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Real Estate Appraisals: A Primer

Getting a home can be the largest investment most people may ever encounter. Whether it's a primary residence, a seasonal vacation property or a rental fixer upper, purchasing real property is a complex transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to pull it all off.

To learn more about appraising, click here to see a short video or call us today to talk about your specific property.


It's likely you are familiar with the parties taking part in the transaction. The most familiar person in the transaction is the real estate agent. Next, the lender provides the money required to bankroll the deal. Ensuring all details of the sale are completed and that the title is clear to transfer from the seller to the purchaser is the title company.

So what party is responsible for making sure the value of the property is consistent with the purchase price?   This is where the appraiser comes in.   We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer might expect to pay - or a seller receive - for a parcel of real estate, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A professional Florida licensed appraiser from Wheeler and Wheeler, Inc. will ensure you as an interested party are informed.

Appraisals start with the property inspection

To determine the true status of the property, it's our duty to first conduct a thorough inspection. We must see features hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, living areas, etc., to ensure they indeed are there and are in the shape a typical person would expect them to be. To ensure the stated square footage is accurate and illustrate the layout of the property, the inspection often requires creating a sketch of the floor plan. Most importantly, the appraiser identifies any obvious features - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the house.

Once the site has been inspected, an appraiser employs two or three approaches when determining the value of the property: sales comparison and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Cost Approach

This is where the appraiser pulls information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other factors to calculate how much it would cost to construct a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This value often sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Sales Comparison

Appraisers become very familiar with the neighborhoods in which they work. We innately understand the value of certain features to the residents of that area. Then, the appraiser researches recent transactions in the neighborhood and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the home being appraised. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, additional bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable has an irrigation system and the subject does not, the appraiser may subtract the value of an irrigation system from the sales price of the comparable.
  • If the subject has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an amount to the comparable property.
An opinion of what the subject could sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. The sales comparison approach to value is typically awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a home sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - we may use a third approach to value. In this situation, the amount of income the property yields is factored in with income produced by neighboring properties to give an indicator of the current value.

Arriving at a Value Conclusion

Combining information from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to stipulate an estimated market value for the property in question. The estimate of value on the appraisal report is not necessarily what's being paid for the property even though it is likely the best indication of a property's market value There are always mitigating factors such as seller motivation, urgency or 'bidding wars' that may adjust the final 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 would likely sell for in an open marketplace. At the end of the day: An appraiser from Wheeler and Wheeler, Inc. will guarantee you attain the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.