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How Much Is It Worth? Let Comparisons, Size Be a Guide

April 28, 1999|Janice Jones Dodds

Armchair real estate moguls, real-life buyers and potential sellers all have a keen interest in figuring out what a house is worth.

Arriving at a number is part art and part science. Real estate agents, appraisers and lenders all have formulas to determine market value. When overall property values are changing quickly, as they have been in Orange County, the worth of a particular home can change substantially too.

You can arrive at a ballpark figure of a home's worth--your own or one you have your eye on--by using information in this section, which lists prices, addresses and other information about homes sold in Orange County in January, February and March.

Ultimately, of course, the worth of a given house is what a buyer and seller agree it is.

Method One

1. Scan the listings under your city for homes sold on your street, or in the general area, that are similar to yours in square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

2. Note what each of the homes similar to yours sold for. The high and low amounts show a general price range for your home.

Method Two

1. Select a home comparable to yours and divide the sales price by the home's square footage.

2. Do this for several properties and average the results.

3. Multiply the average price-per-square foot by the square footage of your property. The result is a rough estimate of your home's value.

Other Factors

You can arrive at a closer estimate by keeping these things in mind when comparing your home with others:

* Lot size: Homes with identical floor plans may vary in lot size. Those on larger lots command higher prices.

* Age or year built: It's best to compare your home with others built about the same year as yours.

* Interior/exterior condition: A home with a so-so exterior may have a dazzling interior with lots of upgrades, and vice versa. Exact comparisons are impossible with limited information.

* Pools, spas and views: These can add thousands of dollars to the value of a home.

* Garage size: This space is not included in the home's total square footage. A third garage can add $3,000 to $5,000 to the value of a home.

* Schools: Homes within boundaries of highly desirable schools can command as much as 15% to 25% more than nearby homes outside those boundaries.

* Traffic and noise: Homes next to freeways or major streets typically sell for less than those in inside tracts or on cul-de-sacs.

* Association amenities: Membership in some homeowners associations includes access to private lakes, pools, tennis courts and other recreation facilities. Homes affiliated with such associations often command higher prices.

More Information

* Realtors: Those who sell a lot of homes in your neighborhood can be the best sources of information on recent sales and home values. They have firsthand knowledge of current trends, including pending sales.

* The Internet: A number of sites offer detailed information on recent home sales. If you don't have Internet access at home, try your local library.

Look into these sites:

http://www.latimes.com

At the main page, click on "Real Estate" to enter the real estate information area. Then click on "Homes For Sale" to view photographs of and information about homes on the market. But keep in mind the selling price is often significantly more, or less, than the asking price.

http://www.dataquick.com

From the main page, click on "DataQuick Consumer Information Center." Then click on "Real Property Information." This section includes a simple explanation of how to obtain and understand real estate comparable-sales reports (comps). You can order a report with information on homes in your area similar to yours that have sold in the past year. The report, which costs $9.95, contains the same data used by professional appraisers.

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