Can you quantify charm?
Jean Feingold thought so. Her 1920’s era Spanish Colonial bungalow is cute all over. It has the original fireplace, wood floors, arched doorways and all the other details you’d expect of a Florida house built in 1928.
For better or worse, the bungalow also has some less enticing vintage characteristics: an outmoded kitchen, only one bathroom, and, it lacks central air conditioning.
Considering the wide spectrum of updated and just dated houses in her neighborhood, Gainesville’s historic Duck Pond area, Feingold estimated that her 1,600 square foot place was worth about $140,000. She’s not considering selling it, but as recommended by ForSaleByOwner.com, she wants to track the value of her home for insurance and financial planning purposes.
Estimating home value is essential but tough. ForSaleByOwner.com offers homeowners a range of tools for figuring out about what their homes would fetch if they were to sell today. From publicly available sales records to formulas for calculating equity to computerized valuation reports, ForSaleByOwner.com equips homeowners with the information and knowledge to correctly estimate the value of their homes.
Feingold was one of four winners in ForSaleByOwner.com’s “Is Your House Priced Right?” contest, which invited homeowners around the country to submit short essays explaining what they thought their houses were worth, and why.
Feingold thought that her house might be worth more than neighboring houses because of its charm and generally good condition. In fact, many homeowners hope that their own homes’ values will rise above neighborhood norms. But that is rarely the case. ForSaleByOwner.com has always advised homeowners who must know the exact value of their homes to get a formal appraisal. Only the opinion of a licensed appraiser will be accepted by mortgage lenders.
Gainesville area appraiser Joy Foy is intimately familiar with the Duck Pond area, which is gradually regentrifying. A diverse housing stock demands a careful analysis by an appraiser who really knows the neighborhood. Because pricing is so critical to attracting an offer that will hold up through the loan approval process, many sellers are starting with a formal appraisal, he said. “In the past, people were safe going to an agent and asking, ‘what will we get?’ But now, agents are starting with an appraisal, because it’s so confusing,” says Foy. In the Duck Pond, for example, old-fashioned bungalows like Feingold’s are next door to newly built two-story homes.
Citing the lack of air conditioning as a major drawback, and also recognizing the relatively small size of the rooms, Foy appraised Feingold’s house for $115,000. Feingold , who bought the bungalow for $20,500 in 1973, still thinks the house is worth more than the appraisal – a rundown house on the next block recently sold for $99,000 — but it’s all academic to her. “I’m not looking to sell. I’m trying to understand the investment value. I paid it off in 16 years and the neighborhood has become a historic district,” she says. “This will be the best investment I ever made.”