Home Appraisals: A Primer

Buying a house can be the most significant investment many could ever consider. It doesn't matter if where you raise your family, a second vacation home or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is an involved transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

The majority of the participants are very familiar. The real estate agent is the most recognizable entity in the transaction. Next, the lender provides the money necessary to fund the deal. And the title company ensures that all details of the transaction are completed and that the title is clear to transfer 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, what party makes sure the value of the real estate is consistent 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 Central Arizona Appraisers will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals begin with the inspection

To ascertain the true status of the property, it's our duty to first complete a thorough inspection. We must actually view features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they indeed are present and are in the condition a typical person would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the house, ensuring the square footage is accurate 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 real property: paired sales analysis and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Cost Approach

This is where the appraiser uses information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other factors to determine how much it would cost to build a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This estimate usually sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers get to know the subdivisions in which they appraise. They thoroughly understand the value of particular features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent transactions in the neighborhood and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the real estate being appraised. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as remodeled rooms, types of flooring, energy efficient items, patios and porches, or additional storage space, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they more accurately match the features of subject property.

  • Say, for example, the comparable property has a storm shelter and the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of a storm shelter 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.

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 Central Arizona Appraisers, we are an authority in knowing the worth of particular items in Phoenix and Maricopa County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is usually awarded the most consideration when an appraisal is for a real estate purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the appraiser may use a third way of valuing a house. In this scenario, the amount of income the real estate generates is factored in with income produced by similar properties to derive the current value.

The Bottom Line

Combining information from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to document an estimated market value for the property at hand. Note: While this amount is probably the strongest indication of what a property is worth, it probably will not be the final sales price. 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 they could recover in case they had to sell the property again. The bottom line is, an appraiser from Central Arizona Appraisers will help you get the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.