Look at several sources to determine home valuation
Your home's market value is an important factor in a long list of financial decisions, including selling the home, refinancing your mortgage, borrowing against your equity, estimating your annual property tax bill, buying homeowner's insurance, calculating the expected return on remodeling costs, managing your other investments, estate planning and so on. The trick is figuring out how much your home is worth -- and remembering that how much you paid for it months or years ago isn't relevant to its current market value. It's not a bad idea to gather information from several sources and compare the findings, rather than relying on just one approach to home valuation.
Here are four suggestions to start:
Call a couple of REALTORS®. Even if you're not planning to sell your home right away, many REALTORS® will be willing to prepare a comparable market analysis (CMA) for you as a marketing service with the goal of getting your business whenever you decide to move. A CMA shows the prices of recently sold homes that are comparable to yours and the prices of comparable homes on the market. A market-savvy REALTOR® can give you a rough idea of what your home would be worth, given its size and condition and local market conditions.
Purchase a professional appraisal. Unlike a CMA, a professional appraisal is rarely free, normally runs around $350. However, the amount you'll pay for an appraisal, depending on size of your home and the complexity of the work, could be money well spent if you're making a major financial decision that hinges on the value of your home. Appraisers rely on an in-person inspection of your home, recent sales of comparable homes and other data to arrive at an opinion of value. The appraiser's report is a full-blown description of your home and the criteria used to formulate the valuation.
Go to neighborhood open houses. Open houses are a good opportunity to view comparable homes for sale in your neighborhood and chat with real estate professionals about the local real estate market. Two caveats: It's not easy to be objective about your own home and you shouldn't assume that the listing price on a for-sale necessarily reflects the home's true market value. If you keep those points in mind, information gathered at open houses can be worth considering along with data from other sources.
Do research online. A number of Web sites offer home valuation information free or for a fee. The Home Values tool on REALTOR.com can show you what houses around yours have sold for recently.