When clients are thinking of refinancing, or selling their homes, one of the first questions they ask is: how much is my house worth? Homeowners look at their assessed value, and maybe the sale price of their home, or even a property assessment done by a bank, and often these numbers seem all over the map.
The answer is often taken from the sum of a variety of sources, rather than from any one spot. A quick survey of recent sales and their relation to assessed values will often demonstrate no clear relationship between sale price and assessed value. Some properties will sell well below assessment, and others well above.
So how do you find the value of your home?
Find an experienced and local Realtor to help you determine the selling price of your home. Successful, busy and local Realtors will have a far better handle on what is happening in your area for prices than your property assessment reads, and in many instances will save you from yourself.
In theory, a comprehensive current market review completed by a Realtor should be similar to the value determined by a professional appraiser. Professional appraisers spend all day every day appraising properties, and their reports are often seen as less biased.
Ultimately your house is worth what someone is willing to pay for it
Imagine your reaction, as a buyer, to the following statements…
1. The seller says their house is worth $500,000.
2. The sellers’ Realtor says it’s worth $500,000.
3. This house is listed at $500,000 based on a professional appraisal.
Most buyers would consider #3 the most reliable of the above statements. And most buyers requiring financing will have the benefit of the lender ordering their own independent appraisal to confirm fair market value. Sellers rarely order an appraisal in advance, which can create some interesting situations.
In practice, Realtors are relied upon for listing price estimates. Most buyers don’t care much about what anybody else thinks the house is worth. Buyers care what they think it is worth. This is why we say that market value is ultimately determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for the home, aligned with what is acceptable to the seller.
A note on marketing appraisals vs financing appraisals
It is important to note that there are two kinds of professional appraisals. There is the marketing appraisal, such as one ordered by a seller. And there is the financing appraisal, which is done so the bank is satisfied the house is worth what the buyer and seller have agreed it’s worth.
The financing appraisal is a less in depth review and is essentially answering the question; is this property worth the agreed upon purchase/sale price. A marketing appraisal goes deeper (and costs more) but a lender is not concerned with the actual market value over and above the purchase/sale price.
A lender just wants the simple question answered: is this loan going to be something I can get back if the asset has to be sold?
The best way to get a clear picture of your home’s worth is to start with a successful working realtor, and then get an appraiser to back that up.
- Do not rely on your BC assessment for a fair market value of your property. The value printed on that document was arrived at in July of the previous year, the market may have changed since then, and not in the direction you might think.
- Do not rely entirely on the buyer’s opinion or the seller’s opinion in an unlisted private transaction for a fair market value.
- Do not rely entirely on your neighbours, friends, or family members opinions for a fair market value of a property.
- Do consider ordering a marketing appraisal, but do not rely on it 100%… maybe 98% though.
- Do consider an evaluation by an experienced, active, local Realtor or two. This in combination with a marketing appraisal is the best indicator of current fair market value.
- Gather professional opinions from Realtor(s) and an Appraiser – these are the people with their feet on the ground and their heads in the game.