Despite all the talk of rising interest rates, the winter lull, and an impending buyer pullback, housing's still going strong these days. And homeowners? They hold all the cards.
It's true: According to the December Housing Market Report from Realtor.com, homes sold 11 days faster in December 2021 compared to December 2020 (and a whopping 26 days faster than in 2019). Home prices were also up 10% over the year, and bidding wars cropped up in about 60% of all transactions.
When you throw in the record amount of equity homeowners have gained this year (the typical mortgagee has seen their property value jump a whopping 31% since 2020), you get quite the temptation to refinance, tap that equity, or even sell your house entirely.
To do that, though -- or at least to understand how those opportunities could benefit you -- you first need to know your home's value in the current market. Here are four ways to do just that.
1. Have a real estate agent do a comparative market analysis
Contact the real estate agent who sold you your home -- or any other agent local to the area -- and ask them for what's called a CMA (comparative market analysis) of your property.
A CMA is a report that looks at recent home sales in your area, particularly ones that are similar to your property in size, age, condition, style, and amenities. This data can then be used to extrapolate what price point your home might fetch in the current market.
Most agents will offer CMAs for free, especially if you've worked with them before (or plan to work with them on an upcoming transaction).
2. Get an appraisal
You can also get a property appraiser to assess your home. This will require an interior and exterior evaluation of the property and its condition, and it also comes with a fee -- usually a few hundred dollars, though the exact cost depends on your market.
Your home's appraised value is the maximum a buyer could get from a mortgage lender to finance it. It's also what a lender would base any refinance, home equity loan, or HELOC on.
3. Apply for an estimate with an iBuyer (or several)
Another way to gauge your home's value is to get an estimate from an iBuyer (instant homebuyer) like Opendoor, Offerpad, or Redfin Now. You typically enter your address, answer a few questions about the home's condition, and you'll get a report within a few hours. Some iBuyers may request photos of the property before they'll give you a firm number.
Either way, once you're done, you have a good idea of what your home may be worth -- and potentially even an outright offer to buy your home from the iBuyer. Just keep in mind: These companies often charge service fees and may offer as much as 15% below what the open market would fetch The trade-off is the ease and convenience these deals come with. (There's no staging, showings, or marketing, and many even do repairs on your behalf.)
4. Use a home value estimator
There are also many online home value estimators you can use. Zillow's "Zestimates" are probably the most well-known option, but there are other estimators from Redfin, Chase, Realtor.com, RE/MAX, and others too.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency also has a good one, at least if you're in a major metro area in your state.
No strategy is perfect
Each home valuation method has its flaws, and there's no way to determine with certainty what your home would fetch in a sale. Your best bet is to use one or all of these strategies to get an educated pulse on what your home may be worth. This can help guide you toward the best financial decisions for your household.