It’s a good idea to track local housing values, even if you’re not thinking of selling right away. You need to keep your property  insurance policy updated to reflect the current value of your house and its contents – especially if you have completed renovations. And, it’s important to have a current estimate of home value for tracking your overall financial picture and net worth.

Here are three ways to collect market data.

  • Local multiple listing reports. Many newspapers print lists of completed sales. That data usually comes from local multiple listing services. Scan the data for sales in your neighborhood and tally it in a spreadsheet that lists the address, sale price and date.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency offers a house price index and calculator based on data from mortgages purchased by secondary mortgage lenders . Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For instance, FHFA data recently reported that house prices rose nationally from May 2015 to May 2016 by 5.6%. The House Price Calculator applies the trend data to your house – but be aware that the resulting estimate doesn’t reflect local conditions.
  • And, some lenders offer home value estimators that let you plug in factors such as renovations and details about your property to get a semi-custom estimate of value. The Home Value Estimator offered by JP Morgan Chase is a good one.

Remember, though, that these estimates are only guidelines. The only market value that is accepted by a lender is a formal appraisal conducted in person by a licensed appraiser. Such reports cost about $300. You can find a qualified local appraiser through your state’s board of licensing and professional standards. If you are thinking of selling your house, it’s worthwhile to get an appraisal to set a super-reliable price and to back you up during negotiations with a buyer.