Buying Your Home - Appraisals & Market Value

What's a house worth?
A home is ultimately worth what someone will pay for it. Everything else is an estimate of value. To determine a property's value, most people turn to either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis (CMA). Your real estate agent will be happy to provide you with a comparative market analysis, which is an informal estimate of valuation based on comparable sales in the neighborhood. Be sure you get the listing prices of current homes on the market as well as those that have sold.
An appraisal is a certified appraiser's estimate of the value of a home at a given point in time. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth. You can also do your own cost comparison by looking up recent sales of comparable properties in public records. These records are available at local recorder or assessor offices, through private real estate information companies or on the internet. 

What standards to appraisers use to estimate value?
Appraisers consider factual information such as square footage, lot size, property condition, neighborhood location and availability of transportation, shopping and schools, comparable local sales, any pertinent historical information, sales performance and indices that forecast future value. 
Can I find out the value of my home through the internet?
You can get some idea of your home's value by searching the internet. A number of websites and services crunch the numbers from historic public records of home sales to produce the statistics. Some services offer an actual estimate of value based on acceptable software appraisal standards. They also depend on historic home sales records to calculate the estimate. Neither of these services produce official appraisals. They also don't factor in market nuances or other issues a certified appraiser or real estate professional might in assessing the value of your home. 
What is the difference between list price, sales price, and appraised value?
The list price is a seller's advertised price, a figure that is usually only a rough estimate of what the seller wants to get. Sellers can price high, low or close to what they hope to get from the sale. To judge whether the list price is a fair one, be sure to consult comparable sales prices in the area. 

The sales price is the amount of money you as a buyer would pay for a property.
The appraised value is a certified appraiser's estimate of the worth of a property, and is based on comparable sales, the condition of the property and numerous other factors. 
How do you determine the value of a troubled property?
Buyers considering a foreclosure property should obtain as much information as possible from the lender, including the range of bids expected. It is also important to examine the property. If you are unable to physically get inside a foreclosure property, check with surrounding neighbors about the property's condition. It is also possible to do your own cost comparison through researching comparable properties recorded at local county recorder's and assessor's offices, or through internet sites specializing in property records.