Determining home value: What makes a good “Comp” for your home?

Photo of home and patio

In real-estate-speak, a “comp” refers to a comparable property used to help you, the homeowner, determine the current market value of your home.

Most any real estate broker will happily prepare a complimentary CMA for you as a preliminary step to listing your home for sale, but a CMA can also be useful in other circumstances. For instance, you may want a CMA to present to your bank prior to paying for an appraisal when refinancing your home loan, or when helping an elderly parent assess their assets.

It’s helpful to note that not all CMA’s are created equally, i.e. with the same degree of attention and care. Don’t be afraid to ask more than one agent to prepare a CMA for you. Their willingness (especially if you are not yet committed to listing your home) and the quality of the report can help you decide if they are the best agent to help you, whether now or down the road.

What should a carefully prepared CMA look like?

First, it will show homes in the same neighborhood with similar statistics for the basics such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, year built, and amount of living space. These numbers need not be exactly the same, but the variance should be within about 10%. For example, a home with 1600 square feet of living space could be compared with others in the range of 1400-1800 square feet.

The architectural style of a home is also significant in determining value. Comparing a two-story home to a home that has one-story and a basement or a split-level will call for some adjustment in the value. This is because buyers (and appraisers) tend to assign less value to a remodeled basement than to a finished second story.

Location within a neighborhood can also affect the value of the home. Is it on a busy street? A corner lot? Across from a run-down property? On a dead-end street? If few homes in your neighborhood have sold recently, you may need to look at home sales in similarly valued areas within a few miles of yours.

Older homes should not be compared to new construction, of course. And homes built more than 20-30 years ago should have similar degrees of remodeling/restoration. I.e., a home with the original 1945 kitchen is not going to compare favorably with a home that has new granite countertops and stainless steel appliance. This is one of the main reasons that it is so difficult for automated (i.e. computer generated) home valuations to be accurate. They lack the advantage of the human eye.

Parking accommodations are also a financially significant factor when calculating property value. Is there covered parking? If so, is it attached? Detached? Garage or carport? Is there space for multiple cars, for a boat or an RV?

A seasoned agent will be able to estimate how much each deviation between the properties being used for comparison affects their respective values. For instance, two properties may be comparable in almost every way EXCEPT one has a garage and the other has no covered parking. The agent should be able to tell you that the garage will be worth an extra “X” number of dollars to the average buyer in your market.

As you can see, estimating the value of a home presents some significant challenges. The number is somewhat of a moving target. Keep in mind that list prices are merely a wish, and sold prices are yesterday’s news. That makes pending sales the most valuable source of information because they indicate the price point at which a buyer was enticed to make an offer today.

Contact me today to request a CMA for your home.

Posted 2/1/17

Automated Home Valuations

Safe to say that every homeowner wants to know, “What’s my home worth?” And the easier it is to get that information, the better. Zillow, for one, built a multi-billion dollar business based on that assumption.

Now you can get THREE free automated home valuation estimates by going to my website and entering your home address ONCE!

(Here is a shortcut to the same site: www.bit.ly/yourhomevalues)

When you see the results, you may wonder why the three estimates vary as much as they (usually) do. It’s because they lack human sensibilities.

Automated valuations produce their results by gathering statistical data from a variety of sources such as tax records. Then they take that data and apply algorithms comparing square footage, lot size, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.  The algorithms may even include some (very subjective) information about location, neighborhood desirability, views, etc.  What the algorithms can’t account for is the condition of the homes. That is their biggest problem, and a limitation none of them have been able to overcome.

It takes the visual observations of a live person such as a real estate broker or an appraiser (hopefully, not your neighbor) to provide vital information about the condition of the homes being used for comparison. Without that input, your home may be compared to one that is in significantly worse or better condition, which greatly skews the results.

The moral of the story? Have a little fun using the automated valuation tools on occasion, but when you get serious about selling your home, call a professional to determine the current value of your home. Of course, our estimates aren’t always on the nose either. That’s why it’s best to get a CMA (comparative market analysis) from two or more experienced agents.

You might also be interested in downloading my mobile app. One of the really cool things about it is that when you are out walking the dog and you come upon a house with a new “For Sale” sign in front, you can tap the app and hit “Nearby For Sale” and it will bring up info for that house and others. Download my mobile app here.

Posted December 6, 2016