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.
When it comes time to decide if you want to downsize, there are many thoughts and emotions that go speeding through your mind. Maybe you have already decided this is your home for the rest of your life. Your home was the perfect place to meet your needs when you were in an earlier cycle of life, and will be the ideal home for all the events you see happening in your next. If you are inclined to feel that the home you currently reside in may have out-lived its purpose, you may be struggling with some of the same thoughts and emotions my husband and I had when it came to the emotional and financially sensitive decision to downsize.
In our situation, we loved our home. It provided everything we needed to raise our three children, plus nurture all the creative projects that identified who we are as a family as well as individuals. Our children were just like anyone else’s; loved, individually different, all requiring unique activities and space to help them grow, using their special talents. We loved our neighborhood and took an active part in making it an extension of our home. Considering that it had been our home for decades, deciding to leave was emotionally difficult.
We spent several years before we knew we would leave our home, looking at all the smaller options. We wondered, should we look for another single-family dwelling or check out other options like co-ops of condominiums? My husband had spent the past twenty-five years mowing our lawn and was quite willing to remove this task from his plate. I, on the other hand, still loved to garden. Was there a living environment that could satisfy both these expectations? We looked at every condominium and every co-op in the Seattle area for five years, but nothing really fulfilled everything we needed. We had a list of features including a garden spot, closets and efficient use of space, etc. I’m an Old World Charm lady, but guess what? Back in the 20’s ladies only owned three dresses. Let’s just say, I own a few more outfits than most pre-war closets were meant to hold. So the search went on.
When our children finally reached their 20’s and my husband wanted to retire, we knew it was time to make our move. Like I said, everyone loves their children, but not all the party time we now came to expect in our rec room every weekend. We were ready to have a space of our own, and it was time for our kids to begin their next cycle in-life. We also had too much of our finances tied up in a 3,000 square foot house, when in reality we needed less and could save more. We had to leave the home we had dedicated to making our unique expression of who we were, and leave very soon.
If any of this sounds familiar, your task will be a little easier than it seems! Here is some practical advice for making your move:
Define your needs: Narrow down your ideal needs. Start by deciding if you want a single-family versus multi-family dwelling. Consider your price range, and then space needs.
Downsize: We downsized a bit more than we should have, but we sure got rid of lots of items we collected over the past 25 years. Some of them were special to me. I’d purchased a beautiful wood serving tray at a yard sale with one of my dearest friends. I had to borrow money from her to buy it. I solved the problem by giving it to her when we moved, and I still see it when I visit her home. My children took much of the furniture they had a special connection to, and my nephew, who spent nearly every Christmas sitting in his favorite red chair, can now enjoy it in his own home.
Let go: Leaving the neighborhood and all our lifelong friends was the most difficult process, I think, of all the decisions we had to make. We still see them, but as I’m writing this my eyes are tearing up. It’s hard to re-visit my old neighborhood and see my old home cared for in a different way than I had lovingly done for twenty-five years. But it does give us plenty of things to talk about with old friends when we get together.
What did we end up doing? We moved into a vintage 1930’s co-op in a walkable part of town. I have just the right amount of gardening space that I share with other owners. We have made wonderful friends with some of our neighbors and get together frequently for happy hour and spur-of-the-moment gatherings. It’s a different lifestyle than we had before but, believe me, there are plus sides. In no way will any of our three wonderful, adored, adult children ever be able to move back home, since we now live in an 850-square-foot co-op with every space used on a daily basis. There were times when I wouldn’t go in one of my rooms in our old home for several weeks. This is not a problem now. Yes, maybe it’s too small, but we can always move into a larger place if and when we feel it’s time.
What are your questions about downsizing your home? What features do you require to live in a smaller, more efficient dwelling?
Pat Eskenazi is a Windermere veteran, working in marketing for the past 12 years. She has lived in Seattle since 1952. Her favorite place to walk is along Golden Gardens, and she especially loves to climb the stairs up to the Sunset Hill neighborhood where she lived with her 3 children and husband for 25 years.