Selling your home is a major event. Just think of all that your home means to you. On the famous Holmes and Rahe stress scale, a change in living conditions ranks as more stressful than if you're having trouble at work with your boss or supervisor.
To determine what your house is worth, there are several tools to figure out the value of your home. Be aware, though, that these aren't exact figures.
You can start by looking at national real estate aggregator Web sites. One example (there are several others) is Zillow. It was started in 2005 by two former Microsoft executives, Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink. Zillow has data on 100 million homes in the United States. It includes data not only on homes for sale but also homes not on the market. The site is popular with 24 million unique visitors in September 2011.
Zillow offers values of each home over a given time period like a year or five years, aerial views of homes, and prices of similarly valued homes in the area. When public data can be utilized, you'll find basic information such as the number of bathrooms and bedrooms and the number of square feet.
One caveat with sites like Zillow is that they offer an estimated home value. They're best used as a starting point, not a replacement for a competitive market analysis or a professional appraisal. Zillow and sites like it don't include really important factors like location, upgrades and what the current local market is like.
Competitive market analysis
If you want a more serious estimate of your home's value, you can get in touch with a local real estate agent. The agent can create a competitive market analysis, also called a CMA.
A standard CMA report will contain several features, including active listings, pending listings, sold listings, area homes that are off the market for various reasons, expired houses where it didn't sell because the price was too high, homes with comparable sales, and homes with locations similar to yours.
Hire an appraiser
The most serious way to find out the value of your home is to hire an appraiser to inspect your home and give it a value. In most states appraisers are licensed and must meet certain professional standards.
Your appraiser will look at the size and plot of your land, comb public records, look at similar homes in the area, and look at the replacement value of your house to provide you with the big picture.
Know local market conditions
If you want to know your house's value with the goal of selling it, keep in mind that current market conditions are a significant factor in determining the value of your home. In a buyer's market, for example, you might need to lower the price of your home below sale prices for comparable homes.
In a seller's market, it's the opposite. You might be able to add five to ten percent to the last similar sale in the area. In a neutral market, you may want to set your price at the price of the last comparable sale and then adjust for any recent market trends.