A friend of mine pointed out to me that there are some big differences between what several online real estate websites say homes are worth in his neighborhood. Another friend who was in the discussion said the best way to determine the market value is to ask a real estate professional.

I disagreed with the idea of depending on a real estate professional.

Unfortunately anyone -- including a real estate professional -- can give you a market value. But that doesn't mean the real estate professional's estimate is what the property will sell for. Anyone can claim a home is worth XXX amount in an attempt to get the listing.

The fact is market values are set only when the checks change hands. Yesterday's price is not tomorrow's price. It's happened too many times: a real estate agent says "your home should sell for XXX..." and three months later the agent is telling you to accept a lower bid because that's all you're going to get.

Yes, you should ask a real estate professional for guidance on pricing and you should check what websites have for prices in the area. But these are estimates at best of what will happen.