Appraisals are a key component to every real estate transaction, with the exception of an all-cash transaction. Whether it’s a property using a mortgage, refinancing an existing mortgage, or selling property, the appraisal matters. But how does the appraisal work and how is it determined? Whether you’re a buyer, owner or seller, the following are important points to understand.
The act of judging the value of something by an unbiased professional.
Most often, an appraisal is ordered for use in a sales transaction. The appraised value is used to determine whether the property’s contract price is appropriate given its condition, size, location and special features. In a refinance situation, the appraisal serves as a guarantee to the lender that they won’t be loaning more than the property is worth.
Why Do Lenders Care?
For mortgage companies, the property serves as collateral if the borrower defaults on their loan. That is why it is important for lenders to ensure that homeowners are not over-borrowing for a property: If foreclosure occurs, the lender can likely recoup the money it lent by selling the home.
How Appraisal Values Are Determined
Because the appraisal primarily protects the lender, they are normally the ones to order the appraisal. It’s important to note that an appraisal must be made by a qualified and licensed appraiser; someone who has no direct or indirect interest in the transaction and who is familiar with the area.
Once the lender has ordered the appraisal with a recognized appraiser, they will not only visit the property and conduct a thorough visual inspection, but they’ll also compare recent sales of similar properties. Factors that may influence the value will be some of the home’s amenities, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, floor plan functionality and square footage. The appraiser may also note any conditions that adversely affect the property’s value and, if necessary, may request repairs to fulfill the loan.
The appraiser then provides a report with the appraisal value, which includes an analysis and conclusions about the property’s value based on his or her observations. The appraiser’s detailed report costs several hundred dollars, and typically, the buyer/borrower is responsible for paying this fee.
Knowledge For Buyers
If the appraisal comes in at or above the sales price on your contract, the transaction proceeds as planned. However, if the appraisal comes in low, it can derail the transaction. If the seller is willing to come down in price to the appraised value, you’re back on track. After all, you both have the same goal: Get the property to close! But if the seller will not come down, you may consider negotiating to meet somewhere in the middle, or even terminating the contract altogether. Because the lender will not loan over the appraised value, it keeps buyers from overpaying.
Knowledge For Sellers
If the appraisal comes in low, but is accurate, you will likely have to lower your property’s sale price to allow the transaction to move forward toward closing. As we already know, lenders won’t approve loans for more than a home is worth, and holding out for an all-cash buyer is a risky move and possibly improbable.
If you think that your property’s appraisal has been incorrectly valued or it has been dragged down by the sales prices of nearby foreclosures and short sales, you have options. Depending on the type of loan, you may be given the opportunity to convince the appraiser that your home is worth more. If a low appraisal is standing in your way, consider getting a second opinion. Appraisers are only humans after all, and can and do sometimes make mistakes and/or have faulty or incomplete information.
Knowledge For Refinancing Homeowners
Your property needs to appraise at or above the amount you want to refinance for your loan to be approved if you have a conventional mortgage. On the contrary, if you have an FHA mortgage, you can refinance through the FHA Streamline program without an appraisal.
Even though the appraisal is just one of the dozens of moving parts that must get ticked off on the loan-closing checklist, it is a critical player. Know what it means for you in the role you play in the transaction. Don’t be afraid of the dreaded appraisal…Knowledge is power!