Understanding Appraisals

Buying real estate is the biggest financial decision many people may ever encounter. Whether it's a main residence, a seasonal vacation property or an investment, the purchase of real property is a detailed financial 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 person in the exchange is the real estate agent. Next, the lender provides the money needed to bankroll the transaction. And the title company sees to it that all details of the transaction are completed and that the title is clear to pass 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, who's responsible for making sure the property is worth the amount being paid? In comes the appraiser. We provide an unbiased opinion 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 Stallings & Associates will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal starts

To ascertain the true status of the property, it's our responsibility to first perform a thorough inspection. We must see aspects of the property first hand, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure they truly exist and are in the shape a reasonable person would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the property, ensuring the square footage is accurate and conveying the layout of the property. Most importantly, the appraiser identifies 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: a sales comparison, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Replacement Cost

Here, we use information on local building costs, labor rates and other factors to determine how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This value often sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used method.

Sales Comparison

Appraisers become very familiar with the neighborhoods in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of particular features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent transactions in the neighborhood and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject in question. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as square footage, additional bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we adjust the comparable properties so that they more accurately portray the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable property 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 home.
  • 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 Stallings & Associates, we are an authority when it comes to knowing the worth of particular items in Sacramento and Sacramento County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is usually given the most consideration when an appraisal is for a real estate sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

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

Arriving at a Value Conclusion

Examining the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the subject property. Note: While the appraised value 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 seller motivation, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust the final price up or down. But the appraised value is typically used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in case they had to put the property on the market again. It all comes down to this, an appraiser from Stallings & Associates will help you get the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.