These are good times for homeowners. The days of the Great Recession, when prices were falling, are over. Home prices are now trending up in many areas and, in some cases, prices are way up.
Which means it's a good time to sell if you're ready to move on. Or, at the very least, those rising prices can be comforting to know that you, your children and grandchildren are financially secure.
Of course, you hear about home prices all the time. Just watch your local news, and you'll hear how much the "average" home prices in your community are up or down, compared to last month or last year. But averages don't tell you much about your home.
To find out how much your house is worth, you could ask a real estate agent to give you a rough estimate. They'll look at comparable homes in your neighborhood to see how much they sold for, with adjustments made for the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in your house.
However, there's an easier and faster to way to do that. There are easy-to-use apps and websites that can tell you how much your house is worth in about a minute or so. Just type in your address, and up pops a photograph of houses in your neighborhood, including yours, with a lot of details about price, sales history, square footage and features that'll catch the eye of home buyers.
Zillow is one of those websites that's so much fun to explore, you can get lost for hours in it. Just try checking out home prices in Beverly Hills and then virtually fly to Manhattan, and points in between. There are maps and photos to help you daydream. There's also the Zillow app that can give you great information on houses near you when you're driving around.
The heart of Zillow, home prices, is simple and right on its home page. Type in your address, then choose Buy, Rent or Sell. Almost instantly you can see how much your house is worth.
There's more to Zillow, though. In fact, it has an almost unsettling amount of information about your home. (Note: Most home sales data is public record. A lot of information that Zillow reports has always been available to the public; Zillow and similar sites have made it easier to access, and to customize, based on improvements you've made to your home.)
Zillow shows you your home's sales history, with the years it sold, and how much it was sold for. You can scroll down to see how much property taxes you're paying, and how much they used to be.
Zillow also has helpful tools, so you can make smart financial decisions. You can see how much all the houses in your neighborhood are worth. That can be helpful, for instance, if you're wondering if it makes sense to add bedrooms or bathrooms to your home. Just click on homes in your neighborhood to see how much your house would be worth with those additions.
Or, perhaps it would make more sense to rent out your home, rather than sell it. Zillow shows you how much rent you can get each month. If you're thinking about refinancing your mortgage, Zillow has tools for that too.
Note: Zillow's Make Me Move feature (click on Sell tab) can help you decide if it's worth it to list your home. Type in the minimum amount of money you'd take for your house. Without putting it up for sale, you can let home buyers see how much they'd have to offer, for you to consider selling it to them.
The National Association of Realtors, an association for real estate agents, has an extremely useful site to find out how much your home is worth, and a lot more. For homeowners, they have the site Realtor.com and an app. (Realtor.org is the site for agents.)
On Realtor.com, just type in your home address. Choose an option: For Sale, For Rent, Recently Sold or Property Records. It'll pull up a handy overview of your home, starting with its estimated value.
On this comprehensive site, you will see photographs of homes in your neighborhood, along with the price that home buyers recently paid for them. You can find out how much nearby homes are renting for, to find out if renting makes more financial sense for you than selling your home.
You can also find your home's sales history, with dates it was sold and prices it sold for, along with taxes paid. Plus, you can see what home buyers see when they look at your home on the site. That includes a list of public and private schools in your neighborhood and in neighboring school districts. That information can come in handy for you when you're making decisions such as refinancing your current mortgage, selling or renting your home, so you can move to a more desirable neighborhood.
Homes.com is a lot like Realtor.com and Zillow in its functionality. Type in your address from the Homes home page, and choose For Sale, For Rent or Home Values.
Choose Home Values to get an aerial photograph of your neighborhood, with the estimated value of each home in your neighborhood, including yours. Homes shows you top-line statistics about your neighborhood, like the unemployment rate and the median age of residents.
If you click on the photograph of your house and choose Home Values, Homes will give you two options to get more details about it. The first button says, "See more info." You will see a bigger photo of your house, along with the estimated sales price. If you're considering selling, Homes provides the names and contact information for agents who can help you.
The other option shows you an icon of a quill pen. Underneath that icon, it says "Claim your home." Enter your last name and the year you bought your house, then click Verify. Homes prompts you to provide specific details about your home that may be missing from its estimate, like the number of bedrooms or your garage's square footage.
If you don't mind providing your email address to Homes, they will create an account for you. Once you are signed up, Homes will send you monthly updates on your home's value, plus the price of homes you might be interested in buying.
There are other sites like Eppraisal that provide similar information as Zillow, Realtor.com and Homes. There are also real estate company websites like Coldwell Banker's ZipRealty and its app that show you how much your home is worth. From the ZipRealty home page, select Price Your Home.
You may also want to check your local newspaper's real estate site. There's usually a page where you can search for homes in your neighborhood to see the asking prices for nearby homes for sale.
Note: Be careful about a couple of things, if you search for other sites. Some, like Trulia and QuickHomePrice, will give you an estimate of your home's value, but only if you provide them with your contact information.
Don't give it to them, unless you are serious about selling your home and want agents to call you. Plus, if a site asks you to pay for information that they'll mail to you, don't do it, unless you are absolutely confident it's a legitimate business providing a service that you can't find elsewhere for free.