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Listen to listings
When you don’t have access to reliable sources such as the area’s multiple listing service, you must find other ways to find nearby sales similar to the subject property.
Focus on listings comparable to the property you’re investigating. These should help tell you a story about property values in the area. Seek online listings that have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms and that are close to the same square footage.
Using houses with the same bedroom count is critical. You’ll also want to stay within about 10 percent of the square footage. Although appraisers don’t always use houses with the same bedroom count, a lot more goes into an official appraisal than your online investigations.
Also, don’t drift too far geographically. If you can find a handful of listings in the same price range, you should be well on your way. If there are a lot of inconsistencies with the listings, you’re probably missing something and should try to figure out what.
A home in today’s market is almost never worth what someone thinks it’s worth. It’s probably worth a lot less.
By being conservative, you’re being realistic. If you’re not realistic, you’re likely wasting everyone’s time. Ultimately, the property value will be what it will be regardless of your pre-appraisal estimates.
Use the assessment
It may sound weird, but tax assessments often are more accurate than you might think. Not only that, but relying on an official assessment could yield much better results than relying on your interpretation of possibly inaccurate online information.
Tax assessors’ offices usually have websites and will provide you with free information. Sometimes, they also have a record of the home’s past sales and photos.
Generally speaking, the assessment office is the only resource of all those mentioned here that has physically inspected the property. Because of this, you should take tax assessments seriously. Also, because they usually come in below market value, tax assessments can help you stay on the conservative side of a value estimate.
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Using online resources to estimate home values can help you and your company close more deals. But the same tools also can lead to inaccuracies that place you in a poor light. Remember, when something is free, there’s usually a reason. There’s no replacement for a professional appraisal.
Brian C. Coester is a certified and field-experienced appraiser who has personally completed more than 5,000 appraisals and appraisal reviews. Since becoming Coester Appraisal Group’s CEO in 2004, he has grown the company from a small, local company into a high-volume national valuation-services provider. A recognized industry expert,
Coester is often quoted in trade and consumer media and is a respected speaker, presenter and trainer. Reach Coester at (240) 667-7694 or email@example.com.
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