Real Estate Appraisals: A Primer

Their home's purchase is the largest financial decision many will ever consider. It doesn't matter if where you raise your family, a seasonal vacation home or an investment, purchasing real property is a detailed transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

Practically all the parties participating are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most known entity in the transaction. Next, the bank provides the money necessary to finance the transaction. And ensuring all requirements of the exchange are completed and that a clear title transfers from the seller to the purchaser 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, who's responsible for making sure the value of the real estate is consistent with the amount being paid? This is where the appraiser comes in. 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 William G. Bowen Inc. will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

Our first task at William G. Bowen Inc. is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must actually see features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, living areas, etc, to ensure they indeed exist and are in the shape a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. To make sure the stated size of the property has not been misrepresented and convey the layout of the property, the inspection often entails creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, the appraiser identifies any obvious amenities - or defects - that would affect the value of the house.

Following the inspection, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to determining the value of the property: sales comparison and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Replacement Cost

This is where the appraiser gathers information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other elements to ascertain how much it would cost to build a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This figure commonly sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Sales Comparison

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the subdivisions in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of certain features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the property at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, additional bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they more accurately match the features of subject property.

  • For example, if 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 home.
  • If the subject has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an amount to the comparable property.

In the end, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At William G. Bowen Inc., we are experts when it comes to knowing the value of particular items in Hagertown and Washington County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is commonly awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a real estate exchange.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third method of valuing real estate is sometimes applied when a neighborhood has a reasonable number of rental properties. In this case, the amount of revenue the property produces is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to determine the current value.

Coming Up With The Final Value

Analyzing the data from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to document an estimated market value for the subject property. The estimate of value at the bottom of the appraisal report is not always what's being paid for the property even though it is likely the best indication of what a property is worth. It's not uncommon for prices to be driven up or down by extenuating circumstances like the motivation or urgency of a seller or 'bidding wars'. But the appraised value is often used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in case they had to sell the property again. The bottom line is, an appraiser from William G. Bowen Inc. will help you discover the most accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.