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Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

A home purchase is the biggest financial decision many of us will ever consider. Whether it's a main residence, a second vacation home or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to pull it all off.

You're probably familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The most recognizable face in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the mortgage company provides the financial capital required to bankroll the deal. And ensuring all requirements 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 property is in line with the purchase price? This is where the appraiser comes in. We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer could expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Appraisal-One will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal starts

To ascertain an accurate status of the property, it's our duty to first complete a thorough inspection. We must see features first hand, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, living areas, etc, to ensure they indeed are present 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, we identify any obvious features - or defects - that would affect the value of the property.

Once the site has been inspected, an appraiser uses 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

This is where the appraiser gathers information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other elements to calculate how much it would cost to build a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This estimate usually sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers get to know the communities in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of particular features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent transactions in the neighborhood and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, extra bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we adjust the comparable properties so that they more accurately portray the features of subject property.

  • If, for example, the comparable has an irrigation system and the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of an irrigation system from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • 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 might sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. At Appraisal-One, we are an authority in knowing the value of real estate features in Huntington Beach and Orange County neighborhoods. This approach to value is most often given the most importance when an appraisal is for a home purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing approach to value is sometimes used when an area has a measurable number of rental properties. In this scenario, the amount of revenue the property generates is factored in with income produced by nearby properties to give an indicator of the current value.

Coming Up With The Final Value

Examining the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to document an estimated market value for the property at hand. It is important to note that while this amount is probably the strongest indication of what a house is worth, it probably will not be the price at which the property closes. There are always mitigating factors such as seller motivation, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust an offer or listing price up or down. 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. At the end of the day, an appraiser from Appraisal-One will help you get the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.