6 things real estate appraisers wish homeowners knew

6 things real estate appraisers wish homeowners knew

Communication is key in everything. An appraisers job is to communicate the value of real estate to their clients and we accomplish this typically by producing a report that gives detailed information about the property we are appraising as well as market data that supports our opinion of value. Because this is part of our job and we do it on a daily basis we have become adept at it, but we sometimes fall short in communicating with the homeowner about the appraisal process and everything that is involved, so I thought I would take this time to do that. Homeowners often feel like they are in the dark when it comes to understanding all that is involved in getting an appraisal so lets look at 6 things real estate appraisers wish homeowners knew.

Our job takes longer than the time we are at your house- Depending on the complexity of the job, appraisal inspections can take from 30 minutes to several hours. The time we are at the house is only a fraction of the time required to fully complete the assignment. After completing the field inspection, and collecting the property data, we have to conduct research on comparable sales and market trends. This research phase can take a long time depending on the availability of sales information. Each job is different, however the process is the same and the appraiser must do this for each assignment.

I’m not really unfriendly, I’m just concentrating on my job- I like to meet people and visit with them most of the time, however when I am actually performing an appraisal inspection I typically don’t like to chit chat during my walk through of the house. An appraiser’s job is to observe the property and take detailed notes on the materials and quality of construction as well as to look for special or unique features that sets the home apart from others. When our attention is interrupted it can cause us to miss things which can affect the outcome of the appraisal. I typically do the inspection and then after that I will talk with the homeowner to get additional information such as any recent renovations and updating.

I can’t tell you the value of your house before I leave the inspection- As I mentioned above, the actual appraisal inspection is just the first part of the appraisal assignment. During the inspection the physical data on the property is collected, so we are not able to actually provide an opinion of value on the property. We still have to do research and analysis on recent sales and study housing price trends in the area before we can provide an estimate of value. We must have sales data in our file that supports our estimate before we can convey that to you.

The fee you’re paying to the lender may not be what the appraiser is getting for the appraisal- Some banks and mortgage companies use Appraisal Management Companies (AMC’s) to mange their appraisal process. The AMC’s typically charge a fee for this service and this is added to the cost of the actual appraisal. It can add anywhere from $100-$200 to the actual cost of the appraisal, so if you are paying your lender $500 the appraiser may only be getting $350 to$400 for the appraisal. Many people have commented to me that I get paid a lot of money for not much work, however they are basing that comment on the time involved in the initial appraisal inspection and the fee paid to the bank which may include and AMC fee. After being educated on the total time involved in producing an appraisal and the actual fee paid to the appraiser they usually admit we don’t get paid enough!

It may not be possible to tell you how much certain features of improvements add to value- I get a kick out of home improvement shows on T.V. that can provide down to the penny how much new cabinet knobs can add to your homes value. In reality it is not possible to isolate the additional value added to your home for items like this. What I tell homeowners that ask this question is that all of the features of the home are taken into consideration and included in the final value estimate. Appraisers use a minimum of three closed sales in the assignment, and many times it is more than this, to provide a range of value from which the appraiser can reconcile a final value. If a home has nice features and has been updated then the appraiser has support for reconciling a value at the upper end of the value range. If the opposite is true and the home in not in very good condition, and has not been updated, then the lower end of the range may be reconciled. It is sometimes possible to isolate the added value of some features, however this will vary from area to area depending on the markets reaction and the popularity of the feature.

A messy house will not typically affect your homes appraisal value- I have written about this before but thought I would comment on it again because I continue to get questions about it. We’re not talking about hoarders here but rather beds that are unmade, dishes not washed, or laundry not put up. The appraiser is trained to focus more on the structure of the home, its condition, and the materials of construction. General housekeeping does not affect the value of the home, however when you get into a hoarder situation then this can negatively affect the value because it can contribute to rodents and deterioration of the house. Read my previous post about messy houses here.

Do you have a question about something else you don’t understand about the appraisal process? Leave me a comment below and I would be happy to answer it for you.

If you have any real estate appraisal related questions you can call me at 205.243.9304, email me, or connect with me on Facebook., Twitter, or Youtube.



  1. Kathleen Morris says

    Dear Tom Horn, Thank you for your informative web page. You have covered many questions we have had concerning appraisals. I have a few questions for you in hopes you can help with answers;
    With mortgage interest rates so low we are considering refinancing. We recently inquired with a lending company through their advertisement in the mail. We have done refinance in the past and never before were we required to provide them with a copy of our birth certificates? This seemed very fishy to us. We decided to back out due to some other shady tactics of this lending company. Please respond. Thank you.

    • Wow, I have never heard of that before. That seems like a question you might want to ask a lender as they know exactly what documents are required to get a loan. You might want to call a reputable local company that you can trust. Good luck.

      • Kathleen Morris says

        Thanks Tom for replying. We are soon going to do that.. We have a reputable home refinancing
        dept. in our credit union where rates are low. We will soon find out if asking for copies of
        our birth certificates are required for a refi application. We should have known not to respond to
        a offer in the mail. It is our mistake to have done that in the first place.

  2. As a state certified appraiser, I try to stay totally logical and just look at the fact. Making clients understand about legal issues pertinent to real estate is one of the hardest jobs ever. Great post Tom, enjoyed the read and I found your suggestions very reassuring and incredibly common-sense-useful!

  3. Great post, Tom. You hit this one out of the park to answer some of the really common things that appraisers and home owners think. Perfect title too.

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