How to define the value of real estate properties

One of my passions in real estate is to help people understand that smoke and mirrors are not a necessary part of the real estate game.

For instance, there are different pieces of information that when pulled all together can help you determine the right price, or value, of a home:

  • Recent market activity, or as agents like to call it, comps.  For this information, I recommend going to an agent who knows the neighborhood extremely well.  Any agent will be more than happy to pull a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) for you.  The question is, are they manipulating that CMA for some reason, which they can easily do.
  • The home appraisal — what a professional home appraiser values the home to be.  Appraisers are human beings that come with their own agenda, though they may say otherwise.
  • The tax assessment — what the county tax assessor values the home to be for tax purposes.  Some people may now know that this information is free and readily available, just go the the respective county website depending on where the property is located and plug in the home address.  Here’s the place to find Arlington County tax assessments.
  • Zestimates and other online real estate tools.
  • The gut.  The gut score is derived from a complicated algorithm that combines all of the above with the agent market sense that comes from working with home buyers and home sellers every day and keeping in touch with the daily change in home inventory.

Do you have any data sources you can add to this list?  Or do you just pull numbers out of a hat?  I know it can sometimes seem like that …