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What is an appraisal?   Back to top

An appraisal is a thought process leading to an opinion of value. This opinion or estimate is arrived at through a formal process that typically uses the three ''common approaches to value''. They are the Cost Approach - which is what it would cost to replace the improvements, less physical deterioration and other factors, plus the land value. There is the Sales Comparison Approach - which involves making a comparison to other similar, nearby properties which have recently sold. The Sales Comparison Approach is normally the most accurate and best indicator of value for a residential property. The third approach is the Income Approach, which is of most importance in appraising income producing properties - it involves estimating what an investor would pay based on the income produced by the property. For a more detailed description of the appraisal process click here: What is an appraisal?


What does an appraiser do?   Back to top

An appraiser provides a professional, unbiased opinion of market value, to be used in making real estate decisions. Appraisers present their formal analysis in appraisal reports.


Why would a person need a home appraisal?   Back to top

There are many reasons to obtain an appraisal with the most common reason being real estate and mortgage transactions. Other reasons for ordering an appraisal include:

  • To obtain a loan.
  • To lower your tax burden.
  • To establish the replacement cost of insurance.
  • To contest high property taxes.
  • To settle an estate.
  • To provide a negotiating tool when purchasing real estate.
  • To determine a reasonable price when selling real estate.
  • To protect your rights in a condemnation case.
  • Because a government agency such as the IRS requires it.
  • If you are involved in a lawsuit.

    For more details on when you might need an appraisal click here: When to get an Appraisal


    What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?   Back to top

    The appraiser is not a home inspector nor does he/she do a complete home inspection. An inspection is a third-party evaluation of the accessible structure and mechanical systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. The standard home inspector's report will include an evaluation of the condition of the home's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

    What is the difference between an Appraisal and a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)?   Back to top

    Simply put, the difference is night and day. The CMA relies on vague market trends. The appraisal relies on specific, verifiable comparable sales. In addition, the appraisal looks at other factors like condition, location and construction costs. A CMA delivers a ''ball park figure.'' An appraisal delivers a defensible and carefully documented opinion of value.

    But the biggest difference is the person creating the report. A CMA is created by a real estate agent who may or may not have a true grasp of the market or valuation concepts. The appraisal is created by a licensed, certified professional who has made a career out of valuing properties. Further, the appraiser is an independent voice, with no vested interest in the value of a home, unlike the real estate agent, whose income is tied to the value of the home.


    What does the appraisal report contain?   Back to top

    Each report must reflect a credible estimate of value and must identify the following:
  • The client and other intended users.
  • The intended use of the report.
  • The purpose of the assignment.
  • The type of value reported and the definition of the value reported.
  • The effective date of the appraiser's opinions and conclusions.
  • Relevant property characteristics, including location attributes, physical attributes, legal attributes, economic attributes, the real property interest valued, and Non real estate items included in the appraisal, such as personal property, including trade fixtures and intangible items.
  • All known: easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases, reservations, covenants, contracts, declarations, special assessments, ordinances, and other items of a similar nature.
  • Division of interest, such as fractional interest, physical segment and partial holding.
  • The scope of work used to complete the assignment.

    For a more detailed look at what goes into an appraisal report click here: Sample Appraisal Report


    After completing the report, what assurance is there that the value indicated is valid?   Back to top

    In communicating an appraisal report, each appraiser must ensure the following:
  • That the information analysis utilized in the appraisal was appropriate.
  • That significant errors of omission or commission were not committed individually or collectively.
  • That appraisal services were not rendered in a careless or negligent manner.
  • That a credible, supportable appraisal report was communicated.

    Most states require that real estate appraisers are state licensed or certified. The state licensed or certified appraiser is trained to render an unbiased opinion based upon extensive education and experience requirements. To become licensed or certified, appraisers must fulfill rigorous education and experience requirements. In addition, appraisers must abide by a strict industry code of ethics and comply with national standards of practice for real estate appraisal. The rules for developing an appraisal and reporting its results are insured by enforcement of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


    How are appraisers certified?   Back to top

    Regulations regarding licensing and certification of Real Estate Appraisers vary from state to state. However, licensing and certification is most often associated with many hours of coursework, tests and practical experience. Once an appraiser is licensed, he or she is required to take continuing education courses in order to keep the license current. To see the specific requirements for any state click here.


    Who do appraisers work for?   Back to top

    Typically, appraisers are employed by lenders to estimate the value of real estate involved in a loan transaction. Appraisers also provide opinions in litigation cases, tax matters and investment decisions.


    Where does an appraiser get the information used to estimate value?   Back to top

    Gathering data is one of the primary roles of an appraiser. Data can be divided into Specific and General. Specific data is gathered from the home itself. Location, condition, amenities, size and other specific data are gathered by the appraiser during an inspection.

    General data is gathered from a number of sources. Local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) provide data on recently sold homes that might be used as comparables. Tax records and other public documents verify actual sales prices in a market. Flood zone data is gathered from FEMA data outlets, such as a la mode's InterFlood product. And most importantly, the appraiser gathers general data from his or her past experience in creating appraisals for other properties in the same market.


    Why do I need a professional appraisal?   Back to top

    Anytime the value of your home or other real property is being used to make a significant financial decision, an appraisal helps. If you're selling your home, an appraisal helps you set the most appropriate value. If you're buying, it makes sure you don't overpay. If you're engaged in an estate settlement or divorce, it ensures that property is divided fairly. A home is often the single, largest financial asset anybody owns. Knowing its true value means you can the right financial decisions.


    What exactly is PMI and how can I get rid of it?   Back to top

    PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance. It insures a lender against loss on homes purchased with a down-payment of less than 20%. Once equity in the home reaches 20% you can eliminate the PMI and start saving immediately. For a detailed discussion of PMI and how to get rid of it click here: What is PMI and how to get rid of it


    How do I get ready for the appraiser?   Back to top

    The first step in most appraisals is the home inspection. During this process, the appraiser will come to your home and measure it, determine the layout of the rooms inside, confirm all aspects of the home's general condition, and take several photos of your house for inclusion in the report. The best thing you can do to help is make sure the appraiser has easy access to the exterior of the house. Trim any bushes and move any items that would make it difficult to measure the structure. On the inside, make sure that the appraiser can easily access items like furnaces and water heaters.

    The following Items, if available, will help your appraiser to provide a more accurate appraisal in a shorter period of time:
  • A survey of the house and property.
  • A deed or title report showing the legal description.
  • A recent tax bill.
  • A list of personal property to be sold with the house if applicable.
  • A copy of the original plans.

     

    What is ''Market Value?''   Back to top

    Market value or fair market value is the most probable price that a property should bring (will sell for) in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: (1) buyer and seller are typically motivated; (2) both parties are well informed or well advised; (3) a reasonable time is allowed for exposure to the open market; (4) payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and (5) the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.


    Who Actually Owns the Appraisal Report?   Back to top

    In most real estate transactions, the appraisal is ordered by the lender. While the home buyer pays for the report as part of the closing costs, the lender retains the right to use the report or any information contained within. The home buyer is entitled to a copy of the report - it's usually included with all of the other closing documents - but is not entitled to use the report for any other purpose without permission from the lender.

    The exception to this rule is when a home owner engages an appraiser directly. In these cases, the appraiser may stipulate how the appraisal can be used; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not stipulated otherwise, the home owner can use the appraisal for any purpose.


    Which home renovations add the most to the price?   Back to top

    The answer to this is different depending upon the location of the home. Different markets value amenities differently. Adding a central air conditioner in Houston, Texas may add significant value, while putting one in a home located in Buffalo, New York might not have much impact.

    As a rule, the most value returned from renovating a home comes in the kitchen. According to one national survey, kitchen remodels returned an average of 88% of the investment. In other words, a $10,000 kitchen remodeling project would add approximately $8,800 to the value of the home. Bathrooms were second, returning 85%.

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    REASONS TO GET AN APPRAISAL
    Every year, countless people in the United States buy, sell or refinance their own slice of the American Dream.  Most, if not all, of these transactions include a simple line item for an appraisal.  It has become an understood and accepted part of a real estate transaction.  "Let's bring in the expert and make sure we're not spending too much on this property."

    But is this the only reason to get an appraisal? Are there other times when the services of a certified, licensed, independent real estate professional might come in handy?  You bet.

    PURCHASE OF A HOME
    One of the most important issues involved in purchasing a property is developing an opinion of what it's worth so that you can make an informed offer to purchase.  A professional appraisal report performed by a qualified, state-licensed appraiser can provide you with an objective, third party opinion of a property's current Market Value.  And for the small price of this service, you can give yourself "peace of mind" prior to making an offer to purchase that you're offering a fair price for the property. 

    REFINANCE OR GET A HOME EQUITY LOAN
    If you need to consolidate bills, have a college tuition to pay, or just want to tap into the equity of your home, you'll need a new loan, which oftentimes requires a new appraisal of the property.
     
    PMI REMOVAL
    Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI is the supplemental insurance that many lenders ask home buyers to purchase when the amount being loaned is more than 80% of the value of the home. Very often, this additional payment is folded into the monthly mortgage payment and is quickly forgotten. This is unfortunate because PMI becomes unnecessary when the remaining balance of the loan - whether through market appreciation or principal paydown - dips below this 80% level. In fact, the United States Congress passed a law in 1998 (the Homeowners Protection Act of 1998) that requires lenders to remove the PMI payments when the loan-to-value ratio conditions have been met.

    Many appraisers offer a specific service for home owners that believe they have met the 80% loan-to-value metric. For a nominal fee, the appraiser can provide you with a statement regarding the home value. Some will even take the next step and help you file a challenge with your mortgage company. The costs of these services are very often recovered in just a few months of not paying the PMI.

    DIVORCE SETTLEMENT
    A divorce can be a particularly traumatic experience for both parties and is often further complicated by the difficult decision of "Who gets the house?".  In most divorce cases, the Court won't usually force the parties involved to "buyout" the other party's interest but it may however order the sale of the home so each party gets an equal share of the equity.  Regardless of the situation, it's a good idea to order an appraisal so both parties are fully aware of what the true market value is.

    If the parties want to sell the home, they'll have a better idea of what price to set.  And on the flipside, if a "buyout" is the chosen option, both parties will feel like they've gotten a fair assessment.
     
    ESTATE LIQUIDATION
    The loss of a loved one is a difficult time in life and settling an estate from a death, or probate, often requires an appraisal to establish Fair Market Value for the residential property involved.  The ethics provision within the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) binds us with confidentiality, ensuring the fullest degree of discretion.

    Unlike many wealthy individuals, the majority of Americans do not have dedicated estate planners or executors to handle these issues.  Also, in most cases, a home or other real property makes up a disproportionate share of the total estate value.

    Here too, an appraiser can help.  Often the first step in fairly disposing of an estate is to understand its true value.  Where property is involved, the appraiser can help determine the true value.  At this point, equitable arrangements can more easily be arrived at among disputing parties. Everyone walks away knowing they've received a fair deal.

    RELOCATION
    We understand the stress involved with an employee relocation.  We take great care in establishing a convenient appointment time for the appraisal inspection. During our thorough inspection, we encourage relocating employees to provide input on the positive attributes of their property along with information about any recent sales or listings in their neighborhood that they want considered.

    HOME IMPROVEMENTS TO ADD VALUE
    Before you decide to sell your home, there are several decisions to be made. First and foremost: "How much should it sell for?"  But don't forget there may be other equally important questions to ask yourself such as "Would it be better to paint the entire house before we sell it?", "Should I put in that third bathroom?", "Should I complete my kitchen remodel?"  Many things which we do to our houses have an effect on their value.  Unfortunately, not all of them have an equal effect. While a kitchen remodel may improve the appeal of a home, it may not add nearly enough to the value to justify the expense.

    SELLING A HOME
    Whether you choose to sell your home on your own or use the assistance of a real estate agent, a professional appraisal can help you make a better educated decision when determining your selling price.

    Unlike a real estate agent, an appraiser has no vested interest in what amount the house sells for.  It's easy for them to step in and give you the information to help you make your decision.  Appraiser fees are based on efforts to complete the report and not a percentage of the sales price. So seeking a professional appraisal can often help homeowners make the best decisions on investing in their homes and setting a fair sales price.

     

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