How Home Appraisals Work

It's a done deal when sellers and buyers agree on a home's price, right? Not before the appraiser has spoken. An appraiser is an unbiased third party who can affirm or complicate the sale by assessing its value unless it is a cash-only home purchase. Lenders rely on professional home appraisals to establish whether the home is equivalent to the value of the agreed-upon price.

What Is Home Appraisal?

When you buy or refinance a home, the lender will commission an appraiser who is certified or licensed to assess the worth of your property. Because it offers a mortgage loan and wants to be sure it isn't handing the buyer too much money, the lender requires an accurate appraisal of the property. The appraisal is crucial for both the buyer and the seller because if the value of the assessment is less than the agreed-upon price, the buyer can decide to reopen the price talks.

An appraiser normally researches, examines the property's interior and exterior, and responds to any unique demands from the lender. The buyer pays the appraiser's fee, often several hundred dollars.

Examining the Evaluation Process

It conducts the appraisal as soon as possible after the two parties reach a price agreement to give adequate time to plan a property visit and create the report. A lender will choose A house appraiser, who will then contact the seller to schedule a visitation time and date.

This template from Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored firm that backs numerous mortgages, exemplifies a consistent residential assessment report.

A valuation examination

A home's outside, and appraisers typically inspect the interior to determine whether the structure is sound, whether there are any safety concerns, how many rooms are present, and whether significant improvements have been made since the last real estate transaction. During the walk-through, the appraiser typically takes pictures of the house's various components. Homeowners may be present during the home visit, particularly if they are still residing there, but the appraiser manages it alone. Although it's uncommon, buyers can ask to be present.

Government-backed loan appraisal visits may be different from those for conventional loans. For instance, according to federal regulations, an appraiser creating a report for an FHA-backed loan must test utilities and appliances to ensure they are in good working order. Similar lists of prerequisites for an appraisal apply to VA loans.

If only briefly, the evaluation procedure has changed due to concerns about the coronavirus. The appraiser might, for instance, be permitted to conduct an alternative appraisal that relies on an exterior inspection together with pictures and videos of the home's interior provided by the seller.


The cost of comparable homes recently sold on the real estate market plays a significant role in the appraiser's determination of value. The most pertinent ones are either in the area or close by and share many traits with the home in the issue.

Appraisers often study public documents and data from the Multiple Listing Service to obtain comparable information (MLS). A real estate database called MLS contains data on homes for sale and listings uploaded by real estate agents. Although the database is confidential, much data is freely accessible online.

Valuation strategy

The appraiser may conclude that the sales comparison approach is the best method for determining value, or they may choose to use a cost-based approach, which involves estimating how much it would cost to construct the home today, considering the value of the land.

Decoded Your Home Appraisal Report

You'll probably turn to the page with the final appraisal value as soon as you receive your home appraisal report. There should be no problems with the financing if the value is the same or very near the suggested sales price.

Yet, a National Association of Realtors research found that in June 2020, appraisal problems were the cause of 9% of contract cancellations and 18% of home purchase closing delays.

The report will contain the following information: The value, its definition (such as market value), and its effective date (the appraisal is usually good for four months).

The property's characteristics, including its features and condition Background information about the market, the location of the residence, and the data supporting the appraiser's value determination, including similar property.

Specific directives from the lender or other relevant organizations. It typically delivers the report to the buyer three days before the closing date when the lender receives it.

How to Challenge an Appraisal Report for a Home

You can speak with the lender if you believe you were given a low assessment and want to contest the findings in the report. Giving the details in writing is preferable, and a revised appraisal might be required.

  • A wrong amount of rooms and neglecting to account for important sections of the house, such as a garage, are problems to watch out for.
  • The square footage that is listed but not the actual sizeSimilar sales that don't happen to be close by or that happened months ago.
  • Significant improvements that the report neglected.

If you decide to obtain a second appraisal, the lender cannot use it as evidence of the home's value, but it can support your argument that the first appraisal was inaccurate.

How an appraisal of real estate can benefit a buyer

Although an appraisal intends to satisfy a mortgage lender, it can also safeguard or benefit buyers. An appraisal can:

Verify the Value of the Home

According to studies, most evaluations back up the asking price.Here, the closing can proceed as planned between the buyer and the seller.

Give Consumers More Negotiating Leverage

The buying process would take longer if the assessment were low. It disclosed the reduced property value to the buyer and the seller, which may allow the buyer to renegotiate with the seller. The buyer may also decide not to proceed with the transaction if the home's value is lower than the price being asked for it. If a buyer wanted a property desperately enough, they might ignore the lower appraisal and shell out the difference between the sale price and the appraised value.

Increase in Home Equity

If a buyer wants to avoid mortgage insurance and obtain a home equity loan or line of credit in the future, having a significantly higher appraisal provides them with more home equity, which is a tremendous advantage. There won't be a need to renegotiate because the seller won't know the estimate.

Advice for Home Sellers on Appraisals

You've probably put a lot of effort into making your house appear as nice as it can, both inside and out if you're selling it. You are unlikely to make significant adjustments in the short time between the selling agreement and the home evaluation procedure. However, you can perform simple maintenance and cleaning to ensure the house is still in great shape for the appraisal visit. Ensure that the electric garage door opener and other crucial mechanical components of the home are operational.

Be sure there aren't any evident repairs that need to be done, especially ones that could jeopardize safety, such as broken railings or steps. Clean up, fix faults with the roof and windows, fix leaks, and attend to any other matters that suggest operational difficulties with the house. Clean the house's outside and inside to make it as presentable as possible. By providing the property appraiser with information on significant property improvements, house sellers may be able to increase the value of their home's appraisal.

Advice on Appraisals for Homeowners Refinancing

Refinancing homeowners must ensure that the home's appraised worth hasn't decreased since they purchased it. A decline might make the bid for a new mortgage more difficult or impossible as their current mortgage is based on that initial value.

For instance, if you paid $300,000 for a property two years ago, now only worth $290,000, your equity will be reduced. The revised loan-to-value ratio may impact your interest rate and whether you require mortgage insurance.

Also, owners should draw attention to recent improvements that demonstrate that the home's worth has improved or been maintained.

How Home Appraisals Work

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does an evaluation last?

Typically, the full-house evaluation procedure lasts at least seven days.

How can I get ready for a house inspection?

By keeping your home clean both inside and out, you can give it the greatest possible first impression. Refresh your landscaping, finish any outstanding repairs, and clear any clutter.

How long is the validity of a house appraisal?

The duration of a house evaluation depends on the kind of loan:Conventional loans: 12 months, although a 120-day update is necessary
VA loans: six months; FHA loans: 120 days
Loan term: 150 days

Who pays for an evaluation?

The buyer normally pays for an appraisal.

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