Anne-Marie Bulawka bought a condo two years ago. Eventually she'd like to upgrade to a house.
"We kind of have a 5 to 8 year plan and then be able to move up to the next step," says Anne-Marie.
So to find out if her condo has been gaining in value Anne-Marie turned to the internet on websites like Eppraisal, Home Gain, Real Estate ABC and others.
You can type in your address and up pops an estimate of the value.
"What they do is they know from property taxes and assessor data characteristics at any given address. And what they do is they compare that address and the characteristics there to nearby homes that are similar," says University of California Berkeley Professor Thomas Davidoff.
The sites look at selling prices for other homes in your neighborhood. But just how accurate are they?
"Buyer beware. They are going to give you decent data.. But they are not going to give you perfect data," says Davidoff.
Anne-Marie used three of the sites and got three different answers.
"One website had said that we had appreciated. One had said that we did not appreciate. And one didn't have an answer for us at all-and said that they couldn't find our location," says Anne-Marie.
So how do you know which website to believe?
"You want to look for sites that have been around more or have spent more money collecting data, because the better data you have...the better answers you are going to give a customer," Davidoff explains.
Experts say the sites can give you a ballpark estimate but a more exact figure requires a trained eye because these websites might not know about any upgrades you may have made.
"The best is going to be a local real estate broker or your friend who has been going to open houses. They know better the value of a home really than any site that doesn't really have the ability to sort of look at the unobservables of homes or neighborhoods," adds Davidoff.
As for Anne-Marie, she plans to use the sites again but for a slightly different reason.
"They also provided us with information on other condos within our complex that have sold recently and what their selling prices were," Anne-Marie says.
On some websites zillow.com you can also calculate how a specific renovation will affect the value of your home.
Saturday, July 26 2014 2:09 PM EDT2014-07-26 18:09:07 GMT
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