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Understanding the Appraisal Process

A home purchase can be the largest financial decision many people will ever consider. It doesn't matter if a primary residence, a second vacation home or an investment, purchasing real property is a detailed transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to pull it all off.

You're probably familiar with the parties having a role in the transaction. The most known entity in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the mortgage company provides the financial capital required to finance the deal. And the title company sees to it that all aspects of the exchange are completed and that the title is clear to pass from the seller to the purchaser.

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 real estate is worth the purchase price? This is where you meet the appraiser. We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer could 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.

Inspecting the subject property

Our first duty at Crest Appraisal Services is to inspect the property to ascertain its true status. We must see aspects of the property first hand, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they truly exist and are in the condition a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. To ensure the stated square footage has not been misrepresented and convey the layout of the house, the inspection often entails creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - or defects - that would affect the value of the property.

Back at the office, 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

Here, we gather information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other elements to ascertain how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This estimate often sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used predictor of value.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers get to know the subdivisions in which they appraise. They innately understand the value of specific features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the real estate being appraised. By assigning a dollar value to 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 portray the features of subject.

  • If, for example, the comparable has a storm shelter and the subject does not, the appraiser may subtract the value of a storm shelter from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • However, 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 experts in knowing the value of particular items in Seattle and King County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is commonly given the most importance when an appraisal is for a real estate exchange.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing a house is sometimes applied when an area has a measurable number of renter occupied properties. In this case, the amount of revenue the real estate produces is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to derive the current value.

Reconciliation

Examining the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to document an estimated market value for the property in question. 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 final sales price. There are always mitigating factors such as the seller's desire to get out of the property, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust an offer or listing price up or down. Regardless, the appraised value is often used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than the property is actually worth. At the end of the day, an appraiser from Crest Appraisal Services will help you get the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.