Real Estate Appraisals: A Primer

Buying a home is the most significant investment many people may ever make. It doesn't matter if where you raise your family, a seasonal vacation home or an investment, purchasing real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

Most of the participants are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most recognizable person in the exchange. Then, the lender provides the money needed to bankroll the transaction. And ensuring all areas of the exchange are completed and that a clear title passes to the buyer from the seller is the title company.

To learn more about appraising, click here to see a short video or call us today to talk about your specific property.

So, what party makes sure the value of the property is in line with the purchase price? This is where the appraiser comes in. We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer could expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Certified Residential Inc will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal starts

Our first responsibility at Certified Residential Inc is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must actually view aspects of the property, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they indeed exist and are in the shape a typical person would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the house, ensuring the square footage is correct and conveying the layout of the property. Most importantly, the appraiser looks for any obvious features - or defects - that would affect the value of the property.

Once the site has been inspected, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to determining the value of the property: a paired sales analysis, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Replacement Cost

Here, we analyze information on local building costs, labor rates and other elements to ascertain how much it would cost to construct a property similar to the one being appraised. This estimate often sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used predictor of value.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the subdivisions in which they work. They innately understand the value of certain features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in the area and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the property at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as square footage, extra bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • Say, for example, the comparable has a fireplace and the subject does not, the appraiser may subtract the value of a fireplace from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • However, in the case where the subject has something such as an extra half bath that a comparable doesn't have, the appraiser might add the value of that bath to the comparable property.

In the end, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. When it comes to putting a value on features of homes in Lancaster and Fairfield, Certified Residential Inc can't be beat. The sales comparison approach to value is usually awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a real estate purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - we may use a third approach to value. In this situation, the amount of revenue the property yields is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to give an indicator of the current value.

Coming Up With The Final Value

Examining the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the subject property. It is important to note that while the appraised value is probably the best indication of what a property is worth, it may not be the price at which the property closes. It's not uncommon for prices to be driven up or down by extenuating circumstances like the motivation or urgency of a seller or 'bidding wars'. But the appraised value is often used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than the property is actually worth. The bottom line is, an appraiser from Certified Residential Inc will guarantee you attain the most accurate property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.