A number of websites compile data about housing prices and communities which has made the process of researching real estate values much easier. When a home sells, the sales price is entered into the public record, which means that it is possible to look up sales prices for a particular community, and to compare homes to get an idea of how much similar homes sell for. Sales history for specific properties is also available, for people who want to look at long-term changes in housing values.
Often, the difference between list prices and sales prices can be quite significant, and sometimes revealing. If homes consistently sell at prices above their listed prices, it indicates that the market is moving upwards, while a dramatic reduction in sales price when compared to list prices suggests that the market is following a downward trend.
In addition to comparing list and sales prices, people can also get revealing information by looking at the list price history on a home: if homes sell right away, the market is strong, while repeated slashes in the list prices of homes in a community suggest that prices may be falling.
Domania.com, a central clearinghouse of real-estate information, lets you search for home-sale prices by address, city and date. The records go back at least five years in most areas, but it usually takes about six weeks after a home is sold before the price is listed on the site. You can also search for property-tax assessments, which can help if you’re appealing yours.
Housefront allows you to text the street address of a home to HOUSE (46873) and you’ll get back the number of bathrooms, the number of bedrooms, year built, and estimated value. You may also get back other bits of information depending on the location.
Zillow Mobile is an offshoot of the widely discussed Zillow website that estimates home values anywhere in the US. It basically does the same thing. You text a message to email@example.com and you get the same information: number of bathrooms, the number of bedrooms, year built, and estimated value. The estimated value is the Zestimate, Zillow’s proprietary valuing guess.
Also Zillow now has an iPhone app that let’s you look up all this information on-the-fly.
In many areas, homes either sell within the first 21 days, or they sit on the market for weeks, months, or even years. Looking at the sales prices of homes which move within 21 days of the time they are put on the market is often a very good indicator of prevailing home values, because these homes are usually priced just right. Some other key indicators are withdrawn or expired listings, which are usually priced too high.
So, if you’re house shopping and came across your dream home and want to know if it is in your price range, you can know instantly whether you’d have to sell your children to afford it.