Buying Your Home - Appraisals & Market Value


What's a house worth?

A home ultimately is worth what someone will pay for it. Everything else is an estimate of value. To determine a property's value, most people turn to either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis.   An appraisal is a certified appraiser's estimate of the value of a home at a given point in time. Appraisers consider square footage, construction quality, design, floor plan, neighborhood and availability of transportation, shopping and schools. Appraisers also take lot size, topography, view and landscaping into account. A comparative market analysis is a real estate broker's or agent's informal estimate of a home's market value, based on sales of comparable homes in a neighborhood. Most agents will give you a comparative market analysis for free.  You can do your own cost comparison by looking up recent sales of comparable properties in public records. These records are available at local recorder or assessor offices.




What standards do appraisers use to estimate value?

Appraisers use several factors when estimating a home's value, including the home's size and square footage, the condition of the home and neighborhood, comparable local sales, any pertinent historical information, sales performance and indices that forecast future value. For detailed information on appraisal standards, contact the Appraisal Institute at 200 W. Madison, Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60606, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. CT; 888-7JOINAI (754-4624).



Can I find out the value of my home through the Internet?

You can get some idea of your home's value by searching the Internet. A number of Web sites and services crunch the numbers from historic public records of home sales to produce the statistics. Some services offer an actual estimate of value based on acceptable software appraisal standards. They also depend on historic home sales records to calculate the estimate. Neither of these services produce official appraisals. They also don't factor in market nuances or other issues a certified appraiser or real estate professional might in assessing the value of your home.





What are the standard ways of finding out how much a home is worth?

A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the standard methods for determining a home's value. Your real estate agent will be happy to provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on comparable sales in the neighborhood. Be sure you get listing prices of current homes on the market as well as those that have sold. You also can research this yourself by checking on recent sales in public records. Be sure that you are researching properties that are similar in size, construction and location. This information is available at your local recorder's or assessor's office. An appraisal, which generally costs $250 to $500 or more(depends on size of home) to perform, is a certified appraiser's opinion of the value of a home at any given time. Appraisers review numerous factors including recent comparable sales, location, square footage and construction quality. Lenders require appraisals as part of the loan application process. Market value is what price the house will bring at a given point in time. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value, based on sales of comparable properties, performed by a real estate agent or broker. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth.