An Appraisal is an estimate of a property's fair market value. It's a document generally required (depending on the loan program) by a lender before loan approval to ensure that the mortgage loan amount is not more than the value of the property. The Appraisal is performed by an "Appraiser" typically a state-licensed professional who is trained to render expert opinions concerning property values, its location, amenities, and physical conditions.
Obtaining a loan is the most common reason for ordering an Appraisal, however there are other reasons to get one:
There are 3 common approaches, or Appraisal Methods, used by Appraisers to establish property value. After thorough exercise of all 3, a final value estimate is correlated. When evaluating single-family, owner-occupied properties, the Sales Comparison Approach is heavily weighted by an Appraiser.
The mortgage company owns the appraisal even though the borrower paid for it. This is because the mortgage company orders the appraisal on the borrower's behalf, and the Appraiser lists that mortgage company on the report. The borrower does have the right to receive a copy; however it's the mortgage company's discretion to give the borrower the original appraisal report.
Yes. In most cases you will not have to pay for another appraisal if you change your mortgage company, and depending on the loan program typed, the first lender can transfer it to the new lender. Some appraisal firms may charge a small fee because additional clerical work is required to reflect the new mortgage company; this is called an "Appraisal Retype Fee". The original mortgage company has the right to refuse to transfer the appraisal to another lender. In this case, a new appraisal is needed.
The property seller sets the price, especially for residential property, not the Appraiser. Sellers usually don't order an appraisal because they want to obtain the highest price for their home and therefore don't want to be bound by the Appraiser's assessment. The real estate agent receives a percentage of the price as compensation and often represents the seller in the transaction and assists them in setting the sale price. They perform a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which real estate agents in most states are allowed to perform without an Appraiser's License or Certification. The CMA is vital to the agent’s preparation for a listing examining recent property sales in the neighborhood to arrive at a listing price. Typically the agent will suggest a price to the seller based on the CMA however the seller may choose to list their property for a higher price.
It's to your advantage to help the Appraiser perform the assessment by providing additional information: