What is an appraisal
A home purchase is the largest, single investment
most people will ever make. Whether it's a primary residence, a second vacation
home or an investment, the purchase of real property is a complex financial
transaction that requires multiple parties to pull it all off.
An appraisal is an unbiased estimate of what a
buyer might expect to pay - or a seller receive - for a parcel of real estate,
where both buyer and seller are informed parties. To be an informed party, most
people turn to a licensed, certified, professional appraiser to provide them
with the most accurate estimate of the true value of their property.
So what goes into a real estate appraisal? It all starts with the inspection. An
appraiser's duty is to inspect the property being appraised to ascertain the
true status of that property. He or she must actually see features, such as the
number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure that they
really exist and are in the condition a reasonable buyer would expect them to
be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the property, ensuring the proper
square footage 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 house.
Once the site has been inspected, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to
determining the value of real property: a cost approach, a sales comparison and,
in the case of a rental property, an income approach.
The cost approach is the easiest to understand. The appraiser uses information
on local building costs, labor rates and other factors to determine how much it
would cost to construct a property similar to the one being appraised. This
value often sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. Why would
you pay more for an existing property if you could spend less and build a brand
new home instead? While there may be mitigating factors, such as location and
amenities, these are usually not reflected in the cost approach.
Instead, appraisers rely on the sales comparison approach to value these types
of items. Appraisers get to know the neighborhoods in which they work. They
understand the value of certain features to the residents of that area. They
know the traffic patterns, the school zones, the busy throughways; and they use
this information to determine which attributes of a property will make a
difference in the value. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in the
vicinity and finds properties which are ''comparable'' to the subject being
appraised. The sales prices of these properties are used as a basis to begin the
sales comparison approach.
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), the
appraiser adjusts the comparable properties to more accurately portray the
subject property. For example, if the comparable property has a fireplace and
the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of a fireplace from the
sales price of the comparable home. If the subject property has an extra
half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add a certain
amount to the comparable property.
In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the
appraiser may use a third approach to valuing the property. In this case, the
amount of income the property produces is used to arrive at the current value of
those revenues over the foreseeable future.
Combining information from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to
stipulate an estimated market value for the subject property. It is important to
note that while this amount is probably the best indication of what a property
is worth, it may not be the final sales price. There are always mitigating
factors such as seller motivation, urgency or ''bidding wars'' that may adjust
the final price up or down. But the appraised value is often used as a guideline
for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money that the property is
actually worth. The bottom line is: an appraiser will help you get the most
accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate.
Appraisal is a profession, and
appraisers are professionals. In our field as with any profession we are bound
by ethical considerations.
An appraiser's primary responsibility is to his
or her client. Normally, in residential practice, the appraiser's client is the
lender ordering the appraisal to decide whether to make the mortgage loan.
Appraisers have certain duties of confidentiality to their clients -- as a
homeowner, if you want a copy of an appraisal report, you normally have to
request it through your lender -- obligations of numerical accuracy depending on
the assignment parameters, an obligation to attain and maintain a certain level
of competency and education, and must generally conduct him or herself as a
professional. Here, we take
these ethical responsibilities very seriously.
Appraisers may also have fiduciary obligations
to third parties, such as homeowners, both buyers and sellers, or others. Those
third parties normally are spelled out in the appraisal assignment itself. An
appraiser's fiduciary duty is limited to those third parties who the appraiser
knows, based on the scope of work or other written parameters of the assignment.
There are ethical rules that have nothing to do with clients and others.
Appraisers must keep their work files for a minimum of five years.
We only perform to the highest ethical
standards possible. We don't do assignments on contingency fees. That is, we
don't agree to do an appraisal report and get paid only if the loan closes. We
don't do assignments on percentage fees. That is probably the appraisal
professionís biggest no-no, because it would tend to make appraisers inflate the
value of homes or properties to increase their paycheck. We don't do that.
Other unethical practices may be defined by state law or professional societies
to which an appraiser belongs.
The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal
Practice (USPAP) also defines as unethical the acceptance of an assignment that
is contingent on "the reporting of a pre-determined result (e.g., opinion of
value)," "a direction in assignment results that favors the cause of the
client," "the amount of a value opinion," and other things. This means you can
be assured we are working to objectively determine the home or property value.