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Home Appraisals: A Primer

A home purchase can be the most important financial decision some of us will ever consider. It doesn't matter if a main residence, a second vacation property or a rental fixer upper, the purchase of real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple parties to make it all happen.

Most of the parties involved are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most recognizable face in the transaction. Then, the lender provides the financial capital needed to fund the transaction. And the title company makes sure that all aspects of the sale are completed and that a clear title transfers from the seller to the purchaser.

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

So, who makes sure the property is worth the purchase price? In comes the appraiser. We provide an unbiased opinion 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 Appraisal First, Inc. will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

Our first task at Appraisal First, Inc. is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must see aspects of the property hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure they indeed exist and are in the condition a typical person would expect them to be. To make sure the stated square footage is accurate and document the layout of the home, the inspection often requires creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - 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 paired sales analysis, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Cost Approach

Here, we pull information on local building costs, labor rates and other elements to derive how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This figure usually sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used method.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the communities in which they work. They thoroughly understand the value of certain features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent transactions in the vicinity and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as square footage, additional 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.

  • For example, if the comparable property has an irrigation system and the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of an irrigation system from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • However, 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.

A true estimate of what the subject could sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. At Appraisal First, Inc., we are an authority when it comes to knowing the worth of real estate features in Springfield and Greene County neighborhoods. This approach to value is most often given the most importance when an appraisal is for a real estate exchange.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third method of valuing real estate is sometimes employed when a neighborhood has a reasonable number of renter occupied properties. In this case, the amount of revenue the real estate produces is factored in with income produced by comparable properties to derive the current value.

The Bottom Line

Combining information from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property in question. It is important to note that while this amount is probably the most accurate indication of what a house is worth, it may not be the price at which the property closes. Depending on the specific circumstances of the buyer or seller, their level of urgency or a buyer's desire for that exact property, the closing price of a home can always be driven 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 than they could recover in case they had to put the property on the market again. Here's what it all boils down to, an appraiser from Appraisal First, Inc. will help you get the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.