Many Factors Help Determine Value


The recent upturn in Orange County home values has many homeowners wondering, "How much is my home worth?"

Realistically, a home is worth only as much as a buyer will pay and an owner will accept. But you can arrive at a ballpark figure by using information in this section, which lists prices, addresses and other information about homes sold in Orange County in June, July and August.

Method One

1. Scan the listings under your city for homes sold on your street, or in the general area, that are similar to yours in square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

2. Note what each of the homes similar to yours sold for. The high and low amounts show a general price range for your home.

Method Two

1. Select a home comparable to yours and divide the sales price by the home's square footage.

2. Do this for several properties and average the results.

3. Multiply the average price per square foot by the square footage of your property. The result is a rough estimate of your home's value.

Other Factors

You can arrive at a closer estimate by keeping these things in mind when comparing your home with others:

* Lot size: Homes with identical floor plans may vary in lot size. Those on larger lots command higher prices.

* Age or year built: It's best to compare your home with others built about the same year as yours.

* Interior/exterior condition: A home with a so-so exterior may have a dazzling interior with lots of upgrades, and vice versa. Exact comparisons are impossible with limited information.

* Pools, spas and views: These can add thousands of dollars to the value of a home.

* Garage size: This space is not included in the home's total square footage. A third garage can add $3,000 to $5,000 to the value of a home.

* Schools: Homes within boundaries of highly desirable schools can command as much as 15% to 25% more than nearby homes in the boundaries of less-desirable schools.

* Traffic and noise: Homes next to freeways or major streets typically sell for less than those in inside tracts or on cul-de-sacs.

* Association amenities: Membership in some homeowners associations includes access to private lakes, pools, tennis courts and other recreation facilities. Homes affiliated with such associations often command higher prices.

More Information

* Realtors: Those who sell a lot of homes in your neighborhood can be the best sources of information on recent sales and home values. They have first-hand knowledge of current trends, including pending sales.

* The Internet: A number of sites offer detailed information on recent home sales. If you don't have Internet access at home, try your local library.

Look into these sites:

At the main page, click on "Homesource" to enter the real estate information area. Click on "DataQuick" to search for comparable home sales by community, ZIP Code and other parameters. You can also try clicking on "Homes For Sale" to view photographs of and information on homes on the market. But keep in mind that houses often sell for significantly more or less than the asking price.

From the main page, click on "DataQuick Consumer Information Center." Then click on "Real Property Information." This section includes a simple explanation of how to obtain and understand real estate comparable-sales reports (comps). You can order a report with information on homes in your area similar to yours that have sold in the past year. The report, which costs $9.95, contains the same data used by professional appraisers.


Boom and Bust and Boom

During the 1980s, the median price for a resale home in Orange County increased 94%. But a different scene emerged in the '90s. Defense industry layoffs and a sagging economy sent home values plummeting from an 18-year high of $234,000 in 1991 to a '90s low of $200,000 in 1995. The 1998 median, $237,000, is 19% higher than 1995. Median price for resale homes:

1980: $120,000

1990: $234,000

1998*: $237,000

* January to August

Source: Acxiom/DataQuick; Researched by JANICE JONES DODDS

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