Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

Acquiring a house is the most important transaction some people might ever encounter. Whether it's where you raise your family, an additional vacation home or an investment, the purchase of real property is an involved transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to see it through.

It's likely you are familiar with the parties taking part in the transaction. The most familiar person in the transaction is the real estate agent. Next, the lender provides the financial capital necessary to finance the exchange. The title company ensures that all aspects of the sale are completed and that a clear title transfers from the seller to the purchaser.

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 purchase price? In comes the appraiser. We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer could expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Columbia Realty Advisors will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals start with the property inspection

Our first duty at Columbia Realty Advisors is to inspect the property to ascertain its true status. We must physically see features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure they indeed are present and are in the shape a typical buyer would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the floorplan, ensuring the square footage is correct and conveying the layout of the property. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the property.

Next, after the inspection, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to determining the value of the property: a paired sales analysis, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Cost Approach

Here, the appraiser pulls information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other factors to determine how much it would cost to construct a property similar to the one being appraised. This estimate commonly sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers get to know the neighborhoods in which they appraise. They thoroughly understand the value of particular features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in the area and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject in question. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, additional bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we adjust the comparable properties so that they more accurately match the features of subject property.

  • If, for example, the comparable has an irrigation system and the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of an irrigation system from the sales price of the comparable.
  • If the subject property has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an amount to the comparable property.

Once all necessary adjustments have been made, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At Columbia Realty Advisors, we are experts when it comes to knowing the value of real estate features in College Park and Prince Georges County neighborhoods. This approach to value is typically awarded the most importance when an appraisal is for a real estate purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing a property is sometimes used when a neighborhood has a measurable number of renter occupied properties. In this scenario, the amount of revenue the property produces is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to determine the current value.

The Bottom Line

Analyzing the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property at hand. The estimate of value at the bottom of the appraisal report is not necessarily the final sales price even though it is likely the best indication of a property's valueThere 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 employed as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in the event they had to sell the property again. The bottom line is, an appraiser from Columbia Realty Advisors will help you get the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.