Tips for hiring an appraiser you can trust

Tips for hiring an appraiser you can trust

Tips for hiring an appraiser you can trustOver the past year or two, I’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior. More and more home buyers that may be using cash or other forms of payment where a mortgage is NOT necessary are still interested in getting an appraisal. I credit this to them being more educated on the value of an appraisal and how it can help them to not overpay for the largest asset and investment most people will have in their life. It is important that the appraiser be knowledgeable and have experience so I thought I would give you an insider’s perspective and give you the best tips for hiring an appraiser you can trust.

Experience

Knowledge is usually built up over time and there is no substitute for the years of experience an appraiser has put in. Being in the business myself for around 25 years I have seen the cycles in real estate that have occurred which gives a unique perspective when valuing your home. It’s the same difference you get when you go from seeing something from 10 feet away to 100 feet away. The bigger picture can provide insight that you don’t get with the limited experience. When interviewing the appraiser you want to use ask them how long they’ve been appraising and what markets they work in, which brings me to the next tip.

Geographic competence

Geographic competence is so important I wrote a whole article on it. It describes the areas the appraiser has experience appraising in. For example in my state of Alabama, you would not want to hire an appraiser from out of state to appraise your house because they do not have the experience and knowledge of the area. This can even be said of appraisers from other parts of your state. If you have a home in the Birmingham area you would not want an appraiser from Mobile to appraise it. Two reasons for this are lack of knowledge of local real estate trends and sales data. Appraisers must have access to reliable sales data sources for the area they are appraising in and if they are from outside of the area they typically do not. It is possible on some rare occasions that appraisers may have good knowledge of an area even though they are based in another town but you should find this out at the beginning before you hire them.

Where are they located?

The appraiser’s location is usually related to their geographic competence that I mentioned above. Living and working in the area you appraise in gives you insight that out of town appraisers don’t have. Make sure you find out where their office is and where they do most of their appraisal assignments because that will tell you where their knowledge is.

Education

In addition to experience, an appraiser must have the education to appraise properly. Each state has a required number of education hours that an appraiser must meet before becoming certified but they must also keep up their continuing education hours after they have their license. Continuing education can help them keep up to date with current appraisal methods and business practices. For example, it is becoming standard practice for appraisers to use regression analysis in their reports, however, if they do not stay on top of their education requirements they may not know how to do this. A good appraiser can provide you with a resume showing their education and experience.

Professional affiliation

It is not a requirement for an appraiser to be a part of a professional organization, however, I believe that those who do for the most part provide a better service. State licensing only sets the minimum standard for obtaining a license, however, organizations like the Appraisal Institute which I belong to, go above and beyond these minimum requirements and require its members to take additional classes in different subjects that make its members better-rounded appraisers. You might want to ask your potential appraiser if they have any professional appraisal designations when speaking with them up front.

Reputation

An appraiser’s reputation should be based on their honesty and integrity. An appraiser’s job is not to appraise a property for the value that the owners want but rather to provide an opinion of value that reflects the current real estate market and reflects the most likely sales price. It’s not a bad idea to ask your friends or local real estate agents who they would use and trust. Most people don’t need appraisal services as frequently as other home services so they may not know who is knowledgeable and reputable. Testimonials are a great way for appraisers to share their client’s experiences and let those who may want to hire them to know what to expect.

Question

Is there anything else you would like to add? Are there any other questions you may have for an appraiser? Please leave your comments below and as always thanks for reading.

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Comments

  1. Jamie H. says

    Hi, I recently had a home appraisal done June 2015 for a refinance on my waterfront bungalow Long Island property. The appraisal came in insanely low, with my belief that SuperStorm Sandy had a major impact on the home values used for the comps. My issue is that the #1 comp the appraiser used was a bungalow that sold over a year from my appraisal date (when homes were still being rebuilt from flood damage), and he used a town many, many miles away. The home that he used had water damage due to the storm (which my home did not).

    What type of recourse do I have? It seems as though he was way out of bounds in following appraiser “guidelines”. Your advice is appreciated.

    • Sorry to hear of your problems. I would suggest that if you have some other sales in mind that you feel would be more appropriate to compare with you home you might want to request a reconsideration of value. These could be sales you are aware of personally or that an agent may have provided to you. I would include the sales, along with any other questions you might have, in a typed one page memo to the lender so that they can give this to the appraiser. There could be some valid reason for the appraiser using the sales they did, however they can address this in an answer to the request. Hope this helps.

  2. Great list Tom. The only thing I can add is that where the appraiser is located is not always what it seems. At one time I serviced an area (in another state) that was almost two hours from my house. I went there once every week and I appraised more homes in that county than any other appraiser. I would not rule out an appraiser if the office is more distant, I would just ask more questions like, “How many appraisals have you done in this area in the last six months?”

    • Good points Gary, I agree and noted this. You’re right, it should prompt you to ask more questions just to clarify.

      • Nice job, Tom. I like Gary’s question. An open ended statement consumers might ask is something like, “Tell me about your experience appraising in XYZ neighborhood in Birmingham.” That way the consumer is getting hopefully specific information and the appraiser can highlight his/her knowledge of the market and/or experience (or the lack of experience, but the steps that will be taken to become competent to complete the appraisal).

        • Great idea Ryan. I think most people don’t realize that they can and should ask the appraiser questions regarding their experience in an area.

  3. As usual, all great points Tom. With regard to all cash transactions, it would behoove buyer’s agents to encourage buyers to get an appraisal from an experienced local residential appraiser to protect the agent from a future liability. Home values fluctuate and can decline significantly should the economy take a hit in the future. If a buyer’s home value declines in the future, litigation can result where the home buyer accuses the agent of recommending a sale price that was too high. Having an opinion of value from a third party independent experienced certified appraiser can protect that agent from future liability.

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