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Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

Their home's purchase is the largest investment many will ever make. It doesn't matter if where you raise your family, an additional vacation home or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple parties to pull it all off.

Most of the parties involved are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most recognizable entity in the transaction. Then, the mortgage company provides the financial capital required to fund the deal. And ensuring all requirements of the exchange are completed and that a clear title passes to the buyer from the seller is the title company.

To learn more about appraising, click here to see a short video or call us today to talk about your specific property.

So, what party is responsible for making sure the value of the property is in line with the purchase price? In comes the appraiser. We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer might expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Russell Appraisal Service will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals begin with the home inspection

Our first responsibility at Russell Appraisal Service is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must see aspects of the property hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure they really exist and are in the shape a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. To make sure the stated square footage has not been misrepresented and illustrate the layout of the home, the inspection often requires creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we look for any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the house.

Next, after the inspection, we use two or three approaches to determining the value of the property: paired sales analysis and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Replacement Cost

This is where we pull information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other factors to figure out how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This value commonly sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers are intimately familiar with the subdivisions in which they appraise. They thoroughly understand the value of particular features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent sales in the vicinity and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the property being appraised. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, extra bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject.

  • For example, if the comparable has a fireplace and the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of a fireplace from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • However, in the case where the subject has something such as an extra half bath that a comparable doesn't have, the appraiser might add the value of that bath 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 Russell Appraisal Service, we are an authority in knowing the value of real estate features in Pflugerville and Travis County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is most often given the most importance when an appraisal is for a real estate sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing a house is sometimes used when an area has a reasonable number of rental properties. In this situation, the amount of revenue the real estate generates is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to determine the current value.

Putting It All Together

Analyzing the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property at hand. It is important to note that while this amount is probably the best indication of what a property is worth, it probably will not be the price at which the property closes. There are always mitigating factors such as seller motivation, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust an offer or listing price up or down. But the appraised value is typically used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than the property is actually worth. It all comes down to this, an appraiser from Russell Appraisal Service will help you attain the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.