Solving mystery of fair market value

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Q: I am a single woman and first-time homebuyer. I am totally new to all this. I found a property I like and it appears the selling price is matched up to the tax base value. If I want to make an offer, where/how do I find out the true "market value"? I do not want to insult the owners, but at the same time I want a good deal.

How does one find out what the fair market value of a house is? Is it in the MLS data or at the county court house?

A: Fair market value is the holy grail of real estate mysteries. It is nebulous, slippery and always changing, and actually only able to be estimated except at a precise point in time when the stars align and a set of conditions exists, which arise only a few times in the life of a property.

First things first -- here's what fair market value is not. In most cases, it's not the same as the tax assessor's value or assessment. It is rarely found in the multiple listing s...