What does an appraiser do?
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.

What is an Appraisal?
When purchasing a home there are many parties involved. The Realtor is the most common face of the transaction. The mortgage company provides the financial capital necessary to fund the transaction. The title company ensures that all aspects of the transaction are completed and that a clear title passes from the seller to the buyer.

So who makes sure the value of the property is in line with the amount being paid?

This is where the appraisal comes in. An appraisal is an unbiased estimate of what a buyer might expect to pay - or a seller receives - 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.


What does the appraiser look for?
Typically, an appraiser needs to document the condition of the property, both inside and out, from the layout and features to degree of modernization including any updates as well as the overall quality of construction. This information will help to assist the appraiser throughout the valuation and comparison process.

The appraiser estimates the square footage (GLA - gross living area), by measuring the exterior of the home. Non-living areas, such as garages or covered porches, aren't included in GLA, but are accounted for and considered in value separately. Finished basements are also calculated separately from the above-ground GLA. The local market will dictate the contributory value of the finished basement, which can be influenced by governmental regulations, the degree of modernization, the quality of the finish, and other factors.

The appraiser will generally consider only permanent fixtures and real property. Because many above-ground swimming pools and small sheds are not permanent structures, they typically usually aren't included in the valuation. Depending on the specific installation process and local custom, however, an above ground pool or small shed might be considered part of the real property.

Why would a person need a home appraisal?
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.

What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection? 
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)?

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.

How are appraisers certified?
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.

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

Which home renovations add the most to the price?
The answer to this is different depending upon the location of the home. Different markets value amenities differently. Adding a central air conditioner in Miami, Florida may add significant value, while putting one in a home located in Nome, Alaska 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%.

If my appraisal comes out higher than my tax value, could my real estate taxes go up?
Absolutely not!. The appraiser is required to maintain confidentiality with the client, which would typically be you (if you undertook the appraisal) or the bank (in a mortgage related appraisal), not the local tax authorities.

How long does an appraisal take?
The physical inspection of the real property being appraised can take from approximately fifteen minutes to several hours, depending upon the size and complexity involved.

Appraisal Resources and Tips
The Appraisal Institute is a valuable source of information on topics of appraisals for real property.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS


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