Chris Griffith: The value proposition and sifting for the ‘dream home’

CHRIS GRIFFITH

Who doesn’t like a great value on anything that they purchase, whether it’s a car, gym shoes or real estate? Housing and real estate present a special dilemma for consumers in years of late. As a nation and as a locale, we’ve experienced an unprecedented roller coaster ride of real estate prices, both up and down now mixed with recovery.

It’s a struggle for the average consumer to weed their way through the active real estate on the market to locate their “dream home” and also feel that they are getting a value. It’s kind of like archaeologists sifting sand and soil though a screen looking for the treasures and artifacts.

You take a big, huge pile of real estate, sift through the uglies, the overpriced, the “meh” homes, the pretties and find one that meets the actual search criteria; bedroom size, square footage, pool, architectural style, features.

It doesn’t matter if a home is priced at $100,000 or $1 million. The value of what its worth is determined by what a buyer will pay for it and what a seller will sell it for.

Finding the sweet spot is the trick; the best property for the best possible price. In a moment of frustration a buyer asked me why the list prices were so different than what they were able to find out online about the actual value.

The answer was actually how not to get a property valuation online; first, don’t use the county tax roll, second, Zillow-ish websites aren’t exact science. While these sorts of websites offer their share of disclaimers regarding how the valuations are formulated, most consumers don’t look any further than the answer they find. If there was an asterisk beside the answer it generally gets disregarded by most folks, especially if it’s in their favor.

For the record, I’m not starting a sword fight with anyone from Zillow or any “property valuation” website but the fact of the matter is whether you’re buying real estate in Naples, Seattle or Georgetown, there are feet on the ground who will extrapolate market conditions that a computer program simply cannot recognize.

In Southwest Florida, the tax roll “assessed value” is an entirely different wild card. Assessed = Do not get a tattoo of that number. That word “assessed” gets skipped over way too quickly by anyone looking to parlay whatever figure they’re trying to negotiate or justify. If it was an actual market value, it read “appraised value” or “market value.” Instead, it’s an estimate or aggregate for taxing purposes based on the previous year’s sales. Didn’t exactly hear the freshness seal pop, did you? It would be like valuing your car for what other like kind models sold for in the previous calendar year.

Yes, that’s the nutshell version. There’s a laundry list of ways that the assessed figure is derived. As a consumer you’re best served by visiting the county property appraiser’s website and reading up on how assessed values are created. Have some caffeine first.

So if you become completely confused while shopping for real estate in whatever market you’re searching, ask your real estate agent for a comparative market analysis of the home you’re leaning toward prior to presenting an offer or break down and get a full appraisal.

Most of the real estate valuation information online could be considered speculative, often times outdated and simply cannot take into consideration a variety of market conditions the number aggregators couldn’t possible gather because, after all, real estate is local.

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Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs, e-mail her at chris@LifeInBonitaSprings.com.

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