Homes are valued a lot like everything else: They are worth what people will pay for them. The Maybach Exelero, the most expensive car in the world, sells for $8 million because that’s what people will pay for it. By the same token, you can ask for $8 million for your Hyundai, Ford or Chrysler, but don’t count on getting it – you’ll get what the market says it’s worth.
So, how do we know what a willing buyer will spend for a house? Although we may never be certain, by looking at the recent past, we can come up with a pretty good idea. This is why the market value of a house is based on sold homes that are comparable in various ways.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what amount Tom, the next-door neighbor, lists his house for. The only thing that matters is what Jessica, your former neighbor, got for her house. List prices are fantasies while sold prices are reality.
Determining an accurate asking price for your home is vital, and the best way to find that price is by having the home professionally appraised. The second best way is to ask a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis. While both the appraiser and the real estate agent use the prices of sold homes as a basis, the appraisal process is a bit more in-depth.
Licensed appraisers aren’t house experts, but they are analysts, able to pull together myriad facts and statistics to arrive at a home’s value.
To avoid a conflict of interest, most lenders adhere to the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) and use the services of an appraisal management company.
The First Step in the Appraisal Process
Shortly after you’ve accepted an offer to purchase, you’ll receive a call from the appraiser to set up an appointment to see the home. The time he or she spends inspecting the home varies, depending on the appraiser, but plan on it taking at least 30 minutes.
The appraiser makes note of the floor plan and any improvements, and takes measurements of the exterior of the home to determine the square footage.