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What is an Appraisal? How will I obtain one?

An appraisal is an opinion of value. For estate planning, financial planning, or sale price decisions, individuals or a trusted advisor usually orders an appraisal. When an appraisal is used to obtain an opinion of value of a property for loan purposes, federal regulation requires the lender or its agent to place an appraisal order. The lender or its agent contacts a state licensed or certified appraiser and identifies the property to be appraised and the intended use of the appraisal. The appraiser then determines the appropriate scope of work for the assignment. The appraiser’s scope of work typically includes the type of property inspection (interior, exterior only or none), what approaches to value are required, and any lender-specific requirements. In some cases, the lender may order the appraisal through an agent, such as an Appraisal Management Company (AMC). There is no single standard appraisal report form, format, or style. However, for residential mortgage lending, Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC), which are Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) that purchase mortgages on the secondary market, have developed residential appraisal report forms that are commonly used to communicate the appraisal of properties used as collateral. Regardless of the type of appraisal report used, all appraisal reports must contain sufficient information to enable the intended users to understand the report properly.

The Appraisal Process

• If an appraisal requires an interior inspection, an appraiser will contact the homeowner (or, in the case of a sale, an agent or the seller) to inspect the interior and exterior of a property. As previously mentioned, an appraisal may not require an interior inspection.

• An appraiser will research county and municipal records, Multiple Listing Service (MLS) records, and other data services for information and documentation concerning the subject property and market area.

• An appraiser will review recent sales and listings of comparable properties. Comparables are recently sold or listed properties that have similar utility, quality, age and amenities as the subject property and are located in the subject property’s market area. In markets where few sales have recently occurred, comparables may be from similar or competing neighborhoods located some distance from the subject property.

• An appraiser may use the sales comparison approach to develop an opinion of value. Often the primary approach to develop an opinion of value for a residential property, the sales comparison approach utilizes recent sales of comparable properties. An appraiser will analyze and compare characteristics that include the living area of the home, land area, style, age, quality of construction, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, presence or absence of a garage, etc.

• The cost approach is another method an appraiser may use to develop an opinion of value. The cost approach is the appraiser’s opinion of the current replacement cost of constructing a reproduction of the existing structure, less any estimated depreciation, plus the value of the land. The cost approach is a valuable approach to use when appraising newer homes that might have little or no depreciation.

• Lastly, an appraiser may utilize the income approach. The income approach is most often used in appraisals of properties that have two, three or four living units, where income is a factor in the decision-making process of buyers and sellers. It is generally not used for one-unit residential properties in areas where the majority of the homes are owner-occupied.


After data collection and analysis, the appraiser will develop an opinion of value by considering the indicated value(s) of the sales comparison approach, as well as the cost approach and/or income approach, if applicable. The values indicated by the approaches utilized will be reconciled to a final opinion of value. The appraiser will present his or her findings and conclusions in a report to the lender.

Click on the following link which will take you directly to the Residential Appraisal Guide put out by The Appraisal Foundation Authorized by Congress as the Source of Appraisal Standards and Appraisal Qualifications.

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