Frequently Asked Questions on Home Appraisals

Home Appraisal Frequently Asked Questions With Top Lender in Dallas

Below are the most frequently asked questions regarding everything you need to know about home appraisals. For more detailed answers, just click on the question to expand the answers.  As always, if you have any questions please feel free to give us a call.

General Questions

What is an Appraisal Comp? A: Comparable homes that have recently been sold in your neighborhood.

Appraisers have access to MLS and will find comparable homes (“comps”) that have recently been sold in your neighborhood and then compare those homes to yours. In a perfect world (and we all know the world is not perfect) the appraiser will use four to five comparable homes like yours that have sold within the past six months within a mile radius as well as one or two current listings. There are exceptions to this rule but just know that the appraiser is looking to compare red apples to red apples (not just apples to apples).

What If There Aren't Any Good Comps? A: It depends - expand for more details.

Appraisers may be “handcuffed” when good comps are difficult to find.  If that’s the case they can either use older comps that may not be indicative of current market conditions, use farther away comps in neighborhoods that may not truly comparable, or make greater adjustments to what is available by comparing big to small or older to new.  All of these methods raise flags to a lender BUT it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an issue; it just means there will be greater scrutiny on the appraisal. 

Can I Get My Own Appraisal? A: Not for loan purposes.

Lenders must comply with industry regulations and order appraisals through a third party company called an Appraisal Management Company (AMC). This regulation came about after the “mortgage meltdown” and is to prevent lenders from “influencing” Appraisers.  As an FYI, you can technically order your own appraisal but a lender will not be able to use your appraisal for loan purposes.

Should I Order My Own Appraisal? A: If you're selling a home, we think so.

It may be prudent to spend the extra money and order your own appraisal if you are selling a house. In addition to determining a precise value, you’ll have direct access to an appraiser to ask questions to avoid potential pitfalls. Is that worth $400 to $500 dollars? We think so. Call us and we’ll be happy to recommend an appraiser. Note: as mentioned above, the lender cannot use an appraisal that you order (i.e. lenders can’t use an appraisal that is not ordered via an acceptable Appraisal Management Company).

Does an Appraisal Affect Taxes? A: No, unless you want it to.

Fortunately, having a home appraisal won’t cause your property taxes to rise since it is not provided to the county; however, an appraisal could help you reduce your property taxes if the appraised value is lower than the county’s assessed value of the property.  See Contest Property Value For Tax Purposes for more details.  

How Can I Get A High Value When Selling My Home? A: Expand this answer for a link.

Check out our How To Prepare For An Appraisal As A Seller for tips on how to prepare for an appraisal when selling a home.

Contract Related Questions

What Is An Appraisal Contingency? A: It's an out for the buyer if the home doesn't appraise.

An appraisal contingency protects the buyer by giving them an “out” of the contract should the home not appraise (i.e. the value of the home comes in lower than the sales price). Example: if a property is under contract for $300,000 and the appraisal comes in at $290,000, then the buyer has the option (in addition to other contingencies) to exit the deal and recoup any earnest money.

What if the home appraises for more than the sales price? A: That's wonderful but it doesn't impact your loan.

A lender’s Loan To Value (LTV) is determined by the LESSOR of the sales price or the appraised value. This means if the appraisal comes in equal to, or higher than, the sales price then everything is hunky-dory and the purchase price then determines the LTV. The good news is that you now have built in equity in the home. It’s also worth noting that the sellers do not get a copy of appraisal so they don’t know that the value came in higher BUT even if they did find out they cannot increase the purchase price since the contract already notates the terms). 

Can the sales price change if the appraisal comes in low? A: It depends on what you can negotiate with the seller.

If the appraisal is lower than the asking price you have three options: 1) try to renegotiate with the sellers for a lower sales price, 2) you can terminate the contract, or 3) pay the difference in cash at closing and then make your down payment based off the appraised value.

What Does The Appraiser Inspect?

Does An Appraisal Do a Home Inspection? A: Sort of - but it's not a true home inspection.

Having your home appraised and having your home inspected are two different things. Generally speaking, the Appraiser is determining the marketability and value of the home, while a Home Inspector is inspects the condition of the property and is looking for defects. That said, the Appraiser is the lender’s eyes and may call out obvious concerns like cracks in foundations, broken glass, etc.

Note: Appraisers are mandatory for mortgages and they are ordered by the lender.  The costs ($500ish) are part of the loan’s Closing Costs. A Home Inspection is optional and does not have anything to do with the lender. You, the borrower, are responsible for hiring and paying the Home Inspector. 

Does An Appraiser Come Inside The House? A: Yes.

The appraiser will inspect the home, get measurements, and take pictures. The Appraiser will be assessing the size and square footage, the features and amenities, and the quality and condition of the home.

Do Appraisers Go On The Roof? A: No, but they will inspect it from the ground.

Appraisers will not physically go on the roof but they will inspect it from the ground. If they believe that a roof may need additional review they will notate it on the appraisal report. This will then prompt the lender to request an additional inspection by a roofing company to ensure it’s in acceptable condition.

Do Appraisers Use Zillow or Trulia? A: No. (And neither should you).

Appraisers do not use Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, etc. Appraisers pull their data from MLS. Appraisers can also use comps not sold through MLS if they know of recent sales but they will need a copy of the HUD-1 Settlement Statement or Closing Disclosure to do so.

As an FYI, we’re not wild about those sites due to the inaccurate and out-dated information. We understand why folks use them and if we had to pick one we like Realtor.com as it’s the most realiable information.  

Do Appraisers Pull Permits? A: No.

Appraisers do not pull permits but they do call out any improvements they see to the property.

Square Footage

Do Appraisers Measure Your Square Footage? A: Yes, most of the time.

The Appraiser will measure the home’s square footage and will most likely follow ANSI Standards. A “lazy” Appraiser (yeah, we said it) will use rounded estimates to determine the home’s square footage.  If you have any documentation that accurately delineates the square footage (like the blueprints) then we suggest leaving that for the appraiser’s review. Check out a great example of how How Is Square Footage Measured based on two real-life appraisals.

Do they use Price Per Square Foot. No. The Appraiser determines the price per square foot.

A common misconception is that an appraised value is based on square footage and that the value can be determined by square footage times price per square foot. This is inaccurate. In fact, it’s the other way around; price per square foot is determined by the value assessed by the appraiser. For example, a smaller fully-remodeled house could actually appraise more than the 1970s-condition larger home next door.

Why Does An Appraisal's Square Footage Differ From CAD? A: It depends on the Appraiser and the CAD

It depends. For the first example, let’s assume the Appraiser did their job and accurately measured the square footage and that the appraisal is correct. The Central Appraisal District (CAD) could be off due to a variety of reasons; such as the builder slightly deviated from blueprints, additional space was added without the city knowing, etc. For the second example, let’s assume that the CAD is correct: the appraisal would most likely be inaccurate due to improper rounding, using bad data, or only using estimates.

Who Gets A Copy Of The Appraisal?

Can I Get A Copy Of The Appraisal? A: Yes, if you paid for it.

You can get a copy of the appraisal if you are the one that paid for it. 

Will The Seller Get A Copy Of The Appraisal? A: No, unless you want them to.

The seller will only get a copy of the appraisal if the borrower wants to share that report. In most cases a seller will not get a copy of the appraisal unless the value did not meet the sales price, at which point the buyer may choose to share the appraisal to help in renegotiating a lower price.

Does the Listing Agent Get A Copy Of The Appraisal? A: Only if the borrower wants to share the report.

The Listing Agent does not get a copy of the appraisal unless the borrower wants to share the report. We notify the Listing Agent the appraisal arrived and only that it made value (or didn’t make value).  No other details are provided .

Does the County Get a Copy of the Appraisal? A: No.

The county does not get a copy of the report nor do they have access to it. Only parties pertinent to the loan have access to the appraisal.

Purchase

Do Appraisers Know the Sales Price? A: Yes. They are provided a copy of the contract.

The appraisal form requires appraisers to analyze the purchase contract. Lenders wants appraisers to list the contract price, date of contract, whether the seller is the owner (a safeguard against fraud), and if there are any concessions offered to the buyer. This allows them to compare apples to apples with other comps in the area. 

How To Prepare for an Appraisal for Purchase? A: expand this answer for a link.

Check out our How to Prepare For An Appraisal As A Seller to find out everything you need to know on how to prepare for an appraisal.

Can Appraisals Be Transferred? A: Yes, but it depends on the lender.

In most cases appraisals can be transferred from one lender to the next. This is done in the event that something happens and the loan needs to be transferred to another lender.  That said, both lenders need to agree to work together and provide (and receive) the necessary information to document that the appraisal was ordered and conducted in a compliant manner.

Refinance

Can I Use an Old Appraisal for a Refinance? A: Probably not.

Technically an appraisal can be reused BUT most refinances won’t qualify (and most lenders probably won’t permit it).  Here are the requirements from Fannie Mae to allow the use of an origination appraisal:

  • The new transaction may only be a Limited Cash-Out Refinance.
  • The appraisal report must not be more than 12 months old on the note date of the new transaction. If the appraisal report is greater than 4 months old on the date of the note and mortgage, then an appraisal update is required.
  • The lender must ensure that the property has not undergone any significant remodeling, renovation, or deterioration to the extent that the improvement or deterioration of the property would materially affect the market value of the subject property.
  • The borrower and the lender/client must be the same on the original and subsequent transaction.

How To Prepare for an Appraisal for Refinance A: expand this answer for a link.

To prepare for an appraisal on your refinance, please visit our page Refinances: Prepare For The Appraisal .

General Questions

How Much Does An Appraisal Cost? A: $450 to $650 depending on the loan type.

For non-jumbo loans, appraisals typically cost $450 to $550; for jumbo loans they are typically $600 to $650. For more information, please see Appraisal Costs

How Long Does An Appraisal Take? A: Typically a week.

A house appraisal has three components. First, the appraiser must physically visit and examine the home. Second, the appraiser must then search for recent sales of comparable homes in or near the neighborhood of the subject. Finally, the appraiser must create a report, justifying the home’s value using detailed adjustments to the comparable sales. In most cases, appraisals are delivered to the mortgage lender in five to seven days.

How Long Does An Appraisal Last? (i.e. Good For?) A: Six months.

Under most loan guidelines appraisals do not have a set expiration period; however, because lenders want comps that are no more than six months past, an appraisal should be no more than six months old. Most appraisers and lenders agree six months is the maximum amount of time that an appraisal holds a valid value, referred to as the “term of validity.”

Who Orders the Appraisal? A: The lender.

Your mortgage lender will order the appraisal to be performed by a licensed appraiser. Borrowers are typically required to pay for the appraisal up front via credit card, and the cost will appear on the Closing Disclosure as part of your closing costs.

What Does An Appraiser Know?

Does An Appraiser Know The Offer Price? A: Yes.

The appraisal form requires appraisers to analyze the purchase contract. Lenders wants appraisers to list the contract price, date of contract, whether the seller is the owner (a safeguard against fraud), and if there are any concessions offered to the buyer. This allows them to compare apples to apples with other comps in the area. 

Do Appraisers Know the Loan Amount? A: No.

The only thing an Appraiser knows about the loan (aside from what’s on the purchase contract) is the loan type (Conventional vs. FHA vs. VA, etc.).

Can The Appraiser Change The Value?

How To Contest and Challenge an Appraised Value A: Maybe. Expand this answer for a link with more details.

Check out our How To (Properly) Contest An Appraisal page for all the information you need on contesting an appraisal.

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