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Understanding Appraisals

Acquiring a home is the biggest transaction many people could ever encounter. It doesn't matter if a primary residence, an additional vacation property or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is an involved transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to make it all happen.

Most of the participants are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most familiar entity in the transaction. Then, the mortgage company provides the financial capital required to bankroll the deal. And the title company sees to it that all details of the transaction are completed and that a clear title transfers to the buyer from the seller.

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 real estate is worth the purchase price? This is where the appraiser comes in. We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer might expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a parcel of real estate, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Crest Appraisal Services will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Appraisals begin with the inspection

Our first task at Crest Appraisal Services 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, amenities, etc., to ensure they really exist and are in the condition a typical buyer would expect them to be. To ensure the stated square footage has not been misrepresented and convey the layout of the property, the inspection often includes creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious features - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the house.

Back at the office, we use two or three approaches to determining the value of the property: a sales comparison, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Replacement Cost

This is where the appraiser gathers information on local building costs, the cost of labor and other elements to figure out how much it would cost to construct a property nearly identical to the one 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.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers are intimately familiar with the neighborhoods in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of specific 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 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 adjust the comparable properties so that they more accurately match the features of subject property.

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

After all differences have been accounted for, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At Crest Appraisal Services, we are an authority in knowing the value of real estate features in Seattle and King County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is typically awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a real estate purchase.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing approach to value is sometimes applied when a neighborhood has a reasonable number of rental properties. In this situation, the amount of revenue the property generates is taken into consideration along with income produced by similar properties to determine the current value.

Putting It All Together

Analyzing the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property in question. The estimate of value on the appraisal report is not necessarily the final sales price even though it is likely the best indication of a property's valueIt'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 typically used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could recover in the event they had to sell the property again. At the end of the day, an appraiser from Crest Appraisal Services will guarantee you get the most accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.