What Is an Appraisal?

Getting real estate can be the most important financial decision many of us will ever make. Whether it's where you raise your family, a second vacation property or a rental fixer upper, the purchase of real property is a detailed financial transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

You're likely to be familiar with the parties taking part in the transaction. The most recognizable face in the transaction is the real estate agent. Next, the lender provides the financial capital necessary to finance the deal. And ensuring all details of the sale are completed and that a clear title passes to the buyer from the seller 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, what party is responsible for making sure the value of the real estate is consistent with the amount being paid? This is where you meet the appraiser. We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer might 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 Kent & Associates Appraisal will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals begin with the home inspection

Our first duty at Kent & Associates Appraisal is to inspect the property to ascertain its true status. We must see features hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they truly are there and are in the shape a reasonable person would expect them to be. To ensure the stated size of the property has not been misrepresented and convey the layout of the home, the inspection often includes creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, the appraiser looks for any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the property.

Back at the office, 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.

Cost Approach

Here, we use information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other factors to ascertain how much it would cost to construct a property comparable to the one being appraised. This estimate usually sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used predictor of value.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers are intimately familiar with the neighborhoods in which they appraise. They thoroughly understand the value of certain features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent transactions 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 remodeled rooms, types of flooring, energy efficient items, patios and porches, or extra storage space, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • If, for example, the comparable 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, 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.

After all differences have been accounted for, 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 particular items in Mill Creek and Snohomish County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is typically awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a home purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the appraiser may use a third method of valuing a property. In this case, the amount of revenue the real estate produces is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to give an indicator of the current value.

The Bottom Line

Examining the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to state 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 property is worth, it may not be the price at which the property closes. There are always mitigating factors such as the seller's desire to get out of the property, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust an offer or listing price up or down. But 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 get the most accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.