Since building equity is one of the main benefits of homeownership you probably keep an eye on home values and calculate your equity now and then. You might run the numbers for yourself before you apply for a refinance or line of credit, or if you're contemplating selling. A home appraisal or a buyer help you get the most official figure of your home's equity, but you can come close by comparing current home values with your latest mortgage statement. Some research and simple math provides a quick, albeit unofficial, estimate of your home's equity.
Locate your most recent mortgage statement. A mortgage statement may not include your current loan balance. If it does, you can use the loan balance to figure equity. If it doesn't, contact your lender using the customer service phone number provided on the statement. Ask the representative for your outstanding loan balance. For the most official balance figure, you can request a payoff statement from your lender. This is an exact figure which includes any early payoff fees, or prepayment penalties, and is based on a specific payoff date. However, a payoff statement fee usually applies.
Use an automated valuation tool to estimate your home's value. National real estate websites, such as Realtor.com, provide statistics about home sales and power many online home value estimators for real-estate firm and mortgage lender websites. These tools get information from your local Multiple Listing Service, or MLS. Generate an estimated value by entering your street address, city or zip code. The more precise your location, the more accurate your estimate; however, you may have to expand your search further out if you have few recent home sales in your neighborhood that match your home's characteristics.
Subtract your outstanding mortgage debt from your home's estimated value. The difference is your home's equity. For example, if your current mortgage balance is $200,000 and your home's estimated value is $300,000, you have approximately $100,000 in equity.
Subtract from your home's equity any non-mortgage liens against your property. This includes back taxes -- income or property -- and mechanics liens or judgments. You must pay these liens off at the time of sale, transfer or refinance. Therefore, they affect your equity.
Using a current balance instead of a payoff balance may result in an estimated figure that is several hundreds to thousands of dollars off. A prepayment penalty may add thousands of dollars to your payoff amount.
Automated valuation tools on real estate websites may lack information that directly impacts home values and your calculations. For example, distress sales, such as short sales and foreclosures in your area, which usually sell at below-market prices, can affect your home's value.