What's it worth?

Okay, imagine me breaking into song: "Summertime, and the selling is easy..."

All jokes aside, this is the season to sell. Have you seen how many open houses are listed in the paper? Isn't every real estate agent you know busier than a one-armed paper hanger?

If you are thinking about selling and moving up a notch in the housing market, one of the things you need to know while figuring out your budget for that house of your dreams is how much you'll get from your current property. While your real estate agent will have some idea, I've found in the past that my agent wasn't as much help as I would have liked. For that persons' 4 % commission, there was not a lot of work done. We even were the ones who primarily set the price for our home. The agent's comments were quite minimal.

If you want to do some research on your own, there are places to look! Of course, there's your local newspaper and the local real estate listings. This will give you some idea. However, unless you are cruising open houses, you don't know how the "hidden features" of the home stack up against what you can see from the curb.

As usual, the internet has come to your rescue. You can type in the search term "home values" in the search engine of your choice, and you'll find sites which can provide you with access to the public real estate records instantly! Such sites will compare your location and zip code with the sales records in that area, and give you a 'ball park' price. My personal favorite for Americans is HouseValues.com. The internet address is easy to remember and the approach is very straightforward. You can even find tools that specialize in your immediate area or city.

What about other North Americans? If you happen to be a Canadian, you have HouseValues.ca at your fingertips. Some tools will even let you pick a country of your choice to look at prices. So no matter where you are living, you can get an idea of what the property is worth.

My wife is thinking "vacation property" in Mexico. She'll be looking up areas, and finding out prices. I'm sure the research will be presented to me shortly!

Even if you decide not to sell, it's always helpful to know how much your home is worth. Thinking about refinancing to get rid of that nasty credit card debt? If the value of your home has increased substantially since you bought, you may be able to make a deal with your lender to let you get at that equity in order to pay off that high interest debt. (Of course, then you have to manage your cards better; after all, raiding your home's equity is not something you want to do indefinitely to finance a lifestyle.)

But, I digress.

If you are thinking about selling -- or even buying -- you now have another tool at your fingertips to help you find out the prices of properties. And a little tire kicking on the home buying market never hurt anybody...


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