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Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

A home purchase can be the largest transaction many could ever make. It doesn't matter if where you raise your family, an additional vacation home or one of many rentals, the purchase of real property is a detailed transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

Most people are familiar with the parties taking part in the transaction. The most recognizable person in the exchange is the real estate agent. Next, the mortgage company provides the money required to bankroll the transaction. And ensuring all areas of the exchange are completed and that the title is clear to pass from the seller to the purchaser 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, who makes sure the value of the real estate is consistent with the amount being paid? This is where the appraiser comes in. We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer could 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 RJE Real Estate Appraisal Service will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals begin with the home inspection

To determine an accurate status of the property, it's our duty to first conduct a thorough inspection. We must physically view aspects of the property, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they indeed exist and are in the shape a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the house, ensuring the square footage is proper and illustrating the layout of the property. Most importantly, the appraiser identifies any obvious features - 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 the property: paired sales analysis and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Replacement Cost

Here, the appraiser uses information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other elements to derive how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This value commonly sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers become very familiar with the subdivisions in which they appraise. They thoroughly understand the value of certain features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the real estate at hand. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as square footage, extra 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 more accurately match the features of subject.

  • For example, if 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.
  • But, 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 valid estimate of what the subject could sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. At RJE Real Estate Appraisal Service, we are experts in knowing the value of particular items in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County neighborhoods. This approach to value is usually 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 way of valuing a property. In this situation, the amount of revenue the real estate produces is factored in with income produced by comparable properties to give an indicator of the current value.

Reconciliation

Analyzing the data from all 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 best indication of what a house is worth, it may not be the price at which the property closes. Prices can always be driven up or down by extenuating circumstances like the motivation or urgency of a seller or 'bidding wars'. Regardless, the appraised value is typically employed as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in the event they had to put the property on the market again. It all comes down to this, an appraiser from RJE Real Estate Appraisal Service will help you get the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.