This is a question that gets asked more often now days. Home values are kind of all over the place, but it does depend on geographic location and supply and demand. Homes in Santee, California will differ greatly from homes in El Cajon and in La Mesa. In fact, differences in value can be seen from one part of town to another.
Some home owners use services such as Zillow to identify the value of their home and some mistakenly base it off of the letter they recently received in the mail from the county assessor. I wouldn't use either necessarily. There are many factors that go into determining the actual value of your home and this is why real estate agents are trained to conduct Comparative Market Analysis (CMAs) and more importantly why appraisers conduct appraisals. A few things to keep in mind when looking at Zillow or the steep drop in value according to the county assessor (this is for tax purposes) is that no one actually came out to your home to determine the real value. This is when appraisers come into play, though, do not go run out and hire an appraiser for $500.00 to determine your home value each year or two. If you are to hire an appraiser, be sure to ask around. The cost of an appraisal may differ based on a few factors, location and type of real estate. For example, Santee, Ca. vs. La Jolla, Ca. or Condo vs. Detached Home.
Alternatively, any competent real estate agent will be able to conduct a free CMA for you in a relatively short amount of time. This is standard operating procedure (SOP) for when homes are listed. Many agents may also offer this service to potential clients as well, and they should. The value of your home is related to the value of the homes built around yours. For example, appraisers will need to examine homes that meet very similar characteristics as your home but are within .5 or 1 mile, the closer the better. If there are not any homes that meet the same (or similar) characteristics, then adjustments are made to compensate. For example, garage vs. no garage, or small square footage adjustments. Real estate agents also consider the same characteristics and have tools to conduct CMA's in a fairly quick and accurate fashion. That said, nothing will replace the appraisal; if selling, an appraisal will be done. Keep in mind that the value of your home is what someone is willing to pay at any given time and if you accept such an offer. Condo's are easier to determine value when there are many other condos in the same complex that have recently sold.
There are many factors, but there isn't really any need to worry about the value of your home if you do not plan on selling it in the near future. If you are.... contact a real estate agent that you trust will provide some sound information. If you live in Santee, Ca. and would like a Santee real estate agent to conduct a CMA, let us know, we'd be happy to help provide some free information or advice.
Santee Real Estate Agent