Appraisals are used as a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions, appraisals are an important part of the buying/selling process.
Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.
Appraisal value vs. market value
The appraiser’s value is determined by using a combination of factors such as comparative market analyses and their inspection of the property to determine if the listing price is typical for the area.
Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for.
If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show them comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give them a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.
What information goes into an appraisal?
Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.
They also conduct an inspection. Typically, an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:
- The condition of the property and home, inside and out.
- The home’s layout and features.
- Home updates.
- Overall quality of construction.
- Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately).
- Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools).
After the inspection, the appraiser of a typical single-family home will create their report including their professional opinion on what the price of the home should be.
You might hear the lender ask for two reports, the “Sales Comparison Approach” and the “Cost Approach.” These two approaches use different methodologies to find the appropriate value of the home, and help the lender confirm the home’s price.
Who pays and how long does it take?
The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.
An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report is sent to your loan officer, real estate agent, and/or lender in about a week.
If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal if they request it. Typically, the requested appraisal is provided at closing.
What if the appraisal is too low?
A low appraisal can present a problem when there’s a large difference between what you’ve agreed to pay and the appraisal price.
Usually, the seller’s agents and the buyer’s agent will respond by looking for recent sold and pending listings of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can re-negotiate the contract or cancel it.
Where do you find a qualified appraiser?
Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.
Tips for hassle-free appraisals:
To ensure the appraisal process is smooth and efficient, provide your appraiser with the information and documents he or she needs to get the job done. The documents you will need include:
- A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
- The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
- A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
- A sketch of the property with the property’s dimensions. These are usually available online from the county assessors.
- If you have a mortgage, provide the information about your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have.
- A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
- Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency.
- If it’s a multiple offer situation, provide the appraiser with the other offers to prove the demand for the home.
- Any personal property that is included in the sale, like appliances and other fixtures.
- If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases.
- A copy of the original house plans and specifications.
- A list of recent improvements and their costs.
- Any other information you feel may be relevant.
By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary delays.
What’s your home worth?
It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Appraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.
There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $35,000 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services (MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.
Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.