Home Appraisal Costs, Uses, and What to Expect from the Process

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Home appraisals are frequently used in real estate to determine property value for various purposes. Lenders require appraisals when you take out a mortgage or refinance a home. A home appraisal may also be necessary to settle an estate or helpful in pricing a home for the market.

So how much is a house appraisal if you need one? Although national web estimates place the average cost of a single-family home appraisal somewhere between $300-$400, these online figures tend to skew a bit low, according to real estate experts.

“Almost anywhere in the country, the minimum amount necessary for a credible home appraisal is likely going to be somewhere between $450-$550,” shares Mike Ford, a Southern California-based general certified real estate appraiser since 1986. A 2021 article from the Washington Post echoes that appraisal fees are typically more like $500-$600.

These fees can go higher if you have a large or complex property, or are located in a rural area. Let’s take a look at the main factors that impact the cost of a home appraisal as well as what to expect from the process.

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Enter a few details about your home and we’ll provide you with a preliminary estimate of home value in less than two minutes. This won’t replace a home appraisal, but it can be a helpful starting point.

What is an appraisal?

A home appraisal is a professional opinion of home value assigned by a licensed and independent home appraiser. Home appraisers determine value using a few different methods, but the most common one to know is the sales comparison approach.

This method involves reviewing nearby recently sold properties with similar characteristics to the one being valued and making dollar adjustments based on competitive differences.

An appraiser often conducts an on-site visit — tape measure and camera in hand — to document a home’s square footage, check out its curb appeal, evaluate recent upgrades, and take note of the overall property condition.

The appraiser will dock value for any physical deficiencies and record details like the type of foundation and whether the home has central air. Then, they will document the research and supporting reasoning for their opinion of value using the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report.

Home appraisal cost overview

The expertise of an appraiser isn’t free. How much it costs to get a home appraisal will depend on your home and where you live. However, you won’t get far asking for a lower appraisal fee.

“It’s a fixed cost, it’s not like you can negotiate the fee or something like that— it just is what it is,” says Joe Nelson, a top real estate agent in Kansas City.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, clients typically spend between $400 and $1,000 on an appraisal, says Rachel Massey, a certified residential appraiser with Massey and Associates Valuation Services. In Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, a typical home appraisal costs between $400 and $500, but could be as high as $1,500, according to Mason Spurgeon, owner of Spurgeon Appraisers.

A computer used to search for how much a house appraisal costs.
Source: (Myriam Jessier / Unsplash)

Why appraisal costs are somewhat controlled

The Dodd-Frank financial reform enacted in 2010 includes that a professional appraiser’s fees must be reasonable and customary for the geographic market.

The law is also the reason appraisals for home purchases and refinances must be conducted by independent, third-party contractors or companies who are not affiliated with a bank or lending organization.

Have home appraisal costs changed in 2022?

Real estate experts we spoke with say that a hot seller’s market and the refinancing craze sweeping most of the nation has not resulted in an appraisal cost hike. However, the increased demand for appraisals has resulted in frequent delays in the appraisal process.

Can you get a free home appraisal?

If you’re curious to find out how much your home is worth, an online tool like HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator can be a good starting point.

Our home value algorithm pairs your answers to a few questions about your home with public data and recent sales records for other properties in the same neighborhood. From there, we provide you with a free home value estimate in less than two minutes.

This can be useful if you’re planning a remodel or would find a ballpark value estimate useful. However, online estimates are not replacements for appraisals and won’t be accepted by a lender as an opinion of value.

Another option to consider is requesting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a local real estate agent, especially if you have any plans to sell your house soon. Agents use CMAs to price homes for the market, often using a similar method as appraisers. Agents will usually provide you with a CMA free of charge, though again this method of value won’t constitute an official appraisal.

A white themed living room with wooden floors.
Source: (Christa Grover / Pexels)

What do home appraisal fees cover?

Typically, a home appraisal fee covers:

  • The expertise of the appraiser, who has been licensed, trained, and insured in the profession
  • The appraiser’s visual onsite inspection of the home, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours and involve taking measurements and photos
  • The appraiser’s analysis of recent comparable sales (or application of other appraisal methods, such as the cost approach or income method)
  • The appraisal report, summarizing how the appraiser arrived at an independent opinion of value

Who pays for appraisal fees?

Who pays for appraisal fees depends on who ordered the appraisal and what the appraisal is being used for. Here’s how it works:

Use of the appraisal Who usually pays for it
Refinance Homeowner / borrower
Home purchase Buyer / borrower
Pre-listing determination of value Owner who is planning to sell
Settling an estate Family or estate assets

In the case of a refinance or mortgage loan, the lender will hire an appraisal through appraisal management companies.

These companies provide third-party, outsourced appraisal contractors who are not affiliated with the lender or borrower. Although the lender arranges for the appraisal through the AMC, it is the responsibility of the borrower to pay for the appraisal fees.

Is a home appraisal worth it?

When you purchase a home with a mortgage or go through a refinance, the lender will require an appraisal. The appraisal goes toward determining the amount of funds the lender is willing to provide to the borrower for a specific property.

If you’re opting to get an appraisal voluntarily, the cost of an appraisal may be worth it to:

Help with home pricing and investment decisions

  • Get ideas for renovations and improvements
  • Sell to a family member
  • Assist with property inheritance

“I always recommend that sellers consult their real estate agent for their price opinion, but it can also be helpful to obtain an appraisal if there are any looming questions,” says Massey.

In the case of selling to family members, Spurgeon points out that an appraisal can help eliminate any disagreements with other relatives who weren’t involved in the transactions.

Do all types of home appraisals cost the same?

The pandemic has caused an increase in what are called desktop and hybrid appraisals.

Desktop appraisals are completed at an appraiser’s proverbial “desk”, eliminating the in-person survey of the property.

A hybrid appraisal separates the tasks of researching records and reviewing comps from the onsite visit. For example, while the appraiser completes the evaluation remotely, a third-party such as a real estate agent performs the walkthrough and shares their findings so the information can be reconciled.

Desktop appraisals can be significantly cheaper at a rate of $75-$200. The hybrid approach can offer some savings from the traditional model, but not always — especially in a market where demand for appraisals is through the roof.

However, there can be trade-offs to these approaches.

“For that decrease of time spent on the appraisal, there may be a sacrifice of accuracy,” says Edward Stachurski, a certified general appraiser in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

A pool that impacts the cost of a house appraisal.
Source: (Myriam Jessier / Unsplash)

What affects home appraisal costs?

Several factors can affect the cost of a home appraisal including the type of property, the location, urban versus rural settings, and more.

Property type

The type of home you are selling will affect the appraisal cost. “For example, lakefront properties are almost always complex, and a consumer should expect to pay more for this type of valuation than that of a house in a subdivision,” explains Massey.

Whether you have a multi-family home or a single-family home will also affect the appraisal cost, Generally, the more beds and baths a property has, the more expensive it is to appraise. Multi-family homes will also likely veer from the standard sales comparison approach for determining value, which can add to the cost.

“A multi-family report is six pages long because you have to prepare the income approach,” As Stachurski says. “When it’s a single-family property, the appraisal is four pages long because it’s strictly a sales comparison for the most part.”

Location

Getting an appraisal can cost hundreds of dollars more in certain markets. According to data from Closing Corp, appraisals generally cost a lot more in the Pacific Northwest (or really, anywhere out West) compared to the South. Some of the most expensive markets to get an appraisal include:

  • Alaska ($784)
  • Washington ($728)
  • Hawaii ($719)
  • Oregon ($719)
  • Montana ($674)

Seasonal factors

If an appraiser is unable to access certain parts of the home that they need to evaluate, any measures to clear the area may add costs to the appraisal at the expense of the homeowner or borrower. Examples would be a snow-covered roof or locating the well and septic that aren’t marked on the property sketch after snowfall.

Property features

Certain features such as a pool or accessory dwelling unit can add time to the valuation process and increase the cost to appraise the home.

Extensive damage

If a home has extensive damage, it takes more effort for the appraiser to determine the fair value. Any unrepaired structural damage will impact your appraisal. While the home appraisers aren’t as thorough as home inspectors, and don’t come with a whole toolkit of specialized inspection tools, home appraisers are trained to look for obvious signs of damage, such as cracks in the floors, ceilings, or walls.

Urban versus rural setting

“If a property is located in a city with a good source of solid data through the local MLS, the appraisal would probably be at the lower end of the price range,” says Spurgeon. “On the other hand, if the property is a large, ornate home in a very rural area on several acres of ground, this would probably be closer to the upper end of the fee range. These price differences are based on the time it takes to complete the appraisals.”

Lack of qualified appraisers

There are likely to be more appraisers available in heavily populated areas as opposed to rural areas. As Spurgeon explains, this is at least partly due to the complexity and difficulty of completing a rural appraisal with limited sales data. When more appraisers are available to work, the price is likely to be lower than in areas where there are fewer available.

There is currently a high demand for appraisers compared to the availability. That means it can be a challenge to satisfy the appraisal contingency within the timeline for the offer to purchase, as appraisers are backed up with new purchases and refinances.

Loan type

Buyers of expensive homes may take out jumbo loans, which are large loans that reach above the federal loan limit. Because jumbo loans are not guaranteed or insured, they are riskier for lenders to provide. Appraisal fees for jumbo loans can be higher, and these types of loans may also require a second home appraisal before closing.

“When it comes to jumbo loans, the properties are so unique you might not be able to find comparable sales in the immediate market area,” says Stachurski. “Jumbo loans require more research to be prepared effectively.”

As for other loan types, the Department of Veterans Affairs raised appraisal fees for VA loans by anywhere from $25 to $400 in some areas, effective as of December 2021. FHA loans typically cost about the same as a regular appraisal, according to Chase Bank.

Realtors® are going to be a really good resource to connect anybody with anything that they need in the home buying and selling process. And I do get a lot of people asking me, ‘Who do you recommend for appraisal?’ and I’m happy to provide recommendations.
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    Joe Nelson
    Joe Nelson Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Kc North
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    • Years of Experience 19
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How do I find an appraiser?

If your appraiser selection won’t be determined by an AMC, you can always ask your real estate agent for a referral.

“Realtors® are going to be a really good resource to connect anybody with anything that they need in the home buying and selling process,” says Nelson. “And I do get a lot of people asking me, ‘Who do you recommend for appraisal?’ and I’m happy to provide recommendations.”

Another good resource to find a licensed and certified appraiser is the Appraisal Institute’s Find an Appraiser tool.

What can I expect from the appraisal process?

An appraiser visits your home and performs the research needed to form an educated opinion of value. Their walkthrough will take between 30 minutes for a simple appraisal and three hours for a larger property or one with more features. It’s recommended that you tidy up before the appraiser arrives to make a good impression.

After that, you can expect to receive your appraisal report in anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending on the appraiser’s schedule and complexity of the appraisal. Generally, the appraisal for a conventional loan on an existing home is valid for 120 days.

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