For each property, you take the objective features and compare it to known, recent local and comparable properties. Then you price it like that, but either up or down depending on how many other properties are on the market, and then either up or down by how many people are looking to buy. Right now we're in a perfect storm of badness - the market is just recovering so prices are rising very quickly, but most people who could or would sell are waiting until they go even higher. As a result, there are a lot of people out there trying to buy properties, and everything that gets put on the market instantly has very aggressive bids placed against it. Even things with major problems get bid up quickly, because so many people are out to buy not to occupy, but to do some improvement, sit on it, and then re-list later at a higher price.
So what do you do if you've got a set and somewhat limited budget, and you can't compete against all the offers for cash-on-the-barrelhead? I think at this point, we're just in a losing game - there's no house that's big enough for us, in a neighborhood we're willing to live in, at a price we can afford. Anything that's in our price range is overpriced for it's very small size, and generally in dodgy if not outright shady neighborhoods. Anything that has a desirable location or appealing features gets snapped up instantly. Even with the possibility of making a cash offer, all the properties that are fixer-uppers STILL get bid up aggressively and out of our price range. And I will NOT move to the valley.
Unfortunately, the only way for this market to favor is a buyer is to have more properties for sale than their are people wanting to buy. And the only condition that's going to make that happen is if prices go sky-high. At this juncture, I just don't see a way out of the dilemma. And for sure I'm sick to death of trotting all over LA to look at houses I can't have.