One of the questions I get asked the most is, “Can I use comps from a different neighborhood?” Maybe. But then again, maybe not. Let’s talk about it, and I’ll show you what I do when making this decision. Of course there isn’t just one right way to go about this. Anything to add?
1) Compare sales over time: One of the most important steps is to compare similar properties in each neighborhood over time. If there aren’t many recent sales I have no problem going back year by year to compare older sales. That’s okay. Is there a price difference? Sometimes it’s very clear there is, so it’s probably not a good idea to use “comps” from a different neighborhood (unless I’m making a location adjustment). When looking at two areas I try to find a percentage price difference too where possible so I can say something like, “It looks like prices are 10-15% higher there.” This sounds time-consuming, but there’s no such thing as a 5-minute “comp check”, right? Nothing replaces putting in the time.
2) Let’s get visual: Here are a few visuals I made to compare two areas. Does it look like there might be a value difference? I know, you don’t know how to graph. Why not learn though? It’s an incredible skill to add to your bag of tricks. Here’s a video tutorial.
Truth: It’s easy to “cherry pick” sales from Elmhurst when in Tahoe Park or North Oak Park. Maybe it works out okay sometimes, but in other cases it could be a really bad move.
3) Word on the street: Talking with other real estate professionals about what they think can be insightful. Where are values higher? If you had a property in both areas, where would it sell for more? Of course someone’s perception might be off, but insight from other agents and appraisers can still be useful.
4) Crunch numbers: Why not run stats for both areas? Running the numbers might give us clues into how value works. If you don’t know how to pull stats, here’s a tutorial.
The numbers clearly show one neighborhood has higher prices, so I might need to give a location adjustment if I’m using a “comp” from a different area. For me I like to give location adjustments based on lining up neighborhood sales instead of stats like this, but I might still use these stats to help reinforce an adjustment I give. Let’s remember the market isn’t so mechanical to always apply the same adjustment either. Sometimes there are special properties that seem to buck the trend and ignore price differences (this is what makes value complicated). But in most cases I would be foolish to ignore stats like this and arbitrarily choose “comps” from an area with higher prices without consideration that there might be a location adjustment needed.
BIG CAUTION: If one area has smaller homes, heavy fixers, not enough data, more foreclosures, or more remodeled properties, we might draw the wrong conclusions when looking at stats if we’re not careful. In other words, we need to know how to think through the numbers rather than taking them at face value. For instance, in North Oak Park there are more fixers and some streets simply do not sell as high as others, so that might actually soften the stats a bit. I might also recommend pulling stats for the entire neighborhood as well as competitively-sized properties. This way we at least have two data sets and hopefully a little more balance. And of course do steps 1-3 above too.
I hope that was interesting or helpful.
Questions: What step do you think is most important? Did I miss anything? What else do you do or recommend? I’d love to hear your take.