Our homes are most people’s largest asset. In the spring, when tax assessments start coming in the mail, home values are top of mind. And with the volatile housing market, people are paying closer attention to what their investment is worth. Unfortunately, sources of home value information often conflict. Here’s a quick snapshot:
Tax Assessments — This value is often higher or lower than expected, sometimes by a lot. Tax assessors commonly use mass appraisal methods, based on general criteria (size, use, construction type) without factoring in specifics or comparable sales. In addition, the assessment may be as much as 3 years old — that’s out of sync with today’s market.
On-line Estimates — Sites like Zillow or Trulia have their own methodology for calculating home values, but generally they’re based on public records and some user-submitted data. But these estimates can vary in their accuracy, especially as homeowners in states like Texas aren’t required to report sale prices.
Your Estimate — Although you’re naturally biased, your estimate is likely closer to reality than the above two. You know your home better than anybody, especially any improvements you’ve made. You’re also probably aware of how your home compares with your neighbors’, including any recent sales.
Market Value — Ultimately, your home is worth what someone will pay for it, if you put it on the market as is, in the next 30-90 days. To find this number, look at what comparable homes are selling for.
So where do you turn for the most accurate number? Your real estate agent is your best resource.