How long does it take to complete an appraisal?

Time to complete an appraisal can vary

The most common question I get after leaving a home on an appraisal assignment is about how long it will take to complete an appraisal and get the report back. This is understandable since the owner or buyer is nervous and might worry that their house may not appraise for what they think it should.

The length of time it takes to complete an appraisal will vary depending on many factors which we’re going to discuss today.

Steps in the appraisal assignment

steps to complete an appraisalThe first part of the appraisal assignment of course is when the appraiser visits your house to collect all of the information about your home that will be needed to complete the report. You can read a previous post of mine that explains what to expect during the appraiser’s visit.

Because the actual visit to the property is the only part of the appraisal process that most people see they sometimes cannot understand why it would take longer to get the report back. The appraisal inspection is normally the shortest part of the assignment but there is much more that the appraiser does during the whole process.

After collecting all of the physical information about the property the appraiser will then move on to the research and analysis phase. Most appraisers use form filling software to complete there reports, which doesn’t usually take much time to fill out. The collection of comparable data and analysis of real estate trends usually takes the longest time to complete.

Comparable selection

I would say that the proper selection of comparables is the most important part of an appraisal because if you don’t choose the right sales comparables (comps) then the final opinion of value is not going to reflect the true market value of your home.

Some people think that comp selection involves searching for recent sales that support the estimate of value, whether that estimate is a contract price or the owner’s estimate of value, however in reality that is not the case. Instead of bracketing the estimate of value appraisers bracket the physical characteristics of the property.

Bracketing involves searching for comparables that are inferior, superior, and approximately similar to the home being appraised. By doing it this way the sales will reflect the whole range of properties rather than just properties that may be higher priced.

What non appraisers usually do is choose only homes that have sold for a price more than what they believe the value of their home to be. By using this method most home values are overestimated and this can result in appraisals coming in low and contracts being killed.

By bracketing the physical characteristics of a home you take out the personal bias you may have. You will be choosing comps based on what people pay for, which is square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, home features, and quality of the home.

Analyze trends and develop adjustments

After the best comps are chosen appraisers analyze the sales to see what trends are occurring in the market. ThisGrande View Home Sales 2 involves determining supply and demand as well as what adjustments to make to the sales.

Part of choosing the best comps involves verifying information about each sale that we use. This information has to be verified with a party to the transaction such as the buyer, seller, or real estate agent. The length of time it takes to do an appraisal can vary depending on how quickly an appraiser can verify this information. If you are an agent and an appraiser calls you it is probably to ask questions about a house you sold that they are using in an appraisal. By answering questions the appraiser has you are helping them complete their appraisals as quickly as possible.

There are no “one size fits all” adjustment that appraisers make because one feature may be worth $5,000 in neighborhood A, while in neighborhood B it may be $10,000. This is also true for square foot adjustments that appraisers make for differences in living area. One neighborhood may require an adjustment of $30 per square foot while in another one it may be $50. Since this can be different for each neighborhood the appraiser has to study price trends in the area.

Looking at supply and demand characteristics also gives an appraiser an overall picture of where the property they are appraising fits. If there is increasing demand for homes in a subdivision or neighborhood but the supply of homes for sale is minimal then this gives the appraiser support for a higher value and the opposite is true as well.

Reconcile all the data

The reconciliation process involves taking all of the information the appraiser has done up to this point and using it to come up with their final opinion of value. At a minimum three sales are used in an appraisal, and they provide a range of value that the appraiser uses to come up with their final value. All of the market data that was collected up to this point is used to determine at what point within this range reflects the most accurate value of the home.

I have heard some people criticize the value an appraiser came up with by saying that it’s just their opinion. While this is true it is also true that the value is based on their education, experience, and knowledge of the local market. The value is developed using market data rather than a gut feeling or a biased opinion. The appraiser is the only non biased party in a real estate transaction because their compensation is not based on the sale price or contingent on the deal closing and they must follow a code of professional ethics that prevents bias.

Each appraisal assignment consists of all of the steps I’ve mentioned. Generally speaking the time it takes can vary depending on things such as how much sales data is available, how much data analysis is required, how quickly the verification process takes, as well as the appraiser’s workload.


Do you have any further questions about the time it takes to complete an appraisal? If so, leave a comment below and let’s keep the conversation going.

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  1. Zequek Estrada says

    Tom, it was awesome how you broke down the different factors that influence how long it will take to complete an appraisal. Knowing these factors would really help with planning. It makes things less stressful since you don’t have to worry about how much time it’ll take.

    • Thanks. Most people only see the part where we are at their home and don’t know the other steps we must go through, so I hope this sheds a little light on what we do.

  2. It’s not about the bottom line. It’s about the biggest investment people make in their lives, and the liquidity of lending institutions nationally which give Americans the opportunity to engage lenders for home purchase opportunity. This industry has lost sight of it’s own mantra and intended use. If you can’t draw it up with a pen and paper and MLS book, you’re just a tech guy and not an appraiser. Of course we need the tech, but reliance on this is why the industry is failing. My reports are 50 pages long, contain 100 pictures or more on average, fully filled out main form every possible section, pasted in market data w/ hand written analysis addenda, various maps, market data alternate set scan ins, environmental addenda, and so on, and so forth. Outsourced services and boilerplate is like putting a target on your back. Either appraisers know the language of real estate up and down, or they don’t. There is hardly any middle ground there. If you know it, you can type it. It’s relatively simple and the solution to pending liable disaster is to bury them with data, as opposed to running the reports so lean a light breeze will blow them right into the trash can. Where those kinds of reports most likely belong. The 2 hour appraisal?! If it was not so disheartening, it would be sort of funny. If the goal is to eliminate the need for a human appraiser, people are going to love the outsourced typing, imported data, and automatic assimilation tools. Big data; Garbage in, garbage out. Our value is predicated upon the ability to apply logic, not just to measure data. The real bottom line is you’re only as good as your last appraisal report.

    • I agree with what you say. I think we have to work on a nice blend between the two to get the best of both worlds. I remember one of my first appraisal classes where the teacher said that you’re only as good as your last appraisal. Ever taught any classes Baggins?

      • Me? No way dude. Nobody is interested in learning detailed manual time consuming methods anymore. They just want to input data and find what is often just arbitrary measurement points. It’s just important to qualify if an appraiser is using outsourced assistant or in house assistant or apprentice services, if detailing the time spent. The best of both worlds would be one where lenders lend their own money, and put increased value in the appraisal service. The bottom line to me is that there is no longer any wiggle room for quality vs quantity, and the majority of appraiser participators have already gone to far when it comes to cutting time for additional business earnings.

        • You make a good point about the best of both worlds where the lender has skin in the game. If they keep the mortgages in house they have a lot to lose if it goes south, and because of this they would value the services of a professional and pay them for a quality appraisal.

          • Can of worms you say? I’ve got those links also. Read at your own risk. Best of both worlds is illogical because it’s all about Americans, and lenders are only supposed to be in place so that Americans have fair access to credit. Appraisers have as a group, lost sight of the meaning of non advocacy and have become advocates of the lenders interests more often than not. Mers, credit fraud, swap fraud, clouded title, unsecured creditor of the bank, take your pick on what financial nightmare to read up on. And there are a million sites like this. The FNMA shell game continues on.

  3. Thank you for sharing the time behind the scenes in the appraisal process. In my small appraisal company (four appraisers), if you divide total hours worked by the number of appraisals, it works out to between eight and ten hours per assignment. Our back office staff is included in those hours. We use all technology that we can to minimize those hours and we could reduce the number of hours by a great deal, but we feel it would compromise quality. I think there is a lot of value in parts of the appraisal that are quite time-consuming, like agent interviews for comparable sales, detailed commentary, and well supported adjustments. The appraisals that we do are not targeted toward fast and cheep. I know that is true for you too Tom, so keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Gary. I also find my time spent similar to yours. There seems to be a lot of new services that promise to help reduce the turn time but that can also cut into your bottom line. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  4. I’d say that on average an Appraisal takes me about 2 hours sitting at my desk. This is not including travel time or the time at the inspection. Rather, it includes all research and filling out the actual report. Tricky appraisals obviously can take longer with regular visits down to the records department which eats up precious time. There is definitely much more to the Appraisal then the average client realizes.

    • Thanks for the input Robert. You’re right about there being more to the appraisal than clients realize. What is also interesting is that home inspectors are usually the opposite as they do most of their work at the house and then either provide the report there or shortly thereafter. If a buyer sees this happen they may feel we should do the same, but that’s not the case.

    • 2 hours? You’ve got to be joking. So you’re the one who’s using outsourced type services, imported data not manually verified, and plaster see addenda to boilerplate statements to clean it up. Tag into the comps grid and apply from your preset list and your golden! No way. That’s not a competent appraisal. It is true that I can get an appraisal done in 3-4 hours, but that’s just after spending 2 hours on detailed market research and workfile development, and then running the hour inspection. At that time I can call a verbal if I need to, but the bureaucratic form filling and detailed manual write up takes no less than 6-12 hours after that. 2 hours? HA! We’ve got a joker here. You simply have to be joking, or short cutting. Both of which are unacceptable practice. You can read the rest of my comments in the addenda. Give me a break.

      • Now, now Baggins. Until we’re able to look at the actual report it’s unfair to judge it. I usually take longer myself but I’m open to learning anything I can to streamline the process as long as quality is not affected. 😉

      • Baggins is right. An appraisal is an all day affair now what with the extra requirements and to do it properly. I have been an appraiser for over 25 years and I have most of the streamline process down (not including auto comp fill and auto adjustments which is just another Zillow value. I also do not use auto MC form fill though I am thinking of starting since it is such a ridiculous sheet anyhow. No one looks at it. Really, has anyone had a question about the sheet specifically. When I started appraising in 1987 it took about 4-6 hours. A bust ass week at 50 hours could get about 9-10 out. Not now, 5- 6 a week for similar hours.

        This is where the damage to our income takes the biggest beating, though the fee cuts are painful too. I got my sale license and will be working to move that direction. In the Washington D.C. metro area an average commission is 5k – 10k with 1 to 2 weeks work overall with fewer headaches or liability.

        Its a shame, I had thought I would be an appraiser for life but it is not financially possible anymore.

        • I’m hearing similar thoughts from other appraisers, Tom. It seems the requirements for the appraisal keep increasing and the fees decreasing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m always interested in other appraisers opinions.

        • robin smith says

          After you do the appraisel how long does it take you to get it back to then lender? Seems to be quite a bit of time

          • It depends on a lot of factors. If the appraiser is very busy it can take a while to get back. If the property is in an area where sales are limited it can take a while to find comparables and verify all of the information. If the property is unique it can be hard to locate sales. As you can see there are many factors.

  5. I really like the iceberg imagery as that is a perfect way to describe the appraisal process. The inspection is the easy part and takes minimal time, while most of the work is done outside the inspection. Even if a turn-time is one week, that doesn’t mean it actually takes a week to finish that one report, but it’s also about juggling multiple files at once and having the time to get to the report. Sometimes when things are busy a turn-time could be substantially longer too.

    • You make some very good points Ryan. Appraisers rarely are just working on one appraisal report and most do juggle between multiple assignments. Appraiser workload also plays into the overall turn time as well. Thanks for bringing up these important points.

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