Residential Appraisal Methods
There are two common appraisal methods used for residential properties:
Sales Comparison Approach
The appraiser estimates a subject property's market value by comparing it to similar properties that have sold in the area. The properties used are called comparables, or comps.
No two properties are exactly alike, so the appraiser must compare the comps to the subject property, making paperwork adjustments to the comps in order to make their features more in-line with the subject property's. The result is a figure that shows what each comp would have sold for if it had the same components as the subject.
The cost approach is most useful for new properties, where the costs to build are known. The appraiser estimates how much it would cost to replace the structure if it were destroyed.
So What Does the Appraisal Mean to You?
Your personal approval is accomplished early in the loan process, but final loan commitment usually hinges on a satisfactory appraisal. The bank wants to be sure its investment is covered in case you default on the loan.
If the property appraises lower than the sales price, the loan might be declined, but that isn't the only hurdle it must pass. Other facts on the appraisal can be a problem, too:
The bank probably won't like it if the estimated time to sell the property is longer than the area average.
If the appraiser notes that entry to the property is from a private, shared road the bank might want to see a road maintenance agreement signed by everyone who uses the road, verifying that maintenance is shared by all parties.
Those are just a few examples of negatives that could stall your purchase. The lender will study the appraisal carefully before determining whether or not the property qualifies to serve as security for your loan.
An Appraisal Isn't a Home Inspection!
Appraisers make notations about obvious problems they see, but they are not home inspectors. They do not test appliances, look at the roof, check the chimney or do any other typical home inspection tasks. Never count on an appraisal to help you determine if the home is in good condition.
If the Appraisal Comes in Low
Don't panic if the appraisal comes in low, because there are often steps you can take to make the deal work.
If the appraisal uncovers other problems, remember that most problems are correctable. Try to keep your cool and work through issues one step at a time.