Given the tightening of regulations on appraisals in the home financing process, I would like to get an idea of the "rough" value of my home before initiating the refinance process.

Since our mortgage and second mortgage were initiated in 2006-2007, we could save a significant amount per month on any type of loan we could get right now (including the PMI or FHA add-on cost, if necessary). However, we're worried that it isn't sensible to attempt a refinance if we end up being over 100% loan-to-value and cannot complete the loan - and end up being charge the cost of the appraisal ($500+).

What is the best way to find out if our home is even in the range of being able to refinance (<97.75% LTV)? We know the exact number that it would need to appraise greater than, now we just need to determine our odds of reaching that amount.

For example, I'd like to know how to find the amount of recent comps in my area. I'm willing to pay a small fee for access to this data, if it's available for a fee.

Note: I've tried Zillow and similar, and it is below the above number, but returns some pretty weird numbers throughout our neighborhood.

Do I have any other options that I'm missing?

3 Answers 3


It's extremely easy to get a rough valuation of your home. Just phone a real estate agent. Virtually any real estate agent will come and value your home free. Even if you say outright "I'm not considering selling, I just want a valuation" they will probably do it, because for them getting contacts of people who might one day want to sell their home is all-important. Even if a few turn you down, some will do it.

You might say that an agent isn't going to be as accurate as an appraiser, and you are right. There is also an expectation that they will evaluate higher than the real value, to persuaade you to sell. That probably isn't a big issue, and it's something you can compensate for. And even an appraiser is going to be based somewhat on speculation.

You might try to do this calculation yourself, but an agent has access to the actual sale prices of nearby houses - you can't get that information. You only have access to the asking prices. And did I mention they will do it for free?

  • The difference is that an agent is likely to have a systematic upward skew, because they want to please you and make you more likely to sell through them by giving an optimistic estimate. An appraiser doesn't have so much of that motivation. But, you're quite right this is another option and probably free, so you might as well ask.
    – poolie
    Sep 21, 2011 at 6:51
  • You are right, but it's not a big issue. I've edited the question to explain why. Sep 21, 2011 at 13:22

I see your remarks regarding Zillow, but would add a question. Why not look only for recent sales? If you find homes similar to yours with recent sales, that's similar to how the appraisers do it. I've refinanced many times and each time, I looked at sales within three miles of my house. I hit the appraised price very close in my estimate, high or low compared to Zillow, but used transaction data from there.just my thought.

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I chose a random neighborhood, and this was the first house I clicked. The main view shows last sale date, so I'd obviously suggest the OP look for more recent ones. If turnover is that low in his neighborhood, I understand, but the comment that transactions aren't listed is factually incorrect. I'd like my 2pts back. :)

  • Actually that's exactly how appraisers do it. They find 2-3 houses that have sold recently that are as similar and close as possible to the house in question then adjust the price for the differences with the comparables.
    – JohnFx
    Sep 20, 2011 at 14:59
  • I've tried to do that but none of the sales prices in my area show up.
    – Nicole
    Sep 20, 2011 at 16:13
  • @Renesis - fair enough. Perhaps the realtor suggestion will work for you. Sep 20, 2011 at 20:52
  • The point is that you do not have access to sale prices of houses. You only have access to the advertised price. A real estate agent has access to the selling price, which is why you should get one of them to do the calculation for you, especially as they will do it for free. Sep 22, 2011 at 15:16
  • DJ - it sure does. I edited my post. Sep 22, 2011 at 15:38

If you're willing to pay a fee, you can probably just get a commercial appraiser to give you a valuation. In Australia I think it's around $100-200.

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