How much is your house worth?

It depends on who is making the appraisal and why it is being done. If you, as the homeowner, are judging its value for the purpose of selling the house yourself, you are likely to set too high a figure at the start of the marketing.If an appraiser is estimating the cost for a lending institution to determine the amount of a maximum mortgage loan, he may produce a figure a bit on the lower side.

If a real estate broker is setting a selling price, the figure is likely to be fairly realistic, allowing for the fact that he will add a certain amount for the purpose of negotiation.

No matter who is making the appraisal or what the reason is, the most important factor in making the decision is the real estate market at that time.

Determining the condition of the market is neither an opinion nor a guess. It is found simply by finding out the sales prices of similar houses in the neighborhood that were sold recently.

Town records do not show the exact prices of the houses that were sold, but there are certain indicators, such as tax stamps, that enable a knowledgeable person to determine what the sales prices were.

There are other factors that go into the appraisal, such as the age of your house (compared to the others), the condition it is in (again, compared to the others) and what extra qualities it has.

But the starting point must be what prices the other houses have been generating. After that, the appraiser weighs the factors that make your house better or worse than the others and comes up with a figure.

Sure, as is often said, the location of a house is vital to its value, but presumably others in the neighborhood have similar site advantages or disadvantages.

That's why it is important not to put too high a price on your house simply because remodeling has made it a nicer house in which to live. A buyer who has $200,000 to spend does not want to live in an area where nearly all the houses are in the $100,000 to $125,000 range, no matter how many more virtues are in the one he has his eye on. He wants to be in a $200,000 neighborhood if only becauseof the status recognition when he explains where he lives. What the added livability of your house does is to help you to sell it faster, which in itself is worth money.

In making an appraisal for a lending institution so it can decide how much money can safely be loaned on the house, the appraiser must be careful to look only at recent sales.

If he goes back too far, he will not get a true picture of the present market value of the house. What he is likely to do is to pick out the three most recent sales of homes that compare with the one he is appraising. He then can make an educated estimate of the worth of the house, lowering or raising it on the basis of its condition and its extras.

Everything goes out the window if there is a strong buyer's market or a strong seller's market. Under those conditions, houses sell quickly or don't sell at all, sometimes with little regard for their condition.

Most of the time, though, your house is worth what comparable houses in the same neighbrohood are worth, give or take a few thousand because of certain differences.

Occasionally, you can get more for your house even if the price is a bit above that of the adjacent structures. That happens when a buyer comes along who finds your house exactly what he has been looking for and is not inclined to quibble about the price.

Waiting for that kind of buyer can be done, however, only if you are in no hurry to sell the house. Lots of people create a time crisis by having another house to move into before they have sold the present one.

(Do-it-yourselfers will find much helpful information in Andy Lang's handbook, "Practical Home Repairs," which can be obtained by sending $2 to this newspapar at Box 5, Teaneck, N.J. 07666.)

Hancock seemed to agree with Hahn by noting that "quite simply, the dusty, muted colors that have been the mainstay for the 1980s will be brighter and more intense in 1990." She added that new color emphasis will be on green (especially a Granny Smith apple green), red (true red, ruby and rust) and yellow.

One reason for the appeal of stronger colors is that the currently popular decorating styles like Victorian, Art Deco, 1950s modern and some country styles call for them, said Hahn, adding that "our ancestors were more courageous in color than we are and they lived with schemes much longer."

As for going out on a limb with actual color predictions, how do we know the experts are right? We don't, admits Hahn. "But I'm a good guesser, and I have more nerve than brains."