Appraising a Home

An appraisal on a property intends to determine the fair market value. It’s one of the final steps in the home-buying process that happens once the seller has accepted your offer and you have started the work with a lender. A financial institution will not lend money without an appraisal. The appraisal value of a home can make or break a sale, leaving this part of the real estate process a critical step.

The home appraisal is different from the home inspection even though both an appraiser and an inspector will walk inside, outside, and around the property to check everything with a fine toothcomb. The appraiser is finding the value of the home and the inspector is looking for problems or defects with it.

During an appraisal of a home, the appraiser will look at the state of repair, the features, the square footage, as well as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Give a list of repairs and improvements made such as a new roof, water heater, air conditioning, etc. The owner of the home should bring forward anything and everything that will help the appraiser decide the general market value.

The appraiser will research all the comparables (“comps”) in the area with features similar to the home. Also provided should be whether the values of homes are on the rise, decreasing, or stable. If there are any concerns that he feels will harm the property’s value, it will be noted. Additionally, he will flag any bigger problems he may see in the foundation, the roof, or any noticeable water leaks in ceilings or floors.

Again, an appraisal can make or break a sale of the home so it’s a stressful time. If the appraisal comes back higher or lower than the sale price, there will need to be more negotiating. If the seller isn’t happy with the outcome, a good realtor will discuss with the appraiser why certain decisions were made. With the help of a realtor, the seller can put together a valid argument as to why the appraisal is not correct.

Appraisals are valid for six months unless the home is in certain markets where homes are selling fast and prices continually change. At this point, lenders usually like an appraisal every three months. The real estate market changes from year to year and even month to month.

The Bottom Line: The process of home appraisal and final valuation might seem beyond your control. But, you can take charge by making some improvements to your home to up the appraisal outcome. Ask your realtor to help you understand what the appraiser will look for so that you can update and make sure your home is ready for show!

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What’s Your House Worth?

Are you considering putting your home on the market? Are you wondering what your home is worth and what it will sell for? The most common mistake people make when selling their home is setting the asking price too high. After you interview with a few Realtors and you find the best one in your neighborhood, how does that agent come up with the price of your home to sell? There’s a lot of experience involved in the process. You may love your home but your personal feelings towards it and even how much you paid for it when you bought it play no part in the value of it today.

Realtors base their price opinions on comparable sales (comps). They look at sales that have closed within the last three to six months in your neighborhood. When looking at the comps to help determine the price of your home they look at several factors. These include your home’s condition, age, square footage, location, and the number of bedrooms and baths. The sale date is also important since it will reflect the most recent changes in your market.

Typically, the most important home feature to concentrate on is the number of bedrooms and baths. This usually plays a bigger role in valuation than square footage. For example, two-bedroom homes in a neighborhood of predominately three-bedroom homes will almost always sell at a discount despite the number of square feet. The same is true for a home with one bath since a majority of buyers look for more than a single bath. If most homes in the neighborhood have a certain feature – like air conditioning – the absence of that feature will drop the price.

If you are not ready to call a Realtor, home appraisers are highly-trained, licensed professionals who can determine a very accurate value for your home. You can hire them to get them to come and inspect and measure your house, noting its condition, amenities, and any issues that might impact its marketability – zoning, “offbeat” floor plans, environmental hazards, renovations, deferred maintenance, lot characteristics, and more.

A home appraiser will spend time completely looking over the exterior of the home to ensure it is structurally sound. They will look for any signs of water damage or other problems, such as a chimney that is cracked or leaning away from the home (which could indicate structural damage) along with a lopsided porch or stairs leading up to the home. 

The quality of the roof will also play an important role in your home’s sale value. Damaged roofs bring on infestation, leaking, and other problems, so the appraiser will assess the home’s roofing quality. The appraiser will also inspect the condition of the siding, garage, porch, deck, and any other exterior elements. 

Real estate agents and appraisers will gather and examine similar information, both will look at the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for information on comps. Appraisers have access to public records, but the key difference lies not in the information they gather, but how they use it.

Real estate agents promise to represent their clients’ best interests. They want the listing of the home to be the best possible and will use gathered market information to this end.

Appraisers are paid outright – not on commission – and they do not have a vested interest in serving the client’s needs beyond providing a thoroughly completed estimate. In fact, they must clearly indicate that they are third-party professionals and not advocates for either buyers or sellers.

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