Consumers see only a small portion of the appraisal process. What consumers often see is the appraisers visit to the property, and the written communication. They do not see the process that the appraiser goes through in developing their opinion of value. My hope is that this piece will help consumers understand a bit about the appraisal process, beyond the number that is of vital importance to almost everyone who picks up an appraisal report.
Appraisers start with identifying the problem to be solved, including who the client is, and what the intended use of the assignment results are. It includes the type of value; the effective date of value; the characteristics of the property that are relevant to the problem; and whether there are any conditions that are placed on the assignment that need to be considered. These include extraordinary assumptions (assumed to be true specific to a property, but not known for certain) and hypothetical conditions (contrary to fact). Clients can be lenders, they be attorneys in litigation or consumers who need a problem solved among others. The intended use can be for mortgage financing, for establishing a value in an equitable dissolution issue, or it can be for buying a house without a loan. There is a myriad of reasons someone may wish to have an independent opinion of value. Characteristics of the property that are relevant are those elements that an appraiser considers as contributing to the value of the property. They can be quite varied, and are truly the appraisers call.
From this initial identification flows the appraiser’s decision on what needs to be considered in developing their opinion. Does the appraiser need to visit the property? How detailed an observation do they need to make? What types of sources are they going to consult in the research? These all form the scope of work determination. After that, the appraiser needs to consider data collection and property description, including analysis of the market area, the subject property itself, comparable sales, listings, cost and income if they are relevant.
After collecting all of this information, the appraiser analyzes the data. They analyze the market, including supply and demand factors, and any marketability issues. They study the highest and best use of the property. They research the site value and the different approaches to value are considered. After all of this is completed, the appraiser takes the data and approaches and reconciles it into one or more value indications, and then to one final value conclusion (which may be a point value, or a range, depending on the client’s needs).
The final step in the process is the report. This is where all of the analysis that took place comes together in what you see and read. Reports can be very brief, addressing only the points that are required to be addressed per our standards, or the report can be detailed and address everything under the sun. Of course, the report can be in between as well. The point is that the report should not require the client to take a “leap of faith” to understand how the appraiser got from point A to point Z. It should be completed in a way that is meaningful to the client and does not mislead them with erroneous or incorrect information. Ideally the report will take the client on a journey to understand how the appraiser looked at the data and how they came to their conclusion. Appraisal reports should be clear and help lead the client to a logical conclusion. Even if the client does not agree with the results in the end, they should always be able to understand how the appraiser got to their conclusion.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.