- - Thursday, April 12, 2012

There is a popular cartoon that has been making the rounds of real estate appraisers’ offices for the past decade or so, featuring views of a home from the perspective of different pairs of eyes. The homeowner sees the home one way, the buyer, another, the real estate agent, yet another, and the appraiser, another way yet.

It’s just the kind of inside joke real estate appraisers can appreciate, especially these days.

“The biggest key to pricing your home accurately is to find a good agent and hire a qualified appraiser,” said Greg Colton, owner/manager of the Colton Appraisal Group in Clinton. “These days everyone is focused on appraisal quality.”

Pricing your home can be challenging at any time, and expectations can confront reality no matter what the state of the housing market. Pricing is even more confounding right now, with markets changing, neighborhoods developing, and foreclosures, short sales, and real estate owned by banks crowding the market.

“The market is so mixed,” said Mary Bayat, a broker/owner with Bayat Realty in Alexandria. “The game has really changed. A lot of factors are in play now, including consumers themselves.”

At some point, however, those different points of view will come in line. The fact is, having another pair of eyes to look at your home can really help price your property accurately. Don’t let your estimations of value be based on history and memories, two things that don’t translate easily into actual dollars. And remember that homes that were appraised during the boom years frequently have overinflated values that can have an impact on sellers’ expectations.

“Realtors know neighborhoods and they know properties,” said Pat Kline, chairman of the board for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and a Realtor with Avery-Hess in Springfield. “They can tell you why properties are priced differently.”

Your real estate agent will explain the key factors you will need to take into consideration when determining how to price your home.

Start by considering how much time you have to sell. If you must be out of your house in three months or less, you’ll want to price your home accordingly. Pricing below market value can mean multiple offers in the greater Washington area, where many neighborhoods have hardly felt the press of the recent real estate crunch. You might even be taken back to the thrilling days of yesteryear and find your home the subject of a bidding war.

Of course, if you can wait a bit, it may be worth your while to set a higher price.

Washington area home prices generally are better than they are in other parts of the country, but that is not necessarily true across the board and neighborhood by neighborhood. Certain neighborhoods, in places like Chevy Chase, Arlington, or Bethesda, are perennially hot; others less so.

“Buyers are interested in proximity to Metro or nearby highways, and how good the schools are,” Ms. Kline said. “All of these factors can affect marketability.”

If you are lucky enough to live in one of the area’s perennially hot markets, it makes sense to push your price to the high end, Ms. Kline said.

Work with your real estate professional to develop a sense of the current market and market trends in your particular area. Be sure to find out how quickly homes sell, how many properties are available and how the market has been trending recently.

It is important to compare the price you intend to ask for your home with other homes that have sold recently - meaning, less than three months ago.

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