Real Estate Appraisals: A Primer

Buying real estate can be the largest financial decision most might ever consider. Whether it's where you raise your family, an additional vacation home or an investment, purchasing real property is an involved financial transaction that requires multiple parties to make it all happen.

You're likely to be familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The most known person in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the lender provides the money necessary to bankroll the exchange. And the title company sees to it that all areas of the exchange are completed and that a clear title passes from the seller to the purchaser.

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 in line with the purchase price? 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 property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Kent & Associates Appraisal will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

To determine an accurate status of the property, it's our responsibility to first complete a thorough inspection. We must see aspects of the property 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 typical person would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the house, ensuring the square footage is correct and illustrating the layout of the property. Most importantly, we look for any obvious features - or defects - that would affect the value of the property.

Next, after the inspection, we use two or three approaches to determining the value of the property: sales comparison and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Cost Approach

This is where the appraiser gathers information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other elements to derive how much it would cost to construct a property comparable to the one being appraised. This estimate commonly sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Sales Comparison

Appraisers get to know the neighborhoods in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of specific features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the home in question. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as square footage, additional bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we adjust the comparable properties so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • If, for example, the comparable property has a fireplace and the subject does not, the appraiser may subtract the value of a fireplace from the sales price of the comparable.
  • However, if the subject has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add a certain amount to the comparable property.

Once all necessary adjustments have been made, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At Kent & Associates Appraisal, we are experts when it comes to knowing the worth of real estate features in Mill Creek and Snohomish County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is most often given the most consideration when an appraisal is for a home purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing a property is sometimes used when an area has a reasonable number of rental properties. In this situation, the amount of revenue the property generates is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to derive the current value.

Putting It All Together

Analyzing the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the property in question. The estimate of value on the appraisal report is not necessarily the final sales price even though it is likely the best indication of what a property is worth. 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 often used 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 Kent & Associates Appraisal will guarantee you discover the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.