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Five ways to research your local real estate market

Published: Oct 14, 2009

Is now a good time to sell your home? In today's highly competitive real estate market this question is more relevant than ever before. After all you don't want to walk into a firing squad when you put your home on the market (but if you must, you want to be wearing a bullet proof vest!)

Real estate, like politics, is local. For instance if prices are falling in Dallas, it doesn't necessarily mean they are also falling in San Diego and vice versa. But, as we often only hear about national statistics, it's easy to form an opinion of the real estate market which has little or no correlation to our own unique locale. Real estate markets are what many economists refer to as micro-markets influenced by a combination of factors that drive them in different directions, often with different results. So how can you research the local real estate market? It's easier than you might think. Let's look at five ways to research the local real estate market:

  1. Call an agent

    The fastest way to find information about the local real estate market is to simply talk to a local real estate professional. As paid members of both the board of REALTORS® and the local multiple listing service, they will have access to in-depth market research and most agents are happy to provide this information free of charge. For a referral try asking your friends and neighbors for a recommendation of someone they know and trust. New to the area? Take a few minutes surfing Trulia's Professional Directory to identify a few candidates.

  2. Go online

    Not ready to talk to an agent? No problem, many local REALTOR® Boards and Multiple Listing Services offer their market statistics to the public. In addition many Chamber of Commerce organizations publish community statistics. Also be sure to use the seller tools at Trulia to learn more about your market (be sure to check out the heat maps).

  3. Check out the newspaper

    Check in at your local newspaper, or visit their website to find the latest real estate headlines as most local newspapers have a section devoted to real estate. Also begin monitoring the real estate classified section of the newspaper and local real estate guides to get a good feel for prices of similar homes in your neighborhood.

  4. Talk to the county assessor's office

    Local governments often have detailed market statistics that are of public record and may be available in a regular report at their office or online. But a word of caution: many taxing authorities quickly ramped up their assessed valuations to increase tax revenue during the boom years. Unfortunately, as real estate values have fallen, many of these same agencies havent kept pace with the downward spiral resulting in homes that now show unrealistically high tax values.

  5. Talk to an appraiser

    Appraisers are typically hired by banks to assess the fair market value of real estate. Because of this appraisers must stay current on all of the local trends in the marketplace and can be a terrific resource for information. A polite phone call or email to one or more appraisers requesting guidance about the real estate market will often yield a bucket load of statistics or a referral to local sources of information. In addition some sellers find it helpful and ultimately profitable to have their home pre-appraised prior to placing their home on the market.

The truth is homes are still selling, lots of homes, and yours can be one of them! Armed with solid market information, savvy home sellers can position themselves for success despite the market conditions.

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