Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

Purchasing a home can be the biggest investment most of us could ever consider. Whether it's a primary residence, a seasonal vacation home or a rental fixer upper, the purchase of real property is a detailed financial transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

It's likely you are familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The most known face in the exchange is the real estate agent. Next, the lender provides the money needed to bankroll the transaction. The title company sees to it that all areas of the sale are completed and that a clear title transfers to the buyer from the seller.

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 value of the property is in line with the purchase price? In comes the appraiser. We provide an unbiased estimate 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 Property Valuation Group will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals start with the inspection

Our first task at Property Valuation Group is to inspect the property to ascertain its true status. We must see features hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they really are there and are in the shape a reasonable person would expect them to be. To make sure the stated square footage has not been misrepresented and illustrate the layout of the house, the inspection often entails creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious features - or defects - that would affect the value of the house.

Back at the office, 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

This is where the appraiser uses information on local building costs, labor rates and other elements to ascertain how much it would cost to build a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This figure usually sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used predictor of value.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the neighborhoods in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of certain features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as square footage, additional bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable has an irrigation system and the subject doesn't, the appraiser may deduct the value of an irrigation system from the sales price of the comparable.
  • However, 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.

After all differences have been accounted for, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At Property Valuation Group, we are experts in knowing the value of particular items in Ferndale and Oakland County neighborhoods. This approach to value is commonly given the most importance when an appraisal is for a real estate purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the appraiser may use a third method of valuing a house. In this scenario, the amount of revenue the property generates is taken into consideration along with income produced by similar properties to derive the current value.

The Bottom Line

Examining the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property in question. It is important to note that while the appraised value is probably the most reliable indication of what a property is worth, it probably will not be the final sales price. Prices can always be driven up or down by extenuating circumstances like the motivation or urgency of a seller or 'bidding wars'. But 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. Here's what it all boils down to, an appraiser from Property Valuation Group will guarantee you discover the most accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.