What Does a Home Appraiser Look for?

by Meribeth Phipps
Appraisers determine the fair market value of a home.

Most real estate transactions require an independent valuation of the subject property. This valuation is performed by a neutral third party called an "appraiser." An appraiser determines a monetary value of a home, based on certain established criteria, so that a buyer or lender can rest assured that the purchase price is not more than what the house is actually worth. Independent appraisers provide a detailed report on the quality and condition of a property to determine its value.

General Guidelines

Appraisers generally don't look at how clean a home is. Their primary focus is on the quality, condition and type of home to be evaluated. They study the general location and surrounding areas. Appraisers do take note of any needed repairs, so sellers should attempt to have any essential repairs taken care of prior to having a home appraisal. Any partially completed renovation jobs should also be finished before an appraiser sets foot on the property.

Uniform Residential Appraisal Report

The Uniform Residential Appraisal Report is the most common form used for single-family residential dwellings in the US. This report lists the exact points that appraisers look for while conducting a home evaluation, and state the type of appraisal that is performed. Typically, the "comparative sales" method is used for analyzing single family dwellings, which includes a detailed analysis of a home's amenities, condition and quality, and compares it to other homes with similar features.

Quality and Condition

Within the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report, there are sections relating to categories of information that an appraiser must analyze. Neighborhood characteristics, zoning and utility information, and site improvements are included within the study. Also noted is a general property description, foundation traits, and interior and exterior qualities. An appraiser will then take note of any physical deficiencies or needed repairs associated with the home, along with it's structural integrity. Another element of an appraisal is a home's ability to conform with the surrounding neighborhood.

Comparables

After reviewing the elements of the subject property, an appraiser must begin to determine the price of the home based on recent sales of similar properties. Generally, three comparable properties are used, and they will have similar specifications, such as square footage, age, number of bedrooms, quality of construction, amenities, location, and style of home. The appraiser will then make adjustments in price according to which features the subject property possesses, versus the comparable property.

Summary

After reviewing the home, and adjusting the prices of comparable properties, an appraiser can determine the fair market value and assess a final adjusted price. For homes that have unique features or unusual conditions that make it a bit more difficult to determine a price based on comparable properties, often appraisers will make comments at the end of a report detailing exactly how they arrived at a fair market value.

About the Author

Meribeth Phipps has been a real estate broker since 2000, specializing in residential new home sales. She holds a bachelor's degree in business and marketing.

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