Unless you’re a real estate agent, you probably don’t think about home appraisals more than a few times in your life. (Considering how much time real estate agents spend worrying about them, you’re probably better off!) But when you buy a house, chances are a third-party appraiser will need to inspect the house and analyze whether you’re paying an appropriate amount for it.
That’s a good thing, because it ensures you’re not overpaying for a house, but sometimes an appraiser can make mistakes, or just has trouble justifying the amount you’re willing to pay due to a lack of data, or not understanding the current local market.
Ideally your appraisal will come and go without a hitch, and you might not even know it happened the next time you buy a house. But the more you know about the home buying process, the better off you’ll be. So let’s take a look at 8 common questions buyers have about home appraisals:
1) Do I really need one?
A lot of buyers are totally comfortable with the amount they’re offering for a house, and they don’t feel the need to have someone beyond the real estate agent they trust come in and say they’re paying the right amount. Unfortunately, if you’re getting a mortgage, which a lot of people do, your lender will most likely require that an appraisal be done so that they can be assured the house is worth what you’re willing to pay for it.
2) Who pays for it?
Umm, ahem, even if you don’t want one, and it’s more for the lender’s benefit, you actually pay for it. Usually you’ll end up paying for it at the closing as one of the various closing costs, so it probably won’t feel like an added cost, but it does surprise many buyers to find out it’s something they have to pay for even though it’s the lender who really wants it more than anyone else.
3) When is the appraisal going to get done?
Good question! Unfortunately, delayed appraisals are one of the things that lenders claim is holding up getting your loan approved, so don’t be surprised if you and your agent are asking this very question. It’s something agents find themselves asking lenders quite often, but getting a firm answer can be difficult. It’s really in the hands of your lender to order one, so it depends upon when they get around to doing it. And then it depends upon the appraiser’s availability as to when he or she will actually schedule a day and time to inspect the house.
4) Where is the appraisal?
Just because the appraiser finally gets over to the house to inspect it, that doesn’t mean the appraisal is done yet. They still need to do their analysis and write up a report. Ideally the appraiser will do it within a day or two, but (again!) it’s really out of your and your agent’s hands as to when it actually gets done.
But even once it’s done, you still might be wondering where it is! You might be paying for it, but you also might never even see a copy of it. You’re entitled to a copy upon request, so if they don’t send it to you, feel free to ask for it. The upshot to not seeing it is that it’s a good sign there was no issue with it, and your lender just filed it away as complete and satisfactory.
5) Where did they come up with that number?
On the other hand, you’ll probably become way more familiar with what an appraisal looks like if there’s an issue with the amount the appraiser says the house is worth. In that case, you and your agent will likely be taking a close look at their report and trying to understand where in the world the appraiser came up with the amount they claim the house is worth.
6) Why did they compare it to those houses?
Ideally the appraiser will compare your house to other homes that are fairly similar to it. But when the number does come in lower than the amount you’ve agreed to pay for it, a lot of times it’s because the appraiser did a poor job choosing “comparable” houses to compare it to. To be fair, sometimes there just aren’t many or enough of them to compare against. But sometimes they’re just plain wrong because they aren’t familiar with the area, or they just have a different perspective on the value of the house than you and your agent do.
7) Can I fight it if it comes in too low?
Yes! You and your agent can contest it and ask the lender to have the appraiser consider other, more appropriate comparable properties that will help justify the amount you’re willing to pay. If the appraiser still doesn’t amend the appraisal to a high enough amount, you can ask for another one to be done, but you might have to agree to pay for it unless you can prove that the first one was done incompetently.
8) Why did it appraise for the exact amount I’m paying?
More often than not, if the appraiser doesn’t come back with an appraisal amount that’s lower than what you’re willing to pay, their report will most likely say that the house is worth just about what you agreed to pay, or maybe a little bit more. Many buyers wonder how they could have hit the nail on the head with the amount they offered, but the reality is, the appraiser is just trying to justify the amount you’re paying for it, so they’re not concerned about whether or not you got a deal on it. So even if you got the deal of the century and bought a house for tens of thousands less than it should’ve sold for, don’t feel like you didn’t just because the appraiser didn’t say so in the report!