Over the past 20 years technology in real estate has changed significantly. There are sites for all steps of the process including finding a home's value. Sites such as Eppraisal.com or Zillow.com's Zestimate offer home value estimates along with details on a homes attributes, neighboring sales and more.
It is important to understand that these sites and tools are providing ranges and
an estimated value of your home. They collect electronic property records, neighborhood information, local market data and recent home sales in the area to calculate the estimate. They are more helpful in some cases over others but always a good starting point before you connect with a real estate agent or mortgage broker.
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If you're thinking about or have decided to sell your home, contacting a local real estate professional is the wisest choice. An experienced, local real estate professional knows the local market and trends over the past few years. The right real estate professional knows the neighborhoods, knows the types of home construction in these neighborhoods, whether they are custom or not, what grade of material was used in their construction, and so on. A real estate professional has most likely physically been inside many of these homes in the area, where a home valuation site or tool obviously has not.
There are many more factors in determining a home's value than just the collected electronic data. The condition of a home is very important. Is it in bad shape, are there structural issues, ha their been regular maintenance and so on. It is also important to know whether or not the home has had updates or upgrades recently. If an owner has updated the kitchen and bathrooms, installed new carpeting, and had the walls freshly painted, the value of the home will be higher. The age of the roof, windows, siding, furnace, air conditioner, appliances, and so on is also important in determining value.
A real estate professional also has access to their local multiple listing system, which provides accurate data on homes that have sold, home that are listed and still available and homes that are listed and under contract. A real estate professional will prepare a comparative market analysis (CMA) for you in order to give you advice on an approximate value for your home. Again, a good starting point, valuation tools and their estimates need to be augmented with the additional information a real estate agent or a mortgage consultant will have access to.
If you're considering refinancing your home, applying for a home equity line of credit or looking to have mortgage insurance taken off your loan, a home valuation site or tool will be able to provide that "starting point" mentioned earlier.
If you are working with a mortgage company for one or more of these reasons, your bank may send out a licensed real estate appraiser to do a full appraisal of your home. This is almost always required if you are going to refinance or have any changes made to your mortgage payment. Keep in mind the fee to cover the appraisal is paid by you, the client.
Home valuation sites and tools have their place in the real estate eco-system. They provide a valuable starting point before working with an agent, for determining if it's worth a conversation with a mortgage broker to refinance or to take out a Home Equity Line of credit.