Comparable sales -- called "comps" by those in the biz -- play a critical role in any real estate purchase.
If you’re a consumer buying your dream home, comps help you (or your agent) craft an appropriate offer when bidding on the property. If you’re an investor, they help you gauge the after-repair value of the house as well as what you should offer to ensure end-game returns. They can even help give you a feel for what repairs and upgrades you should make in the first place.
But where do you find comps in your area? You have a few options.
Where to find comps in your area
You can tap a real estate agent to pull comps from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but keep in mind that agents don’t work for free. They’ll probably want that listing once you’re ready to flip or rent the property. So be ready to commit to a commission if you want their expertise.
Fortunately, there are other options you can tap for house comps in your area if you’re not ready to sign on that dotted line just yet.
On the free end, you can use these sources of comps:
- Zillow: This free real estate platform offers estimated home valuations dubbed "Zestimates" for every property listed on the site. While they can give you an idea of what a home is worth, there have been rumblings that they’re not as accurate as they could be. So take them with a grain of salt (or just some extra research).
- Trulia: This Zillow partner company lets you search "sold" listings in any city or zip code. It’s not a full comparative market analysis, but it can give you basic insights into the neighborhood you’re thinking of buying or selling in.
- Redfin: The "How Much is My Home Worth" tool can give you a quick estimate of a property’s market value. It also pulls up recently sold homes in the area around the same size and condition for extra insights.
- PropertyShark: You need to sign up for an account to pull property reports, but this site's thorough and comprehensive data makes it worth the hassle. Type in an address to see a street view of the property, tax information, ownership records, school district data, and estimated market value. There are even demographic insights and a full list of every home in the neighborhood along with market value and square footage.
If you’re willing to spend a few extra bucks, you can try these resources:
- RealQuest: Powered by property data firm CoreLogic, this tool offers super-detailed information on any property you’re considering. Pull MLS data and comparables, estimated valuations, transaction histories, county records, flood maps, and more. Basically any information you need to evaluate a home.
- HouseCanary: The Property Explorer tool (previously called Value Report) helps you understand external factors and how they influence a property’s value. You can look at local price trends, neighborhood-level data, and other market details to gauge the context surrounding a home you’re looking at.
- myAVM: Automated value modeling (AVM) software helps you get an accurate idea of what a home might sell for in the current marketplace. This one, from ATTOM Data Solutions, offers insights into the condition of the property, public- and parcel-related data, neighborhood trends, and more.
The bottom line
From agents and appraisers to online real estate platforms and paid software programs, there are countless ways to get house comps in your area. Any of them can offer insights into a property and its local market.
Still, you may want to pull comps from several sources to be safe. This ensures you have the full picture of a property (as well as the returns it can offer you) before making any moves.
Another option is to get an official real estate appraisal of the property. Appraisers take local comps into their valuations, and they’ll provide copies of those comps in their report. Angie's List says you can expect to pay between $300 and $400 for an appraisal, so keep this in mind before lining one up.