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Do You Really Need a Home Appraisal – And How to Prepare

By Cindy Williams June 10, 2022 Lifestyle

When is a real estate appraisal needed or required? Who is legally allowed to conduct a real estate appraisal? What does a typical real estate appraisal cost? So many questions to ponder – and I’ve got answers!

Calls to my appraisal office have often started with the person on the other end saying, “I need a home appraisal.” I would quickly respond, “Why do you think you need a home appraisal?” The answers I got were varied, and I found that many callers did not need an appraisal at all.

What Really Is a Home Appraisal?

A home appraisal is a process where a licensed real estate appraiser determines the fair market value of your home (fair market value is the determined price that a property will sell for in an open market between a willing buyer and seller, both of whom are reasonably knowledgeable about the property).

What if a local real estate agent or a builder estimates or evaluates the fair market value of your home, is that an appraisal? While your realtor or builder may have a good estimate of value, their valuation is not considered a home appraisal.

Home appraisals are counted as such only when they are conducted by a licensed real estate appraiser and clearly state that the value is an appraisal of the property.

When Do You Really Need a Real Estate Home Appraisal?

Mortgage companies, final estate settlements and divorces are common reasons why you may be required to enlist a home appraisal by a licensed appraiser. If you have a very unusual home or a home with extraordinary amenities, a home appraisal may be necessary to accurately obtain the fair market value.

Mortgage companies require appraisals to make sure the property they are loaning money against is properly valued to prevent loss in case of default. Estate settlements and divorce settlements most often require an appraisal in order to avoid potential family disputes.

When May It Be Unnecessary to Hire a Home Appraiser?

A real estate home appraisal typically is not required to place your home on the real estate market for sale or for simply preparing a personal financial statement of your assets/liabilities. Real estate agents’ or builders’ estimates can be provided in these cases.

Keep in mind that professional real estate agents or knowledgeable builders are not licensed appraisers and cannot legally claim that their estimate is an appraisal of value, though their estimate may be fairly accurate.

How Much Will a Real Estate Home Appraisal Cost?

In most markets, home appraisals can range anywhere from $200.00 to $1000.00 depending on the size of the home being appraised and the complexity of the appraisal needed. If your property is truly unique or difficult to access, the cost may rise even higher.

I once had an appraisal assignment to value a small home built in the middle of a lake. The appraisal was extremely difficult to inspect and took many more hours to obtain cost and sales data collection due to the rarity and complexity of the property.

Your best bet is to ask the appraiser for a quote or bid prior to them appraising your home so there will not be any surprises.

Another very important point to remember is that any real estate home appraisal is an opinion of value by the licensed appraiser appraising the property. Granted, the appraised value is the result obtained by a licensed appraiser based on the data they have collected during inspection, including history of closed sales, listings, and other data, however the estimated value is no guarantee that your property will resale for that exact amount on the open market.

What Preparations Should You Do If Your Home Is Going to Be Appraised?

An appraiser typically looks at a home improvement as if no furnishings or wall décor is present because they are not included in the home’s valuation. However, in reality, a well maintained home still is your best bet of assuring that your appraised value will be optimum.

A good rule of thumb is to take the time to look around your home for interior and exterior paint chipping, leaking faucets, scratched flooring, moldy showers, delayed landscaping and others, and spruce it up a bit if possible.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but making your home more presentable is always a good idea. Also write down a list of items to leave with the appraiser that have been repaired or replaced recently such as new roof, new appliances, etc.

Prior to your home appraisal, it never hurts to have closets, crawl spaces and attic accesses uncluttered where an appraiser can easily access them.

How Long Does an Appraisal Take?

An appraisal of your home should take at least an hour or more and you can expect results of the appraisal in a few weeks. I know that it is super tempting to ask the appraiser a value estimate when they are on site, but please be aware that your appraisal will take many hours to complete prior to the appraiser arriving at your estimated fair market value.

Are you considering having a home appraisal? Have you recently had a home appraisal and what was your experience? Do you think your home appraisal fair market value was accurate?

Let's Have a Conversation!

The Author

Cindy Williams, investor and recently retired 40-plus-year TN-licensed real estate broker/appraiser, enjoys empowering people. Cindy has written articles for local newspapers, co-hosted a radio talk show, owned/operated a dirt race track and looks forward to more adventures. Any questions are welcomed at williamsandassoc@gmail.com.

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