How to Find a Reputable Appraiser and Get a Home Valuation

You’re receiving phone calls, emails, text messages, postal mail and even fliers tucked into your door with offers to buy your home. This makes you curious: What is my home worth right now? What are my best options for a home appraisal and where do I get one? Are there appraisers near me?

To provide you with the best resources, we spoke with top real estate agent Joe LoCicero of 54 Realty in Florida, and licensed appraiser Diana Benson of Benson Appraisals in Phoenix. We’ve also created a list of tools and methods to help you find a qualified licensed local appraiser.

A laptop used to look for appraisers near me.
Source: (Katie Polansky / Unsplash)

Reasons why you might need an appraisal

Besides being curious, you may need to know the appraised value of your home for another reason. Consider getting an appraisal if you’re:

  • Selling your home yourself (that is, without an agent) and need to know how to price it.
  • Selling an unusual or unique home and need to justify the asking price.
  • Refinancing your home to pay it off sooner, decrease payments, or cash-out equity.
  • Determining the amount of a buy-out from another homeowner in the event of a separation or divorce.
  • Working with a financial planner who needs to know your assets to plan your retirement or write a will.
  • Appealing a tax assessment on your home.
  • In the middle of litigation such as a bankruptcy or lawsuit that requires you to disclose your assets.
  • The executor or beneficiary of a family member’s estate and the value of a home will be used to offset the decedent’s debt, determine taxes, and/or determine how assets will be split between beneficiaries.
An online valuation is just an algorithm. It’s very basic and may be ZIP code driven — it might not even be community specific. A computer doesn’t take into account the extra analyses performed by an agent or appraiser. For example, does the house back up to a school or power lines? Is it in an area where car headlights are constantly shining in your living room? Maybe it has a community pool. Those kinds of things that add or detract value from your home.
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    Joe LoCicero Real Estate Agent
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    Joe LoCicero
    Joe LoCicero Real Estate Agent at 54 Realty
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    • Years of Experience 15
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    • Average Price Point $287k
    • Single Family Homes 1621

How to get a value on your home

There are many ways to get a value on your home. If you’re just curious and you’re exploring the idea of selling up, downsizing, or cash-out refinancing, an informal ballpark valuation may provide some insight into the approximate value of your home. If you’re selling, a real estate agent can provide a better valuation. But if you need an accurate home value for any reason, it’s usually a good idea to contact a qualified appraiser.

Use an app or an online home value estimator

Many apps and online tools already provide an estimated value of your home. This estimate is based on previous market data on your home and current multiple listing service (MLS) transactions around your home. Some of these businesses claim a high accuracy rate with a median error of 1.9%–6.9%, citing a higher accuracy rate for homes that are on the market than for homes that are not currently on the market.

Let’s look at a real life example:

  • One home estimator app values your home at $378,600 with a range of $360,000–$398,000.
  • Another estimates your home value at $333,200.
  • And still another estimates your home value at $384,744 with an estimated offer range at $323,000–$404,000.

An online valuation estimate will also provide you with an approximate value of your home. By answering a few simple questions about your home, you can get a free online estimate in minutes. HomeLight’s value estimator asks a few simple questions and uses an algorithm that looks at millions of transactions to predict what your home is worth.

Let’s look at that real life example again using HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator:

In comparison to the values determined by the three apps, HomeLight provides an instant estimate of $370,000 and follows that by emailing you a more specific estimate of $369,946.

Methodology

Online home valuation tools look at millions of transactions to predict what a home is worth. They use an algorithm that evaluates market data, multiple listing service (MLS) transactions, and data specific to your home and neighborhood to determine value estimates.

The downside of using an online home value estimator

Online valuations aren’t designed to replace an appraisal. An online valuation of your home can be inaccurate. HomeLight estimates the values they provide are within 7% of the home’s actual value 50% of the time.

Online valuations don’t have the human factor. The thing about online valuations is that no human has come out to assess your home. A real estate agent or appraiser will know the neighborhood and local market conditions, as well as what buyers love in a home like yours.

LoCicero says, “An online valuation is just an algorithm. It’s very basic and may be ZIP code driven — it might not even be community specific. A computer doesn’t take into account the extra analyses performed by an agent or appraiser. For example, does the house back up to a school or power lines? Is it in an area where car headlights are constantly shining in your living room? Maybe it has a community pool. Those kinds of things that add or detract value from your home.”

An algorithm also doesn’t factor in upgrades to your home that an agent or appraiser considers in their valuation. For example, you may have increased the value of your home by replacing your roof or your HVAC recently, upgrading your kitchen with stainless steel appliances or installing luxury vinyl plank flooring.

A man contacted his real estate agent to find appraisers near him.
Source: (Reinhart Julian / Unsplash)

Request a CMA from a real estate agent

An online value estimator is the starting point for estimating your home value, but a comparative market analysis (CMA) provides a better picture. And many agents will provide a CMA for free. A CMA is a report that a real estate agent puts together to determine the best listing price for your home. A CMA includes:

  • The location of your property and 3-5 similar homes that recently sold in your neighborhood (comparable properties)
  • A description of your property and the comparable properties including the floor plan and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • The size of your home in square feet
  • Photos of your home and the comparable properties
  • The total sales price and sold price per square foot of each comparable property
  • Dollar adjustments for any differences between your home and the comparable properties
  • The fair market value of your property

A CMA brings the human element into estimating the value of your home. A real estate agent will be able to assign a dollar amount to each difference between your home and comparable properties. Local agents know what’s trending in the market and will make adjustments for upgrades, special features like a nearby community park, and external factors, such as a nearby road that brings traffic noise into the living environment.

A CMA is not an appraisal, which the buyer’s lender requires to be performed by a licensed appraiser. A real estate agent provides the CMA as a tool that helps you to price your home and also helps buyers inform their bidding. Although a CMA is an informal valuation of your home, it must be reliable. If a CMA is too far off target, the state’s real estate licensing commission may take disciplinary action against the agent.

Get an appraisal valuation from a licensed appraiser

If you need an official and accurate value on your home for any reason, you’ll need to get it from a licensed or certified appraiser. A local appraiser knows the market and will evaluate your home’s location and adjust the valuation in consideration of any upgrades, features, and drawbacks of your home (or the community). You will pay approximately $350–$450 for an appraisal and the process may take 2–7 business days.

The appraiser you hire must meet the following requirements:

  • Be an indifferent third-party. This means the appraiser is not a friend, family member, or colleague of any interested parties, including the seller, the buyer, and does not hold any interest in the property.
  • Be a qualified appraiser. Depending on your state laws, the appraiser may hold an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in any field, have 12-18 months experience apprenticing under a licensed appraiser, and have an appraiser certificate or license.

During the appraisal process, the appraiser will evaluate the community, comparable properties, and your property to determine the value of your home. The appraisal process includes:

  • Researching the property, its history, location, neighborhood, and external influences on the property
  • Visual evaluation of home age, size, condition, improvements, and features
  • Comparison of similar homes sales in the area
  • Numerical calculations of value

Your appraisal report will be a physical or digital statement of the value of your home and how the appraiser determined the value, usually provided through the Uniform Appraisal Report. Your appraisal report will include:

  • The appraisal form
  • Photographs of your home and the comparable homes used in the valuation
  • A computerized sketch of the exterior building
  • Explanation of how square footage was calculated
  • Street map that shows the location of your home and the comparable homes
  • MLS listings of the comparable properties
  • Any additional information the appraiser used in the appraisal process, including market sales data, public land records, or tax records
  • The appraised value in your home
A homeowner writing a list of upgrades for the appraiser near her.
Source: (Kat Stokes / Unsplash)

What to tell your appraiser

The appraiser isn’t an inspector. They’re not there to determine what repairs need to be made. Nonetheless, they are evaluating the condition of your home. A leaking roof affects the value of your home. To get the best value on your home, make sure you provide an appraiser with a list of recent repairs or updates to your home, and the cost and date of each repair. A ballpark estimate is fine, but even better if you have receipts. In particular, it’s important to list repairs or updates that the appraiser cannot see, such as blown-in insulation, a new HVAC system, or a repair to a leaking roof that left watermarks on the ceiling.

You can tell the appraiser about any features or events in the community that you feel may affect the value of the home. For example, if the neighborhood just put in a local pool. Or if the house next door sold is identical to yours but the home sold for an unusually low price because the homeowners had several dogs that ruined the carpet and left a distinct aroma, let the appraiser know why you feel that home is an unfair comparison.

What not to tell your appraiser

Keep in mind that the appraisal must be impartial. The appraiser cannot value your home to meet your financial needs. This means you should not ask the appraiser to value your home at the sales price, work a little magic on the value, or tell the appraiser about any hardships you’re going through. Also, don’t give the appraiser reasons why you expect the home to appraise low.

Tools to help you find an licensed local appraiser

You can find an appraiser through a Google search using the phrase “appraisers near me.” If you do this, be sure to check the appraiser’s experience, qualifications, and reviews before reaching out. But if you want the peace of mind that the appraiser you hire is qualified, reputable, and has years of experience in your area, consider these options:

  • Request a referral from a local real estate agent. This is a great way to locate a known, reputable licensed appraiser near you.
  • Get a referral from your lender. Your mortgage company has an appraisal management company (AMC) on speed dial. The AMC is an indifferent third party that acts as a buffer between the lender and the appraiser to ensure the appraisal is impartial. Your lender can provide you with contact information for the AMC which can refer you to a local appraiser.
  • Use AppraisalInstitute.org. If you’re looking for a licensed appraiser to provide a value on your home, Appraisal Institute can put you in touch with a fully vetted appraiser who meets rigorous criteria.
  • Use Appraisers.org. This site is maintained by the American Society of Appraisers, a non-profit, international organization of professional appraisers. Their online tool lets you search for appraisers by location and appraisal expertise.
  • Use Thumbtack or Angi. Thumbtack provides appraiser profiles, reviews and costs. Angi will ask a few questions about your project, get your contact information, and provide your information to local appraisers, who will send you more information.

Keep in mind: a lender or buyer will hire an appraiser

If you’re already in the process of selling your home and have signed a contract with a buyer, you’re not on the hook to hire or pay an appraiser. The buyer’s lender will hire an appraiser. Likewise, if you’re selling for cash and the buyer wants an appraisal, the buyer will hire an appraiser. In this event, the buyer pays the appraisal fees.

A house valued by a local appraiser nearby.
Source: (Keagan Henman / Unsplash)

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a quick and approximate value of your home, HomeLight’s online value estimator is a great place to start. If you need a better valuation on your home, a real estate agent may be willing to provide a comparable market analysis free of charge. However, if you need an accurate valuation of your home, you will need to hire a licensed appraiser. It’s easy to find an appraiser by Googling “appraisers near me,” getting a referral from a local real estate agent, your lender, or using search tools provided by Appraisal Institute, American Society of Appraisers,Thumbtack, or Angi.

Check to see what your home might be worth now

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Header Image Source: (Dillon Wanner / Unsplash)