The national average cost of a professional appraisal is about $327. Most people pay between $287 and $373. Whether your a seller or buyer, having the home appraised is quick, relatively inexpensive, and ensures a fair price. An appraiser should give you a flat fee or hourly rate rather than a percentage of the home’s value as this can be a sign of unethical practice.
Whether you’re buying or selling a home or some other property, you don’t want any surprises after you sign on the dotted line. You want assurances that the selling price is fair. If you’re buying a home, you need to know that your mortgage loan will clear with a lending institution. A property appraisal will help you avoid any surprises. It will tell how much similar homes in your area sold for, what its actual square footage is, the number of bathrooms and bedrooms, amenities that add to the home’s value (like a swimming pool or its proximity to schools or supermarkets), and any problems which lower the price.
If you’ve never experienced an appraisal, you probably have a few questions. Here are answers to the questions homeowners and sellers ask most frequently:
Factors That Affect Cost
There are a number of factors which affect the cost of a home. These include:
- Location: This includes the value of nearby homes, how close you are to schools, and how good those schools are. In general, homes located close to metropolitan areas (and the convenience that brings) are worth more than those farther away.
- Square footage and home layout: Homes with more square footage are generally worth more, but buyers will also be concerned with higher maintenance and energy costs associated with more space. In terms of layout, open design makes homes appear more spacious and add to value. The number of bedrooms is important, but keep in mind that 3 large bedrooms will add more value than 4 small ones.
- Age: Newer homes are worth more than older ones because there are fewer issues with repair and maintenance. However, very old homes acquire historic value, which can add to their value. A home built in 1900 could be worth a comparable home built in 1980.
- Upgrades: Renovations and upgrades will add value, but upgrading to the point that a home looks “over-improved” compared to surrounding homes could actually bring the price down.
How Much Does an Appraisal Cost, and Who Pays?
The cost of appraisals varies widely depending on how much work the appraiser has to do. Larger, more complex properties require more work and therefore cost more. In general, appraisals cost between $287 and $373, but those which require significantly more work by the appraiser could cost more than $1,000.
There is no hard and fast rule as to who pays for an appraisal. In some areas of the country, the buyer tends to pay, while in others, it’s the seller who eats the cost. The decision about who pays is also negotiable. While it might be typical in one region for buyers to pay, owners who are eager to sell can sometimes be persuaded to pick up the cost of the appraisal.
Why Do I Need an Appraisal?
You need an appraisal for many reasons. For one thing, you don’t want to pay more or sell it for less than it’s worth.
For the buyer, there’s a special incentive to know the value of the property when you bought it. Any improvements you make to the house can appreciate the home’s value beyond the average annual appreciation in your area. This can give you more equity in your home, which you can use to obtain a home equity loan or line of credit.
A home’s appraised value will determine how much you pay in real estate taxes — without an appraisal, you could be paying more in taxes than you should.
However, the main reason you need an appraisal is that a lending institution will require one in almost every case before it approves your mortgage loan. This applies to any mortgage loan which is backed by the federal government through either the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). About 97% of all mortgages are backed by the government. Private lenders who offer non-government backed loans don’t have to require an appraisal, but most do because it reduces the risk associated with the loan they make.
Is a Home Appraisal the Same As a Home Inspection?
Home appraisals and home inspections are both important, but they’re not the same thing. A home inspection protects the buyer by making him aware of any structural defects in the home. The home appraisal, on the other hand, protects the financial institution from lending more money than the home is worth. Home inspectors are generally hired by the buyer and serve his interests, while appraisers are usually hired by the lending institution.
Home appraisers and home inspectors do different things. Appraisers generally check out things which can be observed by the naked eye, like the number of rooms or improvements which increase home value. Inspectors dig deeper, evaluating and testing things which can’t be easily observed, like mechanical systems (such as plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling), major appliances, and whether there are any health or safety issues (like the presence of mold).
What Are the Major Components of an Appraisal?
Each appraisal has four major components, each of which plays a part in determining the property value:
#1 The Property Description
The purpose of a property description is to identify boundaries of the property using things like rivers, streets and other landmarks, and the size of the property (in acres).
#2 Market Information
This includes things like location (a home that is close to local schools is worth more than one which is farther away) and demographics of the surrounding area, both at the time of the appraisal and in the future.
#3 Highest and Best Use
The value of the home depends on how the owner intends to use it. In general, a property which will be used as a residence has the highest value. In some instances, however, an appraiser will assign a higher value to the land which will be redeveloped.
The Property Valuation
This is the most important part of the appraisal in which the appraiser, based on the entirety of his analysis, assigns a value to the property. Appraisers can use any of three major valuation methods to assign that value.
The first, called “the comparable approach,” looks at the selling price for similar properties in close proximity, making any necessary adjustments based on observed differences in those comparable properties. The second, called the “cost replace method,” estimates how much it would take to rebuild the property. The third, called “income capitalization,” assigns a value based on what someone would pay for the property in relation to how much income it would generate, and is generally reserved for investment properties.
How to Get the Most Out of It
In general, the conditions which contribute to the valuation of a property don’t lend themselves to easy or inexpensive fixes. That send,there are some things owners can do to increase the value assigned to a property. These include:
- Making sure the appraiser knows your neighborhood: appraisers who aren’t familiar with your neighborhood can make mistakes. You should always ask an appraiser if he lives in close proximity to your neighborhood or has done other appraisals there. If the answer is “no,” you can request another appraiser with that experience.
- Giving the appraiser your own list of comparable properties: to be sure the appraiser is comparing your property to others which are actually similar, do some research and give this to him.
- Making renovations that impact value: if you’re going to make renovations, do the ones that add most to the bottom line, such as kitchens, an enclosed garage, wood flooring or landscaping.
- Memorializing whatever changes you make: take before and after pictures and save all renovation bills to document all of the ways in which you improved your property.
- Removing clutter, inside and out: this can actually make a difference in the appraised value. Outside, remove any debris, trim the trees, improve the look of flower beds and paint if necessary. Inside, get rid of unnecessary items (you might consider a garage sale) to make the home appear larger.
What Questions Should You Ask Before Hiring an Appraiser?
Here are some questions you should ask the appraiser:
- Are you qualified to do appraisals? You need to make sure that an appraiser has been licensed by meeting all the requirements of the Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB)including education, experience and passing a state licensing or certification examination. The appraiser should also be up to date with all continuing education requirements.
- How much experience do you have in appraising my type of property? An appraiser who has only done investment property appraisals may not be qualified to evaluate your residential property.
- How much will this cost? If you are paying for the appraisal, you have the right to know how much the appraiser will charge before he starts his work. The answer should be a fixed dollar amount or an hourly rate, not a percentage of the appraised value. Charging a percentage of appraised value is unethical and a clear signal that you should not hire an appraiser.
- What will the final report look like? Final reports should comply with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.
Buying or selling a home or other type of property is one of the most important and consequential transactions of your life. It’s important to make sure you’ve taken the steps necessary to get a fair price and that there are no surprises after the purchase or sale.