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So I'm in Los Altos: How Much is My House Worth?

Information is plentiful online but may not be reliable for Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, where many homes, on the interior, are one of a kind.

With the recent IPO of Zillow, more and more homeowners and buyers are turning to the Internet site for home price estimates. After all, whether you are buying or selling, you want to know the fair market value.

But are online real estate database sites like Zillow really the answer? Probably not. Obviously, any estimates of home value done with no regards of the interior conditions can’t be reliable. It is especially so in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, where most of the homes are one of a kind.

So what are the best ways to find out how much your home is worth?

Check out

Each month, we publish a home sales report specifically for Los Altos and Los Altos Hills with in the open market in the previous month. The report allows you to compare your home with the latest sales based on the size and location of the house. It also gives you some ideas of the market trend and thus is a good place to start.

Check out neighborhood open houses

Attending neighborhood open houses allows you to compare your home with those on the market more effectively. In Los Altos/Los Altos Hills, the range of value is wide, even for homes of the same size and in the same neighborhood, depending on the layout and details of the home, and the appeal of the backyard, among other things.

Open houses are usually on Saturdays and Sundays. Check out our weekly open house section on Fridays to identify homes you are interested in. You don’t have to be an active homebuyer to attend open house. Neighbors are always welcome!

Online research

The Internet is a good avenue if you know how to use and interpret the information in a correct manner.

Mlslistings.com, the public version of our professional multiple listing service site, provides the most up-to-date information of homes on the market, including the asking price, size and address, and sometimes photos of the house. Try to stick with this site if you’re looking for homes for sale, as I have seen some other sites filled with information that is up to a few months old.

Sites like Zillow that offer home value estimates may have some reference value if you’re trying to compare the price level of different neighborhoods. But the estimates they give usually are far from accurate. The reason is simple—how can you possibly put a price tag on a home without seeing the interior?

Talk to a professional realtor

If you’re considering to sell or to move up, the best thing to do after you have done the above is to talk to a professional realtor. Despite the ready availability of information in this information age, none of the above can replace the value of the knowledge of a realtor. A good realtor will give you an estimate based on a comparative market analysis of your home. He/she may also offer additional advice on what can be done to improve its market value.

As a realtor, one of the most frequently asked questions is “how much is my house worth?” People are interested in knowing the value of their home for different reasons. But don’t just rely on the information on the Web. You should get out to see some open houses and talk to a realtor you can trust in order to find out how hard your real estate investment is really working.

Nancy Carlson July 27, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Many homeowner's will see sale information on Zillow or a listed price on an open home and consider these valid "comparables" to their own home, but unless you have information about property condition, updates, finishes, location, and sale terms you can't make a comparison to your own home's value. Talk to a Realtor.
Winnie Yip Fong July 28, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Can't agree with you more. As suggested, nothing can replace the knowledge of a professional realtor. I lost count of how often I had to explain to my clients why the magic numbers they saw on Zillow were off. The reality is in this information age, information is everywhere. Knowing how to use and interpret those information is the key. As mentioned in the article, if you're in the market, you really should talk to a realtor you trust to get a professional assessment of the home's value.
Junooni August 10, 2011 at 12:10 AM
In Los Altos, generally, there will be a dozen or so houses in your prices range. If you are in the market, go to open houses, research on sites like ZipReality and Redfin and then get a discount (in my case it was a fix fee ~$7K - rest of the buyer's commission was paid to me) realtor to help you with the negotiations and paperwork.

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