How to ‘Appraise’ Your House Without Paying Someone Else to Do It

How to ‘Appraise’ Your House Without Paying Someone Else to Do It
She's smiling because she bought in 2018. (Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock)

A home appraisal is a standard step in the mortgage approval process. If you’re buying a home or refinancing your current one, your lender likely will require a professional appraisal to ensure your loan amount and the home value are aligned and that you’re not paying way too much for what you’re getting. Typically, the appraisal is paid for by the buyer, who can expect to shell out anywhere from $250 to $500 to assess a single-family home.

However, sellers often use appraisals to determine how much to list their homes for. A professional can be your best bet here too, as knowing your property’s true value can be well worth a few hundred bucks.

But if you’re just curious how much your home is worth — especially after a couple of years in this bonkers market — you can make an educated guess based on a little bit of internet research.

What to include in your DIY appraisal

First, you’ll need the stats: the size of your property or lot, the square footage of your house, the year it was built, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. In general, newer and larger homes are worth more. You’ll also want to note the following:

  • Location: Is your home in a neighbourhood with lots of amenities? Is it walkable? How is the school district? What are crime rates like? Are you close to town or in a more suburban or rural area?
  • Layout: In addition to size, the layout of your home — open concept, for example — can affect the value.
  • Condition: Newly renovated and move-in ready homes generally have higher value than fixer-uppers. Are major systems (like the HVAC, plumbing, and water heater) and structural elements (roof and foundation) in good shape or in need of repair? Is there any unaddressed damage?
  • Upgrades: A remodeled kitchen or new windows or an added bathroom can certainly increase your home’s resale value, though the return on investment isn’t always 100%.
  • Extras: Solar panels, swimming pools, fireplaces, yard built-outs, and accessory dwelling units can set your home apart and add value.
  • Curb appeal: The exterior of your home matters too, especially if you are actually planning to sell. Account for things like poorly maintained landscaping, chipping paint, and ageing fences.

List all of this in a spreadsheet so you can easily compare to other homes in your area.

How to calculate your home’s value

Once you have all the above information, look for other similar properties to compare to using real estate listing sites like Zillow, Redfin, or Realtor.com.

Search for homes in your neighbourhood or zip code that have sold in the last three to six months — the more recent, the more accurate your estimate will be. Select those that are most similar to your own in terms of age and size, as the sale price of a 5-bed, 4-bath house built in the last decade won’t be much help if your home is a 2-bed, 1-bath from the 1950s. Record this information, including the year built, bedrooms/bathrooms, square footage, and sale price, next to the stats for your home.

Next, calculate the average price per square foot of the comparable homes. This is often included in the online sale listing. You can use this to get a rough estimate of your home value. If the average price per square foot in your area is $300, and your home is 139 sq km, your home value estimate is $450,000.

This is a good starting point, and then you’ll factor in extra rooms and bonus features as well as any negative factors, like a roof that needs replacing. The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report can give you a sense for how much value certain renovations and upgrades add, or google specific issues to see how much problems can decrease your price.

Again, it may be difficult to get an exact number without professional help, but this will at least get you in the ballpark.

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