That is a very good question and exactly the kind of question to be asking yourself and your Realtor. El Cerrito is a small town. (I live in El Cerrito and specialize in that area too). However you are absolutely right about what comparable homes to use. In our area, appraisers will look at .5 miles first before they extend their search. North of El Cerrito changes drastically in terms of sale prices; schools are different since most likely (depending on where your home is) you will be zoned for Mira Vista which is not a bad school but not an excellent school like Madera so that factor depreciates your home value. Also in general the farther away you are from the Berkeley magnet the lesser the value..
You will be looking at similar homes sold within your immediate neighborhood and sold within the last 3 months and then expand that search. When I do a presentation I give my clients statistics for the city as a whole and then for their immediate neighborhood and it does make a difference.
We had a small home (2bedrooms/1 bath, less than 1000sqft) in the flats and 2 blocks from Albany sell for $645,000 a month ago!!!!!! That would NEVER happen north of El Cerrito. Buyers are all into walkscores and that house ranked high in the chart apparently!
I hope this helps. Don't hesitate to ask more questions, you are on the right path with the right mentality.
CA DRE # 01271748
Marvin Gardens Real Estate
IF there is something very desirably unique about your home, your agent will help you understand why that feature increases it's value. There is a real danger if you over price by comparing it to a non-comparable area, that you will end up taking a much bigger hit on the price later on. Once a house goes stale by being on the market too long without offers, some buyers think of it has undesirable because no one else wants it, and the others will just see you as vulnerable and may try to negotiate aggressively.
When pricing a home it is very important to look at comps. The more similar to your house the better the comp. the more similar to your neighborhood, the better the comp. The more recent the sale, the better the comp. You also want to look at similar properties that haven't sold so you'll know what price is too high, as well as active listings so that you'll know where your competition is priced. There is another method of determining price that many agents do not use but that I find to be very valuable and this is absorbtion rate pricing. What you do is find out how long similar properties have taken to sell, realize that this is the absorption rate and price accordingly to put yours at the top of the list. There is a formula for doing this.
So the short answer to you question is I think it would be a mistake to use properties close to Albany to determine your sales price as the neighborhoods are quite different as are the styles of houses, etc.
I hope this helps
Appraisers start their search for comparables with similar starting point...and with other factors...to determine an appraisal value.
The estimated distance between N. El Cerrito to Albany is approximately 3 miles. To use a list price in this range, you should have ample justifications. Otherwise, it could consider comparing apples to oranges.
A local realtor should be able to help you to establish a firm list price for your home.