Apr 14, 2008

Home Values in a Changing Market

With home values having recently gone down in many parts of the U.S., held steady in others, Sold houseand even shown gains in a few areas, how are your supposed to know whether you're paying the right price for a home?

We gave a lot of advice for assessing the market in our book (Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home) -- things like going to lots of open houses, checking comparable sales prices on sites like Zillow, and asking your real estate agent to prepare a report on sales prices of comparable properties (the "comps").

That advice still holds true -- but as was recently pointed out in an article by Realtor Magazine (a professional publication), it's especially important to pay attention to the prices of pending, rather than closed, sales, for the basic reason that they're the most recent. (And in a falling market, the appropriate price for the house you want to buy may be even less than the most recent pending comps.)

A good real estate agent will present the prices of pending properties to you no matter the market and explain any trends. But it helps if you know what you're looking for -- and, in some cases, what to ask for.

Ilona Bray