Comparables, or "comps," are widely considered the most effective way to measure a home's value. As you probably already know, the idea is to compile a list of all apartments similar to the unit in question that recently sold, entered into contract, or are currently on market. A careful analysis of these comps and their prices should yield an accurate value for you to price your apartment. Simple enough, right?
The problem is, what two people consider "comparable" to the apartment in question could in fact be worlds apart, and those two people frequently turn out to be the seller and the buyer. Everyone's an expert, and when a seller looks at 5-10 apartments that he feels justify his asking price, odds are a prospective buyer will choose 5-10 apartments that are completely different when she tries to justify her offer (again, see: confirmation bias). Ask any real estate agent about a disagreement over comps, and they'll likely have several stories from the past month alone. This is because the devil's in the details. When you look at a gut-renovated apartment on your floor which sold four months ago for, say, $700,000, and immediately make the deduction that your own apartment is worth the same amount, ask yourself,"What would a buyer think?" A buyer would compare every possible detail between your apartment and the $700,000 sale, and that means looking a lot further than just the identical floor plan. When was your bathroom last renovated? Did you use comparable materials for the job? How's the sunlight exposure on your side of the building? Does your kitchen have appliances that would beat out most on market? If your analysis is sloppy, any old apartment with the same number of bedrooms can serve as a comp to your listing; what really matters is the accuracy of your selection.
The examples are endless, but the solution is quite simple. As with any dispute, the truth about seller-preferred and buyer-preferred comps usually lies somewhere in the middle. Challenge yourself to role-play as a buyer and identify the weaknesses in your apartment, before you leap on the whatever justifies the largest dollar sign. When you're walking away from a successful closing in three months' time, you'll thank yourself for your patience.