Understanding Real Estate Appraisals
Understanding how appraisals work will help you achieve a quick and profitable refinance or sale.
When you refinance or sell your home, the lender involved will insist that an appraisal be performed. An appraisal is the process of valuing real property and is simply an opinion of the market value of your home based on what similar homes in your area have sold for in recent months by a licensed appraiser. But what is market value? Market value is the estimated amount for which a property should exchange on the valuation date between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction, after proper marketing and where the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion.
The sales comparison approach in a real estate appraisal is based primarily on the principle of substitution. This approach assumes a prudent individual will pay no more for a property than it would cost to purchase a comparable substitute property. The approach recognizes that a typical buyer will compare asking prices and seek to purchase the property that meets his or her wants and needs for the lowest cost.
Data are collected on recent sales of properties similar to the subject being valued, called comparables. Only SOLD properties may be used in an appraisal and determination of a property’s value.
Important details of each comparable sale are considered and described in the appraisal report. Since comparable sales aren’t identical to the subject property, adjustments may be made for: date of sale, location, style, amenities, square footage, site size, etc. The objective is to simulate the price that would have been paid if each comparable sale were identical to the subject property. If the comparable is superior to the subject in a factor or aspect, then a downward adjustment is needed for that factor. Likewise, if the comparable is inferior to the subject in an aspect, then an upward adjustment for that aspect is needed. From the analysis of the group of adjusted sales prices of the comparable sales, the appraiser selects an indicator of value that is representative of the subject property.
Here are five tips about the appraised value of your home.
1. Appraisal isn’t an exact science
When appraisers evaluate a home’s value, they’re giving their best opinion based on how the home’s features stack up against those of similar homes recently sold nearby. One appraiser may factor in a recent sale, but another may consider that sale to have occurred to long ago, or the home too different, or too far away to be a fair comparison. The result can be differences in the values two separate appraisers set for your home.
2. Appraisals have different purposes
If the appraisal is being utilized by a lender issuing a loan on the home, the appraised value will be the lower of market value (what it would sell for on the open market today) and the price you paid for the house if you recently bought it.
An appraisal being utilized to determine how much to insure your home for, or to determine your property taxes may rely on other factors and arrive at different values. For example, though an appraisal for a home loan evaluates today’s market value, an appraisal for insurance purposes calculates what it would cost to rebuild your home at today’s building material and labor rates, which can result in two different numbers.
Appraisals are also different from CMAs, or competitive market analyses. In a CMA, a real estate agent relies on market expertise to estimate how much your home will sell for in a specific time period. The price your home will sell for in 30 days may be different than the price your home will sell for in 120 days. Because real estate agents don’t follow the rules appraisers do, there can be variations between CMAs and appraisals on the same home.
3. An appraisal is a snapshot
Home prices shift, and appraised values will shift with those market changes. Your home may be appraised at $150,000 today, but in two months when you refinance or list it for sale, the appraised value could be lower or higher depending on how your market has performed.
4. Appraisals don’t factor in your personal issues
You may have a reason you must sell immediately, such as a job loss or relocation, which can affect the amount of money you’ll accept to complete the transaction in your time frame. An appraisal doesn’t consider those personal factors however, a CMA does.
5. On Conventional Purchases you can ask for a second opinion
If your home appraisal comes back at a value you believe is too low and the buyer is using a conventional loan to finace the purchase, you can request that a second appraisal be performed by a different appraiser. You, or potential buyers, if they’ve requested the appraisal, will have to pay for the second appraisal. But it may be worth it to keep the sale from collapsing from an inaccurate appraisal. On the other hand, the appraisal may be accurate, and it may be a sign that you need to adjust your pricing, or the size of the loan you’re refinancing.