What Is an Appraisal?

Acquiring a home can be the largest transaction some may ever consider. Whether it's where you raise your family, a second vacation property or a rental fixer upper, purchasing real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple parties to make it all happen.

Most people are familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The real estate agent is the most known entity in the transaction. Then, the bank provides the financial capital required to bankroll the deal. And ensuring all aspects of the exchange are completed and that a clear title transfers to the buyer from the seller 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, what party makes sure the real estate is worth the purchase price? In comes the appraiser. We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer might expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a parcel of real estate, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Astute Appraisals, Inc. will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

Our first responsibility at Astute Appraisals, Inc. is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must see aspects of the property first hand, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they truly exist and are in the condition a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the property, ensuring the square footage is correct and conveying the layout of the property. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the property.

Following the inspection, we use two or three approaches to determining the value of real property: sales comparison and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Replacement Cost

This is where we gather information on local building costs, labor rates and other elements to determine how much it would cost to construct a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This value often sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Sales Comparison

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the neighborhoods in which they work. They innately understand the value of particular features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent transactions in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject at hand. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as upgraded appliances, extra bathrooms, additional living area, quality of construction, lot size, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they more accurately match the features of subject.

  • Say, for example, the comparable property has a storm shelter and the subject doesn't, the appraiser may deduct the value of a storm shelter from the sales price of the comparable.
  • In the case where the subject has something such as an extra half bath that a comparable doesn't have, the appraiser might add the value of that bath to the comparable property.

A true estimate of what the subject might sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. At Astute Appraisals, Inc., we are experts when it comes to knowing the value of particular items in Columbia and Howard County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is commonly given 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 an additional way of valuing real estate. In this scenario, the amount of revenue the real estate produces is taken into consideration along with other rents in the area for comparable properties to derive the current value.

Putting It All Together

Analyzing the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the property at hand. The estimate of value on the appraisal report is not always what's being paid for the property even though it is likely the best indication of what a property is worth. Depending on the individual situations of the buyer or seller, their level of urgency or a buyer's desire for that exact property, the closing price of a home can always be driven up or down.Regardless, the appraised value is typically employed as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than the property is actually worth. The bottom line is, an appraiser from Astute Appraisals, Inc. will help you discover the most accurate property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.