What Is an Appraisal?

Acquiring real estate is the biggest financial decision most people will ever consider. Whether it's a main residence, an additional vacation home or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is a detailed financial transaction that requires multiple parties to see it through.

Most people are familiar with the parties taking part in the transaction. The most known face in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the lender provides the financial capital necessary to fund the deal. And ensuring all details of the sale are completed and that a clear title passes to the buyer from the seller is the title company.

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So, what party is responsible for making sure the value of the property is in line with the amount being paid? This is where the appraiser comes in. We provide an unbiased opinion 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 Bowers Real Estate & Appraisal Services will ensure, you as an interested party, are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal begins

To ascertain the true status of the property, it's our responsibility to first perform a thorough inspection. We must actually see aspects of the property, 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 is accurate and document the layout of the house, the inspection often includes creating a sketch of the floorplan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the property.

Back at the office, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to determining the value of real property: a paired sales analysis, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Cost Approach

This is where the appraiser analyzes information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other factors to derive how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This estimate usually sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Sales Comparison

Appraisers get to know the neighborhoods in which they work. They thoroughly understand the value of particular features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent transactions in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the real estate at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as square footage, additional bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price 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.
  • But, 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.

Once all necessary adjustments have been made, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. At Bowers Real Estate & Appraisal Services, we are an authority when it comes to knowing the worth of particular items in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County neighborhoods. The sales comparison approach to value is typically given the most importance when an appraisal is for a home sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing real estate is sometimes applied when an area has a measurable number of renter occupied properties. In this situation, the amount of revenue the real estate produces is factored in with other rents in the area for comparable properties to derive the current value.

The Bottom Line

Examining the data from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to state an estimated market value for the property at hand. The estimate of value on the appraisal report is not always the final sales price even though it is likely the best indication of what a property is worth. There are always mitigating factors such as the seller's desire to get out of the property, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust an offer or listing price up or down. But the appraised value is often employed as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than the property is actually worth. The bottom line is, an appraiser from Bowers Real Estate & Appraisal Services will guarantee you discover the most accurate property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.