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In keeping with various threads about real estate, I'm wondering if anyone can answer this. We currently own our home (though I always use the term "own" loosely!), but are thinking of moving in the next 1-3 years. What I am really curious about is how much equity we have in the home now. I do have statements from the mortgage holder detailing how much is left on the mortgage, but then there's the current property value.

On our county's website, I can access the "market value" assessment/appraisal. Is this going to be anything like the true market value? FWIW, we're near Houston, TX, and the housing market hasn't crashed as badly as in many areas. The numbers I'm looking at on the county site show an increase in land value as well as the house in the last couple of years, leaving it quite favorable for us.

So can I trust what this says?
 

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The tax appraisal depends on your area, different areas appraise differently. For example, my town appraises at 97% of value. That means, they figure out what the value is as of January 1st of the tax year and then multiply by .97 - because it keeps people happy that they don't see their house as overvalued for tax purposes. Since appraisals are always done as of a particular date for everyone, they are often out of date - The recent appraisal may have been done in July, but it will be the value as of January 1st, because its only fair to tax everyone on the value of their home on the same day. So you should keep in mind that if prices are still dropping in your area, that the tax appraisal may be a bit high.

Zillow can give you an idea, keep in mind that they can also be wildly inaccurate. I sold a house and on the day I sold it, Zillow said it was worth $125K more than we sold it for. Trust me, we didn't give it away, it took 3 months to sell back at the height of the market before the crash. Zillow uses the neighborhood and in this case our neighbors homes *were* much much nicer than ours and worth a lot more. They use the tax appraisal and recent sales to make a determination as well. One nice thing about zillow is you can see recent sales in your area which helps give you an idea.

Another thing you can do is go on any MLS/real estate website like realtor.com and search for homes in your area that have the same characteristics as you (beds/baths/sq footage) and see what they are listed for. Keep in mind houses are listed for more than they sell for, and some owners set unrealistic list prices, but you'll get an idea what the average house like yours is being listed at.

www.housevalues.com has an interface that lets you request an online CMA from a realtor (my parents are realtors and used to belong), the request goes to a local realtor and they use the information provided to do a quick analysis based on local sales and send you back a few comparable houses and a general range of value.
 

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Zillow estimates are crazy and should be taken with a salt lick.
Maybe they're better with certain areas, but where we live it's pretty inaccurate.

I think looking at comps of recently sold homes is more accurate - it can be hard to gauge a comparable home, though. You have to use your information about the condition/exact location of the home vs. the specs of the home. I've tried to figure out ours (to see if we could refi) but there's no homes in the very desirable location within our neighborhood that have sold. Guessing how more our house is worth because of that is the hard part.
 

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Zillow was WAAAAY off on our house. It had it about $200,000 less than what it is... and also had our address linked to the wrong house!


I think their estimates are way overblown on some houses (my cousins is listed for $200,000 MORE than it should be) and way down on others.
 

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Another vote for Zillow being completely unreliable. The house next door finally sold last year after being on the market for 1.5 years.

Zillow estimated it at $356K yesterday, it was orginally listed for $349K, then dropped to $319K, dropped to $289K and finally sold at $269K.
The estimate for this house is equally outrageous, and if someone paid more than $180K they would be fools indeeed.

Best guess is to look and see what like houses have actually sold for in your recent area.

Tax assessments really have no bearing on actual value in many places. Also, in many areas should you want to fight your tax assessment, they will only look at comps and will not factor in any foreclosures.
 
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