What Does a House Appraiser Look For?
Appraisers are primarily concerned about the location of the property, its condition, age, layout and square footage.
Almost every appraiser in the country uses Fannie Mae’s Uniform Residential Appraisal Report, a set of standards that determine the scope of an appraiser’s inspection. When using the URAR, the appraiser is obligated to inspect the home’s fixed qualities, such as its structure, age and location. Specifically, with regard to the exterior of a property, an appraiser looks at the site, the quality of construction, the integrity of the roof and foundation, any issues with the guttering or siding, parking facilities and the home’s observable external condition. The neighborhood also has an impact on the home’s value.
Inside the home, the appraiser is chiefly concerned with total square footage and functional layout – how well the space is used. She checks the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of key rooms such as the kitchen compared to the size of the other rooms in the house, the heating, electrical and plumbing systems, health and safety issues such as fire escapes and handrails, the number and quality of appliances, and the condition of the interior surfaces of the home. If the home has had a major remodel, the appraiser checks code compliance and the structural integrity of the walls and load-bearing beams.
It’s Not About the Decor
Appraisers are primarily concerned about the condition of the property, its layout and size. What they’re not evaluating, is the décor or furniture or whether the garden is a mess. In practical terms, appraisers are looking for any items that adversely affect the home’s value, such as needed repairs, soiled carpets and plaster cracks. They also itemize the extra things that make the home desirable such as added insulation, air conditioning or a new roof. If these upgrades are in good shape and the property is located an area where people are willing to pay for them, they add value to the home.
The Sales Comparison
The most important tool an appraiser uses when valuing a home is “comparable sales.” This refers to the prices of homes of a similar age, size and construction to the property being appraised that have recently sold in the same neighborhood. Suppose, for example, that three comparable properties sold last month for prices between $350,000 and $380,000. The appraiser starts with that range in mind and makes adjustments based on the features and characteristics of the property being appraised – adjusting upward if the home has a bigger lot size or better parking, or downward if the home has a smaller yard or needs maintenance. The final valuation is based on market trends, current sale prices and the specific qualities of the home.