Home Appraisals 101

Whether you are buying, selling, or refinancing a home and a mortgage is involved, a home appraisal is going to be an important aspect of the process.  Therefore, it’s crucial that you understand how the appraisal process works and how an appraiser determines a home’s value.

A home appraisal is an unbiased, professional opinion of a home’s value.  Conducted by a licensed home appraiser with the knowledge and experience to determine the fair current value of the home, it takes place in almost every home purchase/sale transaction and is commonly used in refinance situations as well. Within a purchase/sale transaction, it is used to establish if the home’s contract price is appropriate, based on the home’s location, condition, and features.  For a refinance, the appraisal makes sure that the lender isn’t giving the borrower more money than the home is worth.  Because the home serves as collateral for the loan, lenders want to make sure that the homeowner is not over-borrowing. With a purchase/sale transaction, the home appraisal is typically paid for by the buyer and the fee is included in the closing costs.

The reason the home appraisal is so important is because it lets the lender know that they are lending the appropriate amount of money for the value of the home.  Sometimes the appraisal will come in for a lower amount than the agreed upon price and when that happens, the lender might deny a loan for that amount. If the appraisal comes in at or above the contract price, the transaction can proceed.  However, chances are the seller doesn’t want the deal to fall through, so if the appraisal comes in low, the buyer may be able to use it to negotiate a lower selling price.  Knowing that the bank won’t lend any buyer more than what the home is worth, the seller may be willing to lower their selling price so that they can proceed with the sale.  A low appraisal can also derail a homeowner’s attempt at refinancing their home. The home needs to appraise at or above the amount the homeowner wants to refinance.  One exception is if you have an FHA mortgage.  With an FHA mortgage, you can refinance without an appraisal through the FHA Streamline Program.

The appraiser will look at many things to determine the home’s fair current value. The property’s value will be influenced by recent sale prices of similar properties and by current market trends.  The home’s amenities, floor plan, functionality, square footage, and number of bedrooms/bathrooms will also play a part in coming up with a fair price for the lender.  A thorough visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the property will allow the appraiser to note any issues that might have an adverse effect on the property’s value.  You may confuse a home appraisal with a home inspection, but they are not the same thing, A home inspection is a much more detailed evaluation of the home and does not involve the lender.

Usually the home appraisal will just be a box checked off on your home closing checklist. But if the appraisal comes in lower than expected, the purchase/sale transaction can be delayed or canceled.  Understanding the process and being aware of potential problems will help you be better prepared to handle whatever circumstances come your way.
Closing on a House Checklist

If you’re thinking about selling or buying a home in the New River Valley area, contact professional, experienced Realtor Desi Sowers and let her assist you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call today at 540-320-1328!

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