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Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

Acquiring a home can be the most important transaction many people will ever consider. It doesn't matter if it's a primary residence, a second vacation home or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is a detailed financial transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to make it all happen.

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 known face in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the lender provides the money needed to bankroll the exchange. The title company ensures that all aspects of the transaction are completed and that the title is clear to transfer to the buyer from the seller.

So what party is responsible for making sure the value of the real estate is in line with the purchase price?   In comes the appraiser.   We provide an unbiased opinion of what a buyer could expect to pay - or a seller receive - for a parcel of real estate, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A professional Alaska licensed appraiser from Bob Hayes Real Estate Appraiser will ensure you as an interested party are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal starts

Our first task at Bob Hayes Real Estate Appraiser is to inspect the property to determine its true status. We must physically view features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, amenities, etc., to ensure they indeed are there and are in the shape a typical buyer would expect them to be. The inspection often includes a sketch of the house, ensuring the square footage is proper and conveying the layout of the property. Most importantly, we look for any obvious amenities - or defects - that would affect the value of the property.

Once the site has been inspected, an appraiser employs two or three approaches when determining the value of the property: a sales comparison, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Cost Approach

This is where we use information on local construction costs, the cost of labor and other factors to calculate how much it would cost to build a property similar to the one being appraised. This estimate often sets the maximum on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the subdivisions in which they appraise. We thoroughly understand the value of particular features to the people of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent transactions in the neighborhood and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the property in question. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as upgraded appliances, extra bathrooms, an additional living area, quality of construction, lot size, we adjust the comparable properties so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable has a fireplace and the subject doesn't, the appraiser may subtract the value of a fireplace from the sales price of the comparable.
  • In the case where the subject has something such as an extra half bath that a comparable doesn't have, the appraiser might add the value of that bath to the comparable property.
An opinion of what the subject might 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 commonly awarded the most weight when an appraisal is for a home exchange.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing a house is sometimes used when an area has a reasonable number of renter occupied properties. In this scenario, the amount of revenue the property produces is factored in with income produced by similar properties to determine the current value.

Arriving at a Value Conclusion

Combining information from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the property at hand. Note: While the appraised value is probably the most accurate indication of what a property would sell for in an open market, it may not be the final sales price. 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 used 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. The bottom line is: An appraiser from Bob Hayes Real Estate Appraiser will help you attain the most accurate property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.