The Average Cost of Things

The Price of Houses Recently Sold in My Area

Brandon Cornett

By Brandon Cornett
© 2011 All rights reserved

Many homeowners spend time researching the price of houses recently sold in their area, in order to approximate the value of their own home. In this article, we will offer some tips for doing this correctly.

In the wake of our economic recession, most homeowners were deeply concerned about their property values. The reasons why are obvious. We see stories on TV about home prices that dropped by 50% or more, in places like Southern California and Florida. It was the housing crash of our lifetime, to be sure (and hopefully the only one). As a result of these concerns, people started getting their homes appraised and researching the price of houses sold in there neighborhoods, just to figure out where they stood. Here are some tips for conducting this kind of research.

Finding the Price of Recently Sold Homes

Let's start with the good news. The price of sold homes is public information, so you don't have to jump through very many hoops to find this data. In fact, there are many websites online today that compile this kind of information. But the Internet is just one way to uncover the prices of recently sold houses in the area where you live. Here's a more complete list of techniques and strategies:

  • You could use one of the many websites available today, all of which will show you the prices of homes that recently sold in your neighborhood. See the list of sites below.
  • You could gather sales prices from your county courthouse, where such data is usually collected. Depending on where you live, this might be inconvenient. And most of this data makes it online eventually. So the website approach mentioned above might be best.
  • If you have a real estate agent in your area who sends out newsletters, see if they have included a list of prices for recently sold homes in the neighborhood. They usually do.

Some websites: Here are some websites you can use to view sales prices for houses in your area. Zillow.com. Domania.com. Homes.com. Trulia.com. HomeGain.com.

If You're Actually Selling the House

These are some easy ways to conduct pricing research, when you just want a rough idea of where you stand. But what if you want to know the actual value of your house in the current market, in order to sell or refinance the property? Well, you can start with the techniques listed above, but you should also do one of these things:

  • You could get your house appraised by a professional home appraiser. This is the most accurate way to value the property. The appraiser will visit your home, so he can factor in upgrades and other things that a website cannot do. Appraisals generally cost around $350, give or take.
  • You could have an experienced real estate agent come and price your home. You should only do this if you're actually thinking about selling the house -- otherwise you're wasting the agent's time.

When conducting this kind of market research, keep in mind there is a big difference between the asking / list price and the actual price that the house sells for. Many homeowners overprice their homes these days. Instead of pricing it based on current values, they set the price based on the amount they need to get out of it.

For example, somebody with a mortgage balance of $300,000 might price their house at that amount, in order to pay off the loan. But in the current market (post-bubble burst), their property may only be worth $240,000. To get a realistic picture of your current real estate scene, we recommend that you ignore the asking price entirely. Instead, focus on the actual amount houses are selling for in your area (i.e., the sold price). This is the best way to understand what's going on in your neighborhood, from a pricing and value standpoint.

Related articles:
Getting Home Value Estimates Online
Pricing Your House for the Market

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