Drive-By House Appraisal
- Is Appraisal for Refinance of Purchase?
- Who ordered the Appraisal?
- Foreclosures Affecting House Appraisal
House Appraisal Appeal
Not only can tax appraisals be way off, but also the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage can be wrong because the Tax Assessor can only get access inside a property less than half the time. Like I mentioned before, most property owners try to hide how many bedrooms and bathrooms they have because it'll reduce their overall tax appraisal.
If the County Recorder's Office — the Register of Deeds and the Tax Assessor — are off in house value or appraisal because of inaccurate records, where can you get the best information for how to get accurate and fair market value? Not Zillow! Zillow works by using their algorithms and their property valuation tool to give you an estimate which can be very misleading. Your home, as well as your home equity, is your most valued asset. These 2 minute online estimates are not accurate, regardless of which website you use.
The Local MLS - The Crucial Component
The MLS is the Multiple Listing Service, which is controlled by the Realtors® who put the information into it. More specifically, each MLS is independently owned and there can be more than once in the same geographic area. Remember my statement from earlier about real estate being local? Each MLS is localized and independently owned, as it should be because real estate is very much a local market.
The great thing about the MLS is that real estate agents have a natural checks and balances system, which ensures that the information about each property is accurate. Here's how it works. Let's say you're a listing agent, and you list a property for sale and input it in the local MLS. If you put in the wrong bedrooms, wrong bathroom count, wrong square footage, wrong anything, someone will find out. Then, you would either have to make the changes or get a fine from the MLS. This accountability system provides natural checks and balances within the MLS, so the data is both good and accurate.
8 Factors to Compare for Any House Value Using MLS Comps
- House Square Footage
- House Closing Date
- # of Bedrooms in House
- # of Bathrooms in House
- How much older is Comparable House
- House Updates
- House Exterior
- Lot Size
The MLS is where the data needs to come from to make these accurate comparisons, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. The MLS doesn't tell you what liens are on the property, and it doesn't tell you who the owner is. That's where the County Recorder's Office can help you. By combining county records and the MLS data you can get in the right direction to truly understand your property value. But even with the best information, you can still screw up in determining property values.
Home Value Estimator - Real Estate is all about Location, Location, Location
Locations play a big role in home values. You can go from the absolute nicest part of town to completely run-down neighborhoods, all within two miles. But the computer doesn't know that. Zillow, Trulia, and the like, are all getting their data from county records, and they don't really have a good way to match up neighborhoods properly. These house value estimator tools that blow out data like a toupee on a windy day are not reliable. For example, what if you get a bunch of new subdivisions interspersed with some really old subdivisions? Well, you don't want to compare those brand-new homes with those super-old homes. It's not even a comparison.