Figure out what your home is worth, or at least what it looks like from a spy satellite
A blog reader named Mark Winburn pointed me to a remarkable website called www.zillow.com. You type in an address and it gives you a satellite view of your home with a dollar value on top of it, as well as on all of the neighboring houses.
Unfortunately, I don’t think you want to put too much stock in the house valuations they come up with. The information appears to come from the assessor’s office and thus is neither particularly accurate or informative. They do also seem to be using information on actual home sale prices as well, which is a much better source.
I tried out the addresses of a few properties for which I know the values and was disappointed. Either the value listed for my current home is way too low, or I am the biggest sucker in the world for paying what I paid! It also suggested that the value of my home had fallen 25 percent in the last 4 months, which I highly doubt. Looking at the last house I lived in, they still had the information from the house that was there almost ten years ago and was knocked down and replaced…so at least that price was way below what I sold the house for.
More useful than the actual prices were data on price trends by city or neighborhood, and amazing satellite pictures that show you what your house looks like from space. The picture of my house is at least a year old, though, because it didn’t have our new garage.