What is an appraisal an how does it impact the real estate transaction?

When you are  buying a house knowing what the appraised value is, versus what the seller is asking, is also an important component to make an offer on the property.

Even though there are many subjective parts of the appraisal, the process itself is straightforward and clear. An appraiser comes to the owners home and inspects it for, what they feel, make it valuable. This is where the subjective nature of an appraisal comes in. The owner may personally may like the convenience of window air conditioning units, but the appraiser will be deducting value becausethere isn’t central heat and air. If you live in an area such as Las Vegas, having central air conditioning is more valuable than some parts of the country with milder climates. Market desires play a big part in home values and can make a huge impact on an appraisal.

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The appraiser will look at the age of the home and how it was made. The air conditioning/heating, plumbing and wiring will also come under inspection as will the aesthetics of the home. Features, such as number and size of bathrooms and closets will also be a factor in determining the home’s value. The presence or absence of a garage, attic and basement will also determine the value of your home.

In addition to looking inside your home and inspecting it for structural damage, livability issues and size; the appraiser will also look at the outdoor areas of the property and the location in relation to your neighbors. How many homes are for sale, and the rate they are selling, in your neighborhood will also have an impact on your home’s worth. The presence of new construction in the area can also increase the value of your home. Since most of these features are set and can’t be changed, there is little you can do to affect this part of the appraisal (on the buyer side or seller side). However, there are some aspects of your home (if you are the seller) that can be improved easily and quickly that can make a difference to the appraised value:

  • Clean up. As simple as this sounds, an appraiser will get a better impression of a clean and neat home as of one that is dirty or messy.
  • Improve appeal. Not just inside the house, but the property, as well. A fresh coat of paint or landscaping the yard will increase the appeal of the home. If that is out of reach, mowing the lawn, cleaning the exterior of the home and removing clutter will help the appraisal.
  • List your updates. Keeping track of improvements, especially since the last appraisal, can make the appraiser’s job easier and point out improvements that he might not notice. The improvements that the appraiser would be interested in are permanent improvements. New furniture doesn’t qualify, but new carpeting would.
  • Provide comparable examples. The value of your home will depend on many factors, but one of the largest is how much similar homes in the same neighborhood have sold for. By providing your appraiser with examples, it saves him time and effort and can lead to him valuing your property higher.
  • Assessments are just that. An assessment is a very specific form of appraisal, and one that only takes into account the value of your home for tax purposes. Depending on your location, these assessments are done with a computer and follow strict guidelines without the ability to make subjective decisions based on improvements or condition of the house. Because of the limitations in what the assessment model looks at, they should not be relied on for an appraisal.

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Give the appraiser room to work when he is there. Be available to answer any questions they may have but give them space to inspect the home, they know what they are looking for.

So who pays for the appraisal? This is a negotiable term of the offer that is often times dictated by the local market. For example,  in a seller’s market where the seller has more control in the deal, they may request the buyer pay for the appraisal, especially in a multiple offer situation. In a buyer’s market the buyer will often ask the seller to pay for the appraisal. It is 100% negotiable and can be offered and countered at will.

Real Estate Agent is talking to a couple about how they will have their home appraised. Women are smilingIf the appraisal returns a value that is less than the accepted offer, the loan will only be approved for the appraisal amount. The seller would need to bring the price down to appraisal amount or the buyer may need to pay the difference in cash. If this is an all cash transaction, nothing will probably change unless the buyer decides the home is now only worth the appraised amount and won’t complete the transaction. The true value of a home is what the buyer is willing to pay for it.

Long story short, it is a negotiable term in the purchase contract but depending on the market, purchase price, and other factors sometimes the seller may pay for it and then in other cases the buyer may pay for it.If you are selling your home, generally you will pay for the assessment. It is usually in your best interest to do so as you can then choose the appraiser and he is working in your best interest. If a buyer wishes to have his own appraisal done, having a counter balance to his appraisal is not a bad idea.

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