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  How To Estimate Any Home's Value  

Consumers can get a free estimate of any home's value at a handful of sites including, and  Zillow's reports include a history of the property and rooftop satellite neighborhood photos.  Zillow reports that its estimates "are typically on target, falling within 10 percent of the actual home-sale prices 62 percent of the time."

These sites calculate their estimates using computer programs that examine property tax assessments and sales price trends.  These estimates are fairly accurate for condos and town homes, but in markets where homes are unalike the information could well be misleading (some have been known to be off by as much as 200%!)  And these sites don't serve all areas:  Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Wyoming and Utah don't make property records available.  In other states, the estimate may be based on pricing data that is two to three months old, which may distort the home's true value by a few percent.

An in-person appraisal by a realtor is the most accurate way, but it will cost you $300 to $500.  A realtor knows a lot about what does or doesn't add value to your home.

(Next Gem: How To Guard Against Home Disasters)

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