It's not a bad idea to gather information from several sources and determine the real value of your home instead of just thinking that your home is the same value as the one that sold down the street, or rather than relying on just one approach to home valuation.
Call a couple of REALTORS. Even if you're not planning to sell your home right away, many REALTORS will be willing to prepare a comparable market analysis (CMA) for you as a marketing service with the goal of getting your business whenever you decide to move. A CMA shows the prices of recently sold homes that are comparable to yours and the prices of comparable homes on the market. A market-savvy REALTOR® can give you a rough idea of what your home would be worth, given its size and condition and local market conditions.
Purchase a professional appraisal. Unlike a CMA, a professional appraisal is rarely free. However, the several hundred dollars you'll pay for an appraisal, depending on size of your home and the complexity of the work, could be money well spent if you're making a major financial decision that hinges on the value of your home. Appraisers rely on an in-person inspection of your home, recent sales of comparable homes and other data to arrive at an opinion of value. The appraiser's report is a full-blown description of your home and the criteria used to formulate the valuation.
Go to neighborhood open houses. Open houses are a good opportunity to view comparable homes for sale in your neighborhood and chat with real estate professionals about the local real estate market. Two caveats: It's not easy to be objective about your own home and you shouldn't assume that the listing price on a for-sale necessarily reflects the home's true market value. If you keep those points in mind, information gathered at open houses can be worth considering along with data from other sources.
Do research online. A number of Web sites offer home valuation information free or for a fee. The free service at iOwn.com displays sales prices of comparable nearby homes and market activity data within three minutes. Dataquick.com charges $30 for a full home valuation estimate, while Appraisal-net.com offers a comparable sales report for $9.95. VirtualRealEstateStore.com will send a free home price analysis to your e-mail address within 72 hours or you can pay $14.95 for an immediate reply.
TIP: Price per square foot is a time-honored method of real estate valuation and not a bad rule of thumb but is not at all accurate. However, it doesn't account for a choice location, a move-in-ready home or personal criteria and you should factor in how the property was measured and whether the square footage includes the garage or other detached buildings on the property.