How Do You Know It’s Time? Part 3

Last week, we got a call from a woman who said her house felt too small now that her son had become a teen, and she was also dissatisfied with the outside of her home, but she wasn’t sure how to fix those problems. A quick Zillow search told us that this woman’s neighbors all had 4-bedroom homes with 2-3 bathrooms, while she was living in a 3-bedroom, 1-bath house. The “bird’s eye” view of her neighborhood told us that most of her neighbors had put additions on their homes to increase their size, and their homes were now worth 1/3 more than her house, even in this time of conservative appraisals.

We find that this is a common problem facing homeowners: many people who have lived in their homes for a long time are looking to make renovations, but they are unclear about what their property value is now, and how they can maintain or enhance it. Here are some easy tips anyone with a computer can use to figure that out. is a great resource to find out what your home’s “public” value is and how it compares to your neighbors. Here is how to do it: go to Zillow and plug your address and ZIP code into the search bar. You’ll see a window showing your neighborhood map. In that map, you will see property values on each of your neighbor’s homes.

Now let’s dig deeper.

Why is one home in your neighborhood worth more than the next one? Typically, the pricier homes have more bathrooms or bedrooms, are larger overall, or have added features like a pool or garage. But what you won’t see on Zillow are the “intangibles” for home values. Any appraiser will confirm that a home with higher quality finishes, products and function will be worth more than a similar-sized home without them. It’s the “WOW factor” we all have experienced when we’ve walked into a truly great house. The design, layout, view, wonderful materials, fit and finishes, styling and landscaping — all of the subjective stuff — truly makes a difference. These are the features that can make one 4-bedroom, 3-bath house really stand out from the crowd.

Recently, “green” and sustainable features, like super-efficient heating and cooling systems and energy-efficient appliance packages, have also increased home values.

If your home is not making you happy in some way, a visit to Zillow is a great starting point for determining where you might make changes that will not only increase your quality of life, but also make your home more marketable. Zillow puts a financial perspective on the process of finding solutions to the issues. We often do these quick studies of home valuation for our customers. We are not appraisers, but we do work to ensure the design to build renovations we deliver will enhance the value of our clients’ homes.