When it comes to finding a real estate appraiser, it can be daunting to know what to look for. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience in working with properties or property appraisals, you can make sure you’re choosing the right person for the job by knowing important qualifications and traits of a good appraiser.
Choosing the Right Property Appraiser
Make sure they are licensed or certified. Always make sure a property appraiser is licensed or certified by the state to perform real estate appraisals. While state licensing and/or certification isn’t always an indication of quality, it ensures that an individual has met certain standards and is authorized to perform property appraisals. Some states do not require licensing to perform real estate appraisals.XResearch source
- At the state level, there are two types of property appraisal licenses: the State-Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser would be the minimum license to consider. If it’s a typical residential property you want appraised, you will want a State-Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser, as a minimum qualification.
- Don’t be afraid to ask an appraiser for a copy of his or her license. Once you get a copy of the license, it’s a good idea to check with the government agency which issued the document to ensure the license is active and in good standing. Furthermore, you can view the U.S. National Registry at http://www.asc.gov and verify whether the appraiser is registered and eligible to perform appraisals.
Inquire about their experience. Ask what their experience is working on the property and neighborhood you are looking to get appraised. Appraisers who do a lot of their work or live in a particular area often have a deep knowledge of property values in that area. Additionally, they are more likely to know how “neighborhood variables” such as school districts and fire departments affect the property values in the area.XResearch source
- Although years of experience does not necessarily indicate quality, there are certain benchmarks quality appraisers will have met. It usually takes about five years to get a good working knowledge and competency.
Ask around for references. If you find an appraiser in the yellow pages, you might not have much information about them. It can be useful to crowd source people in the industry. Ask a lender, real estate agent, attorney, or accountant for an appraiser they have used in the past. You’ll still need to inquire further into their qualifications, but finding someone who has experience with the appraiser is a good start.
- You can also use the internet to find information about an appraiser’s credentials, customer experiences, and history of complaints. For example, in California, the Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers has a search function on their website. Using the search function, you can find information about any licensed appraiser in the state.
Interviewing a Potential Fit
Set up an interview. It’s really important to meet with your potential property appraiser before you enter into any sort of working relationship.This is a way to make sure they have the qualifications you are looking for, but also that you are on the right page as far as expectations go. It is also important to have a level of comfort that will make your working relationship go more smoothly. XResearch source
- Things like personality and the vibe of your interactions with them can really help build trust. Make sure they are personable and are willing to answer your questions and explain their process. Their ability to deal with people and communicate smoothly can affect their ability to find out information about the property and thus how accurate their appraisal is.
Ask them the right questions. A good appraiser should be able to answer important questions that give insight into their strategies, philosophies and experiences. However, this also means that you will need to know the right questions to ask. Some good questions to ask include:
- Will you receive a preliminary report? You should require every appraiser to give you a preliminary report so you can ensure the appraiser has access to all the information you consider important. Additionally, it will give you the opportunity to end the appraisal process before a final report is issued if you are not happy with the process.
- What qualifies you to appraise my specific property?
- Do you belong to an appraiser society that tests? There are a number of certificates and training programs for appraisers, but only some have standardized teaching and testing methods. If they are part of an organization that requires testing to be accredited, you can be sure that they meet the required expectations.
- How will you handle issues outside your specialty? There are over 220 areas of specialty knowledge in appraising and no one person can master them all. It is likely that they will come up against issues that they are not fully qualified to understand. Their ability to consult other colleagues and experts can assure that they have the problem solving skills needed to successfully do the job.
- What will your report look like? You should receive formal and organized documentation of how they came to their conclusions. Ask for examples of their previous work so that you can see how they organize and present their information so you can make sure you understand their work.
Make sure to find out the details of their compensation and report turnaround. Once you decide that the appraiser you’ve met is one that you want to move forward with, you’ll want to make sure you know all the details of the working relationship you are about to enter. The fee you’ll pay depends on the complexity of the property, type, size, and market.XResearch source
- For residential appraisals you can expect to pay anywhere from $250-$1000 USD, with averages in the $300-$500 USD range.
- Rental appraisals can cost anywhere from $400-$2400 USD and should include documentation of rental history.
- Commercial properties are more expensive and can range from $1,000-$5,000 USD.
- They should also be able to give you a rough turn around time when it will be done. The usual time frame is about a week, but they may be able to get it done sooner for an additional fee.
Finishing the Appraisal Agreement
Sign a service agreement. Typically an appraiser will have you sign a service agreement that will tell you what their services will include, the time they expect it to take, and how they will be paid. It will also give the details of the report they will provide for you.
- The actual payment date can vary. Most will require at least a partial payment up front, but they may have a different policy.
Understand that appraisals are subjective. An appraiser will provide their personal opinion of value, based on their estimate of the market’s reaction, but other appraisers will have varying opinions and sometimes the market reacts in unexpected ways. An appraisal is no more accurate than other predictions of human behavior.
- Don’t give an appraisal more credence than it deserves. Appraising is mostly subjective, not the hard science many lay people believe it to be. The estimated value of a given property is a value reflective of the current market and is completed using historical data. However, you should understand that an appraisal (good or bad) will put a stake in the ground that will be recognized by lenders, buyers, and sellers. Overcoming a low appraisal can be difficult.
- The effective date is reflective usually of the date of inspection and is typically the cap for the date of sale that a potential comparable may have. A current market value does not predict the future and a good appraiser will recognize the intended user as a consumer and write a detailed explanation of market trends.