Understanding the Appraisal Process

Purchasing a home is the most serious investment some could ever make. It doesn't matter if a primary residence, an additional vacation home or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to make it all happen.

It's likely you are familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The most familiar entity in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the mortgage company provides the money necessary to bankroll the transaction. And ensuring all areas of the transaction are completed and that the title is clear to transfer from the seller to the buyer is the title company.

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

So, who's responsible for making sure the real estate 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 1st Appraisal Source will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals begin with the home inspection

Our first task at 1st Appraisal Source is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must actually view features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, living areas, etc, to ensure they indeed are present and are in the shape a reasonable person would expect them to be. To make sure the stated size of the property is accurate and describe the layout of the home, the inspection often entails creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, the appraiser looks for any obvious amenities - or defects - that would affect the value of the property.

Next, after the inspection, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to determining the value of real property: paired sales analysis and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Cost Approach

Here, the appraiser uses information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other elements to determine how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This figure commonly sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers become very familiar with the communities in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of specific features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent transactions in the neighborhood and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the home being appraised. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as remodeled rooms, types of flooring, energy efficient items, patios and porches, or extra storage space, we adjust the comparable properties so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject.

  • Say, for example, the comparable has a fireplace and the subject doesn't, the appraiser may deduct the value of a fireplace from the sales price of the comparable.
  • If the subject property has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an 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 1st Appraisal Source, we are an authority in knowing the worth of real estate features in Paramus and Bergen County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is commonly awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a real estate exchange.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the appraiser may use a third way of valuing a property. In this situation, the amount of income the property yields is factored in with income produced by neighboring properties to determine the current value.

The Bottom Line

Examining the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to document an estimated market value for the subject property. Note: While the appraised value is probably the strongest 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 typically employed as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in the event they had to put the property on the market again. At the end of the day, an appraiser from 1st Appraisal Source will guarantee you get the most accurate property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.