What Consumers Need to Know

About Real Estate Appraisals and Appraisers

 

Credible and reliable opinions of value help to stabilize real estate loans and investments, which

promotes socially desirable real estate development. Appraisals are particularly valuable because they

are an objective and unbiased source of real estate information. Unlike some other real estate

professionals, the appraiser performs a professional service for a fee rather than for a commission

contingent on the value conclusion, the approval of a loan or the eventual sale of the property.

To help consumers understand the role of appraisals in the lending process, the Appraisal Institute offers

these helpful tips.

1. Understand the role of mortgage appraisals. Real estate appraisals are critical components in

real estate financing and risk management. Lenders order appraisals to get a stronger

understanding of risk relating to the underlying collateral offered in a mortgage. Lenders want to

know how much that property would bring in an open market so they can ascertain that the loan

is well enough supported by the collateral. Mortgage appraisals are not technically provided to

confirm a sales price, although they can help both lenders and consumers in making sound

financial decisions. It serves neither the lender nor the consumer to enter into a mortgage loan

that is more than the value of the property. In some cases the appraisal may not match the

contract price. But just because an appraisal comes in below – or above – the listing or contract

price doesn’t mean it’s flawed. The agreed-upon contract price may be above market value, for

example. In those situations, the buyer and seller often renegotiate the contract at more favorable

or balanced terms.

2. Make sure your lender hires a qualified appraiser, such as a designated MAI, SRPA, SRA,

AI-GRS or AI-RRS member of the Appraisal Institute. The best way to combat potential

problems with appraisals is to ensure the appraiser hired by your lender is highly qualified and

competent. The homebuyer can ask whether the appraiser is directly engaged by the bank or

whether the bank utilizes an appraisal management company, and what their procedures are for

engaging qualified appraisers. You have every right to demand the use of a highly qualified

appraiser, someone with field experience in your market and knowledge and experience to

handle the assignment properly. A qualified appraiser knows how to conduct a thorough market

analysis and make appropriate adjustments. Ask the lender for the qualifications of the appraiser

and specifically, whether they are professionally designated by a professional appraisal

organization like the Appraisal Institute. Remember that your home purchase is one of your most

important lifetime investments. The money spent on a quality appraisal is well spent.

3. Accompany the appraiser during the inspection. Contrary to incorrect interpretations of

appraiser independence requirements, appraisers welcome information that would assist the

development of credible assignment results. If lender policies permit, consumers can accompany

appraisers when conducting the property inspection and may provide the appraiser with any

information they consider important. Ask your lender for permission to do so, and confirm the

appointment. Most importantly, take note of whether an adequate inspection is performed. Did the

appraiser spend enough time at the property to observe important features or improvements or

potential problems?

200 W. Madison St., Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60606 | 888-756-4624 | www.appraisalinstitute.org

4. Ask for a copy of the appraisal report. Homebuyers have a right to obtain a copy of the

appraisal report. Even though the appraisal report is ordered to help assess lender collateral risk,

buyers are entitled to a copy of the appraisal report. Federal regulations require lenders to

provide property buyers with free copies of appraisal reports no later than three days before the

loan closes. Homebuyers and sellers should first understand what an appraisal is and how it’s

used. Real estate appraisals for mortgage finance applications are prepared for the bank or

financial institution so they can better understand the collateral risk in making the loan. This can

be confusing, because homebuyers typically pay for the appraisal and receive a copy of it.

5. Examine the appraisal report. Although appraisal review is best performed by qualified

appraisers, you can examine the appraisal for potential deficiencies. According to “Appraising the

Appraisal: The Art of Appraisal Review,” 2nd edition, common errors in appraisals include: misuse

of adjustments to comparables, disregarding special financing and concessions, or miscalculation

of gross living area. Ask yourself: do adjacent homes add or detract from the value of the subject

property? Is the subject property equal to or lower in price than surrounding homes? Does the

floor plan have any functional problems? Does the house (particularly the kitchen and bathrooms)

require major remodeling to make it comparable with similar homes in the same price range? Is

the number of bedrooms and baths in the home comparable to similar homes in the same price

range? Did the appraiser perform an adequate inspection?

6. Appeal the appraisal. Or ask your lender to review the appraisal report. Most lenders have

appraisal appeal procedures, known as “Reconsiderations of Value.” If you are aware of recent,

comparable sales information or items that may not have been available or considered by the

appraiser, provide those to your lender.

7. Ask your lender to order a second appraisal by a qualified appraiser. If problems were found

with the first appraisal, you can and should obtain a second appraisal. You should see the

importance of hiring a qualified appraiser by now; make sure your lender uses a qualified

appraiser the second time, if they did not do so the first.

8. File legitimate complaints with the appropriate state appraisal board or professional appraisal

organizations. Lenders are required under federal law to report legitimate complaints with

appropriate regulatory authorities. State appraiser regulatory authorities also accept complaints

from consumers and some states accept them anonymously. To contact the appropriate

appraisal board, visit https://www.asc.gov/State-Appraiser-RegulatoryPrograms/StateContactInformation.aspx.

An additional benefit of using a professional designated

Melissa R Calhoun, SRA Realtor/Designated Appraiser Phoenix Metroplex, Maricopa County. Arizona.