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Real Answers

October 23, 1994

How can I find out how much my house is worth?

People traditionally turn to either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis when determining a property's value.

An appraisal is "an estimate of a property's monetary value on the open market; an estimate of a property's type and condition, its utility for a given purpose or its highest and best use," according to Charles O. Stapleton III, Thomas Moran and Martha R. Williams, authors of "California Real Estate Principles," 3rd Edition, Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc., Chicago, 1994.

The results can be presented to the client in various ways ranging from a brief summary on a pre-printed form, to a more thorough narrative report to a letter of opinion simply giving only the appraiser's conclusion of value, with no supporting data.

Appraisers consider numerous factors such as square footage, construction quality, design, floor plan, amenities and energy efficiency. Other issues taken into account are neighborhood quality and a property's proximity to transportation, shopping and schools. Appraisers also look at lot size, topography, view and landscaping.

Comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent or broker. Many agents offer a free analysis or property profile in hopes of gaining a client. People can do their own cost comparison using public records maintained by their county recorders' and assessors' offices.

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