Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

Purchasing a home is the most serious transaction most people could ever make. Whether it's a main residence, an additional vacation property or one of many rentals, the purchase of real property is an involved transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to see it through.

The majority of the people participating are quite familiar. The most recognizable face in the exchange is the real estate agent. Next, the bank provides the money necessary to bankroll the deal. And the title company sees to it that all details of the transaction are completed and that a clear title transfers from the seller to the buyer.

To learn more about appraising, click here to see a short video or call us today to talk about your specific property.

So, what party is responsible for making sure the value of the real estate is in line with the amount being paid? This is where you meet the appraiser. We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer could expect to pay — or a seller receive — for a parcel of real estate, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A licensed, certified, professional appraiser from Zenith Appraisal Services will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

To determine an accurate status of the property, it's our duty to first complete a thorough inspection. We must see aspects of the property first hand, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they really are there and are in the condition a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. To make sure the stated size of the property has not been misrepresented and describe the layout of the property, the inspection often entails creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious features - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the house.

Following the inspection, we use two or three approaches to determining the value of real property: a sales comparison, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Cost Approach

This is where we pull information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other elements to ascertain how much it would cost to construct a property comparable to the one being appraised. This value usually sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used method.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers are intimately familiar with the neighborhoods in which they work. They thoroughly understand the value of specific features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent transactions in the area and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the subject in question. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as square footage, extra bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we adjust the comparable properties so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject.

  • For example, if the comparable has a fireplace and the subject doesn't, the appraiser may subtract the value of a fireplace from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • In the case where the subject has something such as an extra half bath that a comparable doesn't have, the appraiser might add the value of that bath to the comparable property.

An opinion of what the subject could sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. When it comes to valuing features of homes in Aurora and Arapahoe, Zenith Appraisal Services is your local authority. The sales comparison approach to value is usually awarded the most consideration when an appraisal is for a real estate sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - the appraiser may use an additional approach to value. In this scenario, the amount of revenue the real estate generates is factored in with income produced by neighboring properties to derive the current value.

The Bottom Line

Analyzing the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property at hand. The estimate of value at the bottom of the appraisal report is not necessarily the final sales price even though it is likely the best indication of a property's valueThere are always mitigating factors such as seller motivation, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust the final price up or down. Regardless, the appraised value is often used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in case they had to put the property on the market again. It all comes down to this, an appraiser from Zenith Appraisal Services will guarantee you get the most accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.