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How Much Is My House Worth? is one of the first questions running through a home seller’s mind. Most home sellers have a lot at stake when it comes time to sell their home and want to get the highest selling price possible.
Determining what your home is worth helps you calculate the net proceeds after paying off your mortgage and any seller closing costs. Or, what is left in your pocket.
Finding the most likely selling price of a home can sometimes be harder than you think. There is much that goes into evaluating what a home is worth for any number of purposes, including a home sale.
When selling a home, the most critical component is pricing your home properly. Your homes list price will determine much of the final outcome of a sale.
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What Is The Value Of A Home?
Let’s look at the financial value of a home. What every seller is looking for (or should be looking for) is fair market value of their home.
Fair market value is what your home is worth on the open market, or basically what the general home buying population is willing to pay for your home.
Its one thing to think your home is worth a certain amount of money, but both buyer and seller must agree to the price. Without at least one willing and able buyer to step up and pay the asking price of your home, value is not established.
Reason To Know What Your Home Is Worth
Selling and buying a home are the obvious reason to want to know how much a house is worth. But there are other reason someone might want to know the value of a piece of property. Other reasons include:
- Refinancing your home for a lower rate.
- A cash out refinance.
- The division of marital assets in a divorce.
- Estate planning.
- Division of assets from an estate.
- Appealing your tax assessment.
It doesn’t matter why you want to understand your home’s worth, you just want it to be accurate.
Determining What A Home Is Worth
There are three ways one can go about determining how much my home is worth. While there is some subjectivity when determining a property’s value is, much of it is based on historical, sold data. All three methods are used to estimate the fair market value of a home with varying degrees of accuracy.
Automated Value Model or AVM
The Automated Value Model is a computer-generated home value. Real Estate sites like Zillow, Trulia, or Redfin allow you to plug in an address and instantaneously return a value of a home. It is good at ball-parking a figure, at best.
The Zestimate is Zillow’s home value calculator and depending on circumstances can be as much as 30% off.
An AVM is good to ballpark the value of your home to get the ball rolling on a refinance or making decisions about selling your home. But if you want a more accurate assessment of the price of your home, use an Appraisal or a Comparative Market Analysis.
Finding Out How Much Your Home Is Worth- Comparative Market Analysis
The second or more common way is to contact a local Massachusetts Realtor or Massachusetts Real Estate Agent or any local agent to complete a Comparative Market Analysis or a CMA.
A CMA is usually at no cost to the home sellers and should be more than adequate to determine the fair market value of your home and calculate a list price for your home. It is what home sellers commonly used to price a home for listing it on the open market
When a REALTOR provides you with a report, you typically get guidance and advice interpreting the data.
An appraisal is a report that provides the worth of a home that is conducted by a licensed appraiser. The process can be very similar to an agent providing a CMA but the appraiser is bound by FNMA guidelines on how to conduct an appraisal.
If you are financing a home, a bank will typically order an appraisal to verify the property’s value is worth what a buyer is paying for it.
An appraisal is often used in court proceedings like a divorce, where the parties are determining what to do with a marital home or extremely unique homes that are difficult to find comparable properties.
The Difference Between An Appraisal, CMA, and an AVM
An appraisal and comparative market analysis are relatively similar in calculating how much your home is worth. The major difference is who conducts them. An appraiser has guidelines to follow, whereas an agent has a bit more leeway in how they get to what a home is worth.
Another factor to consider is the appraiser does not have a vested interest in the outcome of the property sale or transfer, whereas a real estate agent might. An appraisal is definitely the route to go when the value of a home may be of contention between parties.
In a broader scope a CMA will help determine what a home will most likely sell for and an appraisal, while it can be used for the same, is frequently used to support a suggested value of a home. Both will help you accurately find your home’s value.
The Appraisal and CMA use recent, historical sold data and on-market data to determine value. Both a comparative market analysis and an appraisal allow interpretation of the data as it relates to the subject property. The preparer can make adjustments to comparable properties to bring in more in line with the subject property.
An AVM or automatic value uses public data like tax history, recent sales, and the basic specs of the house included in the tax data to come up with a value of what your home may be worth.
Where an AVM falls short is it is based on data only and no interpretation is made. An AVM will not make adjustments based on condition, location, etc…. where a real estate or appraiser will.
This is not to say an AVM can’t be useful in coming up with a price for a home. Automated Value Models can be accurate if you’re dealing with average property for a community.
What Is Used To Determine How Much Your Home Is Worth?
Now with sold date available on the internet, many homeowners will try to come up with their own estimation of the value of their home. While coming up with a price for a home, it is important to mind what is important when valuing a home. An accurate home evaluation will follow certain criteria.
At the end of the day, it is about finding homes that are similar to the subject property that has sold.
Homes that have sold in the past should not have a sold date more than 3-6 months old.
Comparable properties should be in the same neighborhood and preferably no more than 1 mile away from the subject property.
When determining a home’s value, comparable homes should be no more than 25% plus or minus of a subject home’s size.
Homes that are compared need to be in similar condition. For example, a colonial built in 1995 that is in original condition will have a home value significantly less than an identical neighbor’s home that has been fully updated and systems replaced.
Room counts, bedroom counts, and bathroom counts should be the same or similar to the subject property.
Style, Function, and Age
A1950’s ranch should be compared to ranches of a similar vintage. You can’t compare a 5-year-old colonial with a 1950s ranch even if they are of similar size and room counts. They will function completely differently.
Amenities should be considered when pricing a home. Garages, sheds, sunrooms, patios, decks, sprinkler systems, pools, and central air are some amenities that help add value to a home.
An appraiser or a real estate agent will use the criteria in a report. The CMA or appraisal will include data on the subject property and a minimum of three comparable properties. The appraiser or agent can make adjustments based on variations of certain criteria between the subject and comparable homes.
For example, if two homes are almost identical but one has central air and an extra garage stall, it would be reasonable to make adjustments based on the amenities.
An AVM cannot make these adjustments, nor even know if a comparable home is superior or inferior to the subject property. It works on very broad data and averages. In no way can assessments be made about size, condition, location, or different amenities by the AVM.
Again, only use an AVM as a starting point to estimate a home’s value.
Mistakes Sellers Make In Evaluating A Home’s Worth
When coming up with a price of a home, sellers will make assumptions that certain things add value to their home that in reality have little or no bearing on determining what their home is worth.
Listening To The Wrong People
It is human nature to want your home to be worth more money than it is. One mistake is listening to the wrong people like your friends, family or neighbors. An agent or appraiser is out in the trenches everyday and understands the market, what buyers value and who to evaluate the price of a home.
Assuming Tax Assessment Is Fair Market Value
Your tax assessment is a value given to a home, but for a very different reason than the value provided by a CMA or an Appraisal. The purpose of a tax assessment is to fulfill a town’s budget to keep the community running smoothly and adjustments may be made accordingly. Assessed value has no bearing on market value of a home.
In rapidly rising markets assessments are often under market value by up to 50% of what a home sells for. In falling markets, they can be assessed for 30 to 50% of what homes are selling for.
Over-Improving A Home Does Not Create Value
Many home sellers will spend a ton of cash improving a home only to sell a few years later. Renovating a home rarely increases value dollar for dollar. And, over-improving a home may only return pennies on the dollar when it comes to selling.
Choosing The Wrong Houses To Compare
As agents, we often hear the neighbor around the corner or next door sold for….$$$$$. But in reality, while it is in the same location it may be a very different house. Comparable homes need to fall into many of the same criteria, not just one.
More Land Makes My House Worth More Money
A building lot is a building lot.
For the most part, if a comparable home has a third of an acre and you have half an acre it does not affect value. If you have 3 acres versus half an acre there may be a small adjustment made but not 100’s of thousands of dollars.
Unless you have subdividable land that goes with your house the value difference can be insignificant.
The love of your home and how it has served your family well unfortunately has no bearing on your property’s value. Emotions can often have sellers making bad decisions not only with pricing a home but throughout the entire selling process.
Not Understanding Market Conditions
Often sellers believe real estate market conditions are that of 6 months to several years ago. Real Estate markets can change on a dime and are constantly in flux.
When the real estate market is hot, sellers can be pleasantly surprised by what their home could be worth.
But failing markets can be a disappointment to a seller that remembers a stronger market from the past.
Value Estimate Of A Home
Finding what a home’s worth is can be a little challenging.
No two homes are alike. Even if you take two identical homes in the same neighborhood, the value could be slightly different. Say one home is towards the top of the neighborhood near a busy street overlooking the back of the commercial property and the second is at the end of a cul-de-sac backing up to conservation land.
The cul-de-sac home will be worth slightly more money to many buyers and will most likely command a higher price.
The point is your home is not worth one price. The mistake many sellers make is locking into one price when in reality your home’s price can fall into a range.
The most likely price of a home is going to be a range, and sometimes that range can be as high as 5-10%. As a home seller, it is important to know the high, the low, and the most likely sale price when negotiating an offer.
What Is My Home Worth?
I have provided two ways to find out what your Massachusetts home is worth. Both are free, no-obligation services I provide. Option 1 will deliver an automatic and instantaneous home value. Option two is a much more comprehensive method that will be a more accurate value of your home.
1- Free Instant Home Evaluation– Fill in a few parameters for your house and an instant value will be given for your home. In addition, you can get a bi-weekly monthly update of what your home is worth, and other valuable financial information for your home. A more accurate value will mostly be had with option two, me completing a comparative market analysis. Find out how much your home is worth by using my free home value estimator. It returns results immediately.
2- Comparative Market Analysis- If you are going to be listing your home in 6 months or less this comparative market analysis gives a more accurate report of what your home is worth. I will swing by your house for 10-15 minutes to see the condition and ask you questions about your home. I will then deliver a completed Comparative Market Analysis within a day or two of stopping by. Just fill out the form below or give me a call.
Other Real Estate Resources
- Get the list price just right on your home is a critical piece of the home selling process. Bill Gassett discusses pricing mistakes that may leave your house unsold
- Zillow recent woes show that using an algorithm has it shortcomings. Tom Horn discusses if an AVM is a valid tool to use in pricing real estate.
- Bathrooms that are recently updated can help make your home worth more money. Pual Sian share some tips on renovating a bathroom.
Kevin Vitali is your local Massachusetts Realtor who would be more than happy to help you determine how much your house is worth. Home values and property values for the following and surrounding areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest including the following communities and the surrounding areas, Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Boxford, Burlington, Chelmsford, Danvers, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Peabody, Reading, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford