Appraisals – Helpful Tips
What Consumers Need to Know About Real Estate Appraisals
Appraisers have been wrongly accused of prolonging the nation’s real estate downturn by developing
value opinions that are below proposed sale prices. Specifically, they’ve been unfairly criticized for
including comparable sales in the valuation process that provide opinions that are below the cost to
build. Others, including some real estate agents, mortgage brokers and home builders, have used the
Home Valuation Code of Conduct and Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines as a
scapegoat for natural declines in the real estate market.
Credible and realistic value opinions help to stabilize real estate loans and investments, which
promotes socially desirable real estate development. Appraisals are particularly valuable because
they are an objective and unbiased source of real estate information. Unlike some other real estate
professionals, the appraiser performs a professional service for a fee rather than for a commission
contingent on the value conclusion, the approval of a loan or the eventual sale of the property.
To help consumers understand the role of appraisals in the lending process, the Appraisal Institute
offers these helpful tips.
1. Understand the role of mortgage appraisals. Real estate appraisals are critical
components in real estate financing and risk management. Lenders order appraisals to get a
stronger understanding of risk relating to the underlying collateral offered in a mortgage.
Lenders want to know how much that property would bring in an open market so they can
ascertain that the loan is well enough supported by the collateral. Mortgage appraisals are
not technically provided to confirm a sales price, although they can help both lenders and
consumers in making sound financial decisions. It serves neither the lender nor the consumer
to enter into a mortgage loan that is more than the value of the property.
2. Make sure your lender hires a qualified appraiser, such as a designated MAI, SRPA or
SRA member of the Appraisal Institute. The best way to combat potential problems with
appraisals is to ensure the appraiser hired by your lender is highly qualified and competent.
Today, many lenders utilize third party management companies to conduct administrative
functions. These firms often seek out the lowest cost service providers, not necessarily the
most qualified. You have every right to demand the use of a highly qualified appraiser,
someone with field experience in your market and knowledge and experience to handle the
assignment properly. A qualified appraiser knows how to conduct a thorough market analysis
and make appropriate adjustments if/when distressed sales are used as comparables. Ask
the lender for the qualifications of the appraiser and specifically, whether they are
professionally designated by a professional appraisal organization like the Appraisal Institute.
Remember that your home purchase is one of your most important lifetime investments. The
money spent on a quality appraisal is well spent.
3. Accompany the appraiser during the inspection. Contrary to incorrect interpretations of
appraiser independence requirements, appraisers welcome information that would assist
development of credible assignment results. Consumers can accompany appraisers when
conducting the property inspection and may provide the appraiser with any information they
consider important. Ask your lender for permission to do so, and confirm the appointment.
Most importantly, take note of whether an adequate inspection is performed. Did the appraiser spend enough time at the property to observe important features or improvements or potential problems?
4. Ask for a copy of the appraisal report. Even though the appraisal is ordered to help assess
lender collateral risk, consumers have a right to, or can obtain a copy of, the appraisal.
Specifically, federal law requires lenders provide routine delivery of the appraisal to
consumers whether credit is granted, denied, or the application is withdrawn, or alternatively,
upon request within 30 days. A mortgage appraisal should not be used for any other purpose.
5. Examine the appraisal report. Although appraisal review is best performed by qualified
appraisers, you can examine the appraisal for potential deficiencies. According to “Appraising
the Appraisal: The Art of Appraisal Review,” 2nd edition, common errors in appraisals include:
misuse of adjustments to comparables, disregarding special financing and concessions, or
miscalculation of gross living area. Ask yourself: do adjacent homes add or detract from the
value of the subject property? Is the subject property equal to or lower in price than
surrounding homes? Does the floor plan have any functional problems? Does the house
(particularly the kitchen and bathrooms) require major remodeling to make it comparable with
similar homes in the same price range? Is the number of bedrooms and baths in the home
comparable to similar homes in the same price range? Did the appraiser perform an
6. Appeal the appraisal. Or ask your lender to review the appraisal report. Most lenders have
appraisal appeal procedures, known as “Reconsiderations of Value.” If you are aware of
recent, comparable sales information or items that may not have been available or
considered by the appraiser, provide those to your lender.
7. Ask your lender to order a second appraisal by a qualified appraiser. If problems were
found with the first appraisal, you can and should obtain a second appraisal. You should see
the importance of hiring a qualified appraiser by now; make sure your lender uses a qualified
appraiser the second time, if they did not do so the first.
8. File legitimate complaints with the appropriate state appraisal board or professional
appraisal organizations. Lenders are required under federal law to report legitimate
complaints with appropriate regulatory authorities. State appraiser regulatory authorities also
accept complaints from consumers and some states accept them anonymously. To contact the appropriate appraisal board, visit www.asc.gov/state-appraiser-regulatory-programs/statecontactinformation.aspx. An additional benefit of using a professional designated appraiser is that a referral can also be made to the professional appraisal organization for appropriate ethics and counseling of the appraiser.