Solving mystery of fair market value

REThink Real Estate

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 service information (although most listing agents will argue that the list price is near or below the fair market value), nor in a file at the county courthouse.