What Is an Appraisal?

Acquiring a home can be the most significant financial decision some of us may ever encounter. Whether it's a primary residence, a seasonal vacation home or one of many rentals, the purchase of real property is an involved transaction that requires multiple parties to pull it all off.

Most people are familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The most familiar entity in the transaction is the real estate agent. Next, the bank provides the money necessary to fund the deal. And ensuring all areas of the exchange are completed and that a clear title transfers from the seller to the buyer 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 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 PLM Appraisals will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal begins

Our first duty at PLM Appraisals is to inspect the property to ascertain its true status. We must see aspects of the property first hand, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they truly are present and are in the shape a reasonable buyer 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, the appraiser looks for any obvious features - or defects - that would affect the value of the house.

Following the inspection, an appraiser uses 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

This is where we use information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other factors to determine how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This value often sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the subdivisions in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of certain features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent sales in the area and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the real estate in question. 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 adjust the comparable properties so that they more accurately match the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable 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.
  • However, if the subject has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an amount to the comparable property.

An opinion of what the subject might sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. At PLM Appraisals, we are experts when it comes to knowing the worth of real estate features in Norfolk and Norfolk City County neighborhoods. This approach to value is commonly awarded the most consideration when an appraisal is for a home sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third method of valuing a property is sometimes employed when an area has a measurable number of rental properties. In this case, the amount of revenue the real estate yields is taken into consideration along with other rents in the area for comparable properties to determine the current value.

Arriving at a Value Conclusion

Analyzing the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the property at hand. It is important to note that while this amount is probably the best indication of what a house is worth, it probably will not be the final sales price. 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 used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could recover in the event they had to sell the property again. At the end of the day, an appraiser from PLM Appraisals will guarantee you discover the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.