Real Estate Appraisals: A Primer

Purchasing real estate is the biggest transaction some of us may ever consider. Whether it's where you raise your family, a seasonal vacation home or one of many rentals, the purchase of real property is an involved financial transaction that requires multiple parties to make it all happen.

Practically all the parties participating are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most familiar face in the exchange. Then, the lender provides the money necessary to fund the transaction. And the title company sees to it that all aspects of the sale are completed and that a clear title passes 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 makes sure the real estate is worth the amount being paid? This is where you meet the appraiser. 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 Hertzler & Associates Real Estate Appraisers will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

To ascertain the true status of the property, it's our responsibility to first perform a thorough inspection. We must see features hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure they indeed are there and are in the shape a reasonable person would expect them to be. To ensure the stated square footage has not been misrepresented and describe the layout of the home, the inspection often includes creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the house.

Once the site has been inspected, we use two or three approaches to determining the value of real property: a paired sales analysis, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Cost Approach

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

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the communities in which they work. They thoroughly understand the value of particular features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up 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, 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 are more accurately in line with the features of subject.

  • If, 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.
  • If the subject property has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add a certain amount to the comparable property.

In the end, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At Hertzler & Associates Real Estate Appraisers, we are an authority in knowing the value of particular items in Williamsburg and Williamsburg City County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is typically awarded the most consideration when an appraisal is for a home sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the appraiser may use an additional method of valuing real estate. In this case, the amount of revenue the property yields is taken into consideration along with other rents in the area for comparable properties to derive the current value.

Reconciliation

Examining the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the subject property. Note: 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. It's not uncommon for prices to be driven up or down by extenuating circumstances like the motivation or urgency of a seller or 'bidding wars'. Regardless, the appraised value is often 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 Hertzler & Associates Real Estate Appraisers will guarantee you get the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.