Real Estate Comps: Resources for Determining Your House Value

The days of calling your local Realtor or hiring an expensive appraiser just to find out what your home is worth are falling behind us. Appraisers and Real Estate Agents typically research the values of properties that are currently on the market and others that have sold in the past in order to come up with an appropriate value for your home. Today – you can do the same research by looking at the real estate comps and determine the house value of any property you’d like. This article will give you the tools you need to find out just what the value of your home is.

How to Determine Your Value using Real Estate Comps

This section is going to give you a brief introduction to the work that Realtors and Appraisers do to determine the price. If you don’t want to learn how to determine the value of your house, and simply want to know where to find it online, scroll down to the “Real Estate Comparable Sales Resources” section below.

What Are Comps

To determine the value of a house, an appraiser or an agent will typically look at three comparable sales, or “comps” as they are known in the industry. Agents and Appraisers have access to the Multiple Listing Service, known as the MLS, which is a database of all the properties in a given area that have been listed “for sale,” are in process of being sold (pending,) or have already sold. Without being an agent or an appraiser, you may have a harder time accessing this information. However, using the tools below in the “resources” section, you can get a good idea of similar comps. Additionally, you can ask your agent for a list of comps – which should be easy and free for your agent to supply to you.

The properties that have been sold already are the key. To determine your house value, you need to find homes that are similar in size, condition, and location. The theory behind value is that your home is worth whatever others would be willing to pay for it – and the best way to determine how much people are willing to pay is by discovering how much they’ve paid for similar homes.

How to Use Comps to Determine House Value

However, obviously every home is different, with features that make the home more or less desirable. For example, a three bedroom house is probably worth more than a similar home in the neighborhood with only two bedrooms, just as a two car garage is worth more than a one car garage. So, to determine a house’s value, you will look at three similar properties that have sold within the previous six months that are similar, and then compensate for the differences. Does one home have a pool and your home does not? Find out what a pool is worth and subtract that from your home. Does one of the comps have 100 square feet less? Then find the cost per square foot average in your area and increase your home’s value by that much.

Keep in mind -this is a very simplistic description for how appraisers actually come up with the Fair Market Value of your property, so your value may not be exactly what an appraiser will determine your value is. However, by following the same guidelines, you can estimate that cost and get fairly close.

For more information on the methods used by appraisers to determining house values, see What Is Market Value.

Online Resources for Determining Your House Value

The method of using a comparable market analysis, as discussed above, has begun to see competition from several online technologies that are making it easier to determine an estimate for your house value. As technology improves, the tools we use to find the value of a property get better and better. Finding comps (comparable data) is now as easy as entering your address into a form. Beware that many of these services aren’t as accurate as using a professional, but if used together, they can help determine an approximate value range without using a pro.

Free House Value Sites – Zillow is the biggest player in the online house values game, through a feature called a “Zestimate,” which is an automated estimate based on public records and sales comps. You can also search for “sold” listings to determine your own comps. – Like Zillow, Trulia allows you to search “sold listings” to gather comps.

Redfin – An online brokerage with online property valuation tool. – is now allowing you to search for your home’s worth by showing what houses sold for in your area.

Property Shark – Property Shark provides public data on a property, recent sales, sale history, and comparables. No need to provide your contact info, either.

Pay Property Value Sites

Home Smart Reports
Home Smart Reports offers a pay house value engine including property information, nearby sales with map, and a neighborhood summary, as well as a much more advanced report with risk analysis, many more comps, and other statistical charts.
The RealQuest service (rated tops by several BP members) provides tons of useful data on a given property. Basics include: Property Detail Report, Comparable Sales, Parcel Map/Assessor Map, Street Map, Neighborhood Information, Legal and Vesting, Automated Valuation (AVM), Transaction History, Custom Searches, and Flood Maps.