Your Options For Free Home Appraisal in Ontario
When you start thinking about selling your house, one of your first questions is likely: “What is my home worth?”
There are a few different ways that you can determine the value of your home. You can:
- Hire a professional appraiser;
- Contact a realtor and ask for a comparative market analysis;
- Do the research and calculations on your own; or
- Use a free home appraisal calculator that’s specific to Ontario (or whichever province you call home).
Regardless of the option you choose, determining the value of your home is one of the first steps in the listing process. Once you know its value, you can establish a fair listing price. That price will greatly affect how much interest your listing generates and, ultimately, how quickly your house sells.
Your Home’s Fair Market Value
Of course, every seller wants to sell their home for the highest possible amount. But, listed at too high of a price, your house might languish on the market. A reasonable listing price is a crucial factor in getting your home sold quickly. In order to set the listing price, you need to know your home’s fair market value (FMV).
In a piece at realtor.com, Kimberly Dawn Neumann writes that FMV is:
the price it would sell for in a perfectly logical world—one where both home buyer and seller are acting of their own free will (in other words, they aren’t desperate to make a sale) and are reasonably aware of a home’s good and bad points, and where the buyer could just as easily choose a different house that suits her needs better.
Determining a home’s FMV requires collecting and objectively considering different types of data, including:
- The physical characteristics of a house, such as square footage, floor plan, and overall condition;
- The property’s lot size, topography, and landscaping;
- The neighbourhood the home is located in, including the availability of public transportation, shopping, schools, and other amenities;
- The recent sale of similar homes in the area; and,
- Current market conditions.
All that said, a home’s FMV doesn’t necessarily reflect the best price to list it at–nor its final sale price. As is widely known, houses often sell for considerably above the listing price, particularly in hot real estate markets. Conversely, sellers who are hoping for a quick sale might list their home considerably below its FMV. But determining that figure is key–and there are four ways to do it.
Hiring a Professional Appraiser in Ontario for a Fee
In Canada, licensed appraisers are members of the Appraisers Institute of Canada (AIC). According to the AIC website, licensed appraisers:
complete AIC’s Program of Professional Study, which includes university-based education delivered in partnership with the University of British Columbia and Université Laval. They are also required to successfully complete an applied experience program and examination as well as a professional competency interview, and must hold a degree from a recognized Canadian university in order to become designed with AACI™ or CRA™.
Local appraisers can be found by using the search function on the AIC website. The cost to hire an appraiser in Ontario varies from about $350 to $700 plus HST. The size and type of home, as well as its geographic location, influences the cost of a professional appraisal.
Requesting a Free Comparative Market Analysis from a Realtor
While licensed appraisers provide an in-depth and accurate calculation of a home’s FMV for a charge, most licensed real estate agents will provide a more informal calculation of an FMV for free. Realtors provide this figure though a comparative market analysis (CMA).
The remax.com website explains that:
A CMA is a free report … that compares your home to similar properties in your neighborhood that are currently for sale or have recently been sold. By taking into account certain aspects of a home that may affect its value and marketability, including market conditions, location, and the home’s amenities and overall condition, [realtors] are able to better assist you in determining the value of your home.
Typically, there is no charge for a CMA but, as a piece at Nolo points out, once an agent provides the report, they will “probably try to solicit your business.” For homeowners set on selling their own homes, for the least possible cost, another option for determining their home’s FMV may be a better choice.
Calculating Your Own Home’s FMV for Free
With a little time, research, and objectivity, a homeowner can determine the FMV of their own home.
The National Bank of Canada offers comprehensive advice on how to calculate your home’s FMV. They suggest looking at:
- Your home’s location
- Consider other nearby properties and amenities as well as the neighbourhood and the municipality that the home is located in. Keep in mind that similar homes will sell for very different prices depending on their location.
- Your property’s physical characteristics
- Include the lot (lot size, topography, and landscaping), outbuildings, and the house itself (age, condition, square footage, design, and upgrades).
- The listing and final sale prices of comparable properties
- Try to find 3-10 comparable properties in the same area that are currently listed or that sold within the last six months.
- Municipal valuations/Property tax assessments
- The data in assessments is often outdated but can still assist in determining market trends in a specific area.
Once you have all the data collected, arrange it in a range of prices. Start with the lowest-priced property and note its physical characteristics as well as anything unique about its location. Then work your way up the scale, doing the same for each property as they gradually increase in price.
Once you have the price range established, you will be able to see where your own home fits in, based on its own comparable characteristics. It’s important to remain objective. It’s tempting to rank our own property at a higher price than it’s worth, both due to sentimental reasons and overvaluing personalized upgrades such as kitchen and bathroom renos.
While determining your own home’s FMV is free, it does require a significant amount of time and a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the research. If you’re in a hurry to sell your home, if your time for additional projects is limited, or if research just isn’t your thing, it may be best to choose a different way of figuring out your home’s value.
Free Online Home Appraisal Calculators
Many real estate websites offer free home appraisal calculators. These easy-to-use online tools simply require users to type in their home address as well as a few additional pieces of data, which may include the number of bedrooms, the number of bathrooms, and the age and style of the home.
The calculator then accesses a database of real estate information to arrive at an estimate of a home’s FMV. According to zolo.ca, the calculators factor in several different types of data, including “nearby homes, comparable properties, recently sold properties, Canadian Census data, location, and other real estate market information.”
Since most of these tools are specific to a geographic location, it’s important to choose a free home appraisal calculator that is specific to Ontario (or whichever province/area your home is located in). It’s also in your best interest to choose a calculator attached to a For-Sale-by-Owner (FSBO) website (such as zolo.ca) rather than one offered by a realtor website, in order to avoid being solicited for business by a real estate agent. An online search turns up a large number of these calculators for Ontario, including:
It’s important to keep in mind that these online home appraisal calculators provide ballpark figures only. The data they ask for, in order to determine your home’s FMV, is quite basic. Many don’t require information like the age of the home, its current condition, or recent upgrades.
Although these free online calculators aren’t highly accurate, they are valuable for establishing an estimate of your home’s FMV. And that estimate is enough to get you started on the path to successfully selling your own home.