ways to track housing values|
You have to know how much your
house is worth before you put it up for sale. That means paying attention to your
neighborhood's real-estate microclimate -- a task that has become easier, thanks
to the Internet.
"Up to now, really, when you and I wanted
to find a house, find out what was happening in a neighborhood, you would have
to ask everybody around and trust the answers they give, or go to the courthouse"
to look up property records, says Manuel Iraola, founder of Homekeys, a Web site
that offers information about home values. Now, he says, Web sites and the people
who use them are becoming sophisticated.
|4 ways to track housing values|
|All sorts of information about home values can
be gleaned, online and offline: prices paid for homes, mortgage amounts, square
footage, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, asking prices, and even which direction
houses face. Usually you have to chase the data in more than one place. Here's
how to do it (not necessarily in this order):|
to the government source
Getting information from the local government
can be complicated. States and counties have differing degrees of openness. For
example, the Palm Beach County property appraiser's Web site tells you that Ann
Coulter paid $1.8 million for her home
in Palm Beach, but the Dallas County appraiser's Web site doesn't tell you
how much Mavericks owner Mark
Cuban paid for his palace
in Big D. An estimated market value is available, but not the purchase price.
Ann and Mark, you can see my
So the best government source isn't always
a Web site. Sometimes you have to visit the county courthouse and look through
property records in computers and books. Start out by looking for your county's
property appraiser, tax assessor, recorder or clerk online. It helps to have patience
(because most local governments have horribly designed Web sites), an up-to-date
computer (because the sites like to throw Java applets at you) and a fast Internet
connection (because the sites throw Java applets at you).
you can't find the information you want, call the appropriate office and ask where
you need to go to get it.
Web sites that estimate home values
A new Web site called Zillow.com
has grabbed a lot of attention, although it's not the first of its
kind. The site lets you get estimates of home values by typing addresses
into a box. On Zillow, an estimate is called a "Zestimate,"
and if the information about a home is incomplete or inaccurate,
you can update the information and get a revised estimate.
is addictive because it's easy to navigate, and it provides maps and satellite
photos that let you see the estimated values of your neighbors' homes, too. Take
the aformentioned Mark Cuban: When this was written, Zillow estimated his estate
to be worth $11.5 million, while a neighbor to the north has a home worth a relatively
paltry $1.33 million.