You’re wrong if you think this about appraisals

But my house appraised for $________.

Should I get my house appraised before we list it?

I hear this a lot. People seem to think that the appraiser determines the value of a property.

They do not.

Buyers and sellers determine the value.

An appraisal can happen for a lot of reasons. Most of the time they are done for a buyer’s lender. Lenders want to make sure the house is worth at least the purchase price since they will be on the hook should the buyer default. Those types of appraisals are more about justifying the sale price. Market value was already determined when the buyer and seller agreed on a price.

Other reasons a house might get appraised are for refinancing, divorces, bankruptcies, home equity lines of credit, etc. On those types, there is not a purchase involved so the appraisal is really just a professional guess at what the market value might be. An appraiser does not determine market value. The appraiser is not buying the house so they are not looking at it the same way a buyer would. They do not care about the color of the walls, if the kitchen is outdated. They just care about if it is in average condition or not. Ever see a listing that said “Priced below recent appraisal!” That tells you that the market did not agree with the appraisers assessment of value.

Last year I sold a house that I had renovated to rent. I was approached by a realtor with a client who wanted it. I decided to sell. We all agreed on a sale price of $205k. Well, the appraisal come back at $186k. The reason is because it was a split level house. An appraiser can only use a split foyer or split level house for sales comparisons on the appraisal report. Of the 40+ recent sales in that neighborhood, there were 4 that were split foyers or split levels, and all were terrible compared to my house. I get it, the appraiser’s hands were tied. Still though, the comps of similar square footage houses in similarly upgraded condition pointed to a value in the lower $200s, which was what I had a ready, willing and able buyer prepared to pay. Bummer.

A little off the subject, but realtors are really better at determining market value. We do pretty much the same thing appraisers do only we know the market a little better than appraisers. I am not at all trying to discredit appraisers here. It’s just we are the ones that go in houses with buyers and know how they will respond to things like barn doors, farmhouse sinks, 80s wall paper, the neighbor who leaves 4 dogs in a kennel all day, and how much natural light a house gets. We have experience with buyers and sellers leading up to signing a contract……still though, when we are called to list a house, it is still a professional guess at market value. Then the appraiser comes in afterwards more as a system of checks and balances to make sure the lender feels good about lending money on the house.

So, now you know that the appraiser doe not determine market value. Market value is like that old saying “Something is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it.” Realtors and appraisers use data to predict what market value should be but we do not decide what market value will be.

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