Price your home competitively for the market, and this won't have to be you.

Most people have a general idea about the value of their home. Maybe it's because of the local market condition, or maybe it's just a gut feeling. Sometimes the tax appraisal, which comes around once a year, gives the owner a ballpark figure to work with. Problem is, any of these home pricing methods could be off by a mile.

It's your home, and you could choose to sell it for any arbitrary price that you like. But if your buyer needs bank financing, as most buyers do, you'll need a price that's a lot closer to its actual value. Lenders frown on the idea of loaning more than a house is really worth, no matter how badly the buyer wants to make the deal.

If you're thinking about listing your home, here are 4 things that you need to know about how to price a house accurately:

#1: Sentiment Doesn't Really Matter

You've met a buyer and she's head-over-heels in love with your house. The kitchen is perfect (she loves all the stainless steel and granite!) and the new pool out back is just perfect for the kids. She might even be ready to make an offer any day now. But there's one problem: If the price isn't right, the bank won't lend.

Before a lender commits to a home mortgage, they'll hire an appraiser to determine the actual value. Appraisers use numerous tools to come to a reasonable amount, and sometimes the amount is quite a shock to the seller. Bottom line, if a buyer loves your home it still has to pass muster with the lender. And to do that, the appraiser has to arrive at an amount that closely resembles your asking price.

#2: Last Year's Value Might Have Changed

The market is steadily getting better, but that's not true across the board. Markets always fluctuate, and some neighborhoods sadly depreciate instead of gaining value. If your home was valued at a certain dollar amount a year ago or longer, there's no guarantee that the same value or higher applies now.

A home valuation can help you check out the neighboring area to see how homes are performing. Are they appreciating, or depreciating? Sometimes values go up when certain new businesses or attractions are built nearby. But conversely, some areas go down if a major employer pulls up stakes and people start moving away. The only way to know is to check right now.

Foreclosure, even on an expensive property, can ding the value of yours.

#3: Neighbors Falling on Hard Times Affect You

It certainly doesn't seem fair, but it's true. Foreclosures and short sales in your area can cause the value of your property to take a hit. It's not that a foreclosure is inherently bad for surrounding properties, although sometimes it is. The problem is the comparables.

Comparables are properties much like yours that have sold in the area within the past few months. In a slower market, comparables might go back one year. When an appraiser works his magic to determine the value of your house, the selling price of homes near yours plays a major role. And if the most recent 'sales' were actually foreclosures and short sales, those lower prices mean your home's value gets reduced as well.

#4: Expensive Upgrades Don't Always Pan Out

You've spent a fortune getting your home ready to sell. That new kitchen was a great idea, even if the granite and stainless appliances cost dear. The return on investment for kitchen renovations is one of the highest of any home project that you could choose. But that new swimming pool out back wasn't the best plan.

It's smart to improve your home before putting it on the market. But the tricky part is choosing projects with the highest return on investment. Even the most expensive home office that you could build won't pay you back in higher home value because buyers aren't all that interested. But if you decide to convert your attic into an additional bedroom, you might be happy with the ROI results.

Assigning a value to your home isn't like putting stickers on items at a garage sale. You can set your own price. But if you're off the mark by very much, none of your prospective buyers will have any luck with financing.

That's why learning as much up front as you can is the best course of action. We also use comparables to help determine the estimated value of your home. But we do it for free.

When you choose a home value estimate from eppraisal, you'll have access to information about neighboring properties, which helps you see how your home stacks up. And it all begins here with your free property valuation.