The appraisal is an important step in the homebuying process where an appraiser gives a professional opinion on how much the home is worth. The results of the appraisal can affect whether a mortgage lender will offer you financing for the home.
Here’s a look at how appraisals work, how much they cost, and the factors that can influence the results of the appraisal.
What Is a Home Appraisal?
During the home appraisal, a trained and licensed third-party professional with state-issued appraiser credentials considers several factors to estimate the home’s market value.
Mortgage lenders require an appraisal to confirm that the loan amount matches the value of the home and the property can serve as adequate collateral for the loan. The results of the appraisal also are used to determine what you’ll owe in property taxes.
In addition to examining the home’s condition, the appraiser will reference the sales prices of comparable properties in the area, known as “comps.” They’ll document their conclusions in an appraisal report that is provided to the buyer.
If the home’s value is lower than expected, then you may have to dispute the home appraisal or come up with the difference between the appraisal and the sales price out of pocket — unless you have an appraisal contingency in your purchase agreement. In that case, you would be able to get out of the contract before closing without penalty.
If you don’t have the funds to cover the difference, then you may be forced to back out of the deal and lose your earnest money deposit.
What does an appraiser look at?
A home appraisal takes time because the appraiser needs to ensure their report is as accurate as possible. Here are some of the factors that appraisers will consider when appraising a home:
- Interior of the home. The appraiser will consider the condition of the home’s interior, as well as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Exterior of the home. The appraiser will consider the condition of the home’s exterior — including the roof and foundation — and make note of any damage or flaws. They also will factor in the lot size, exterior walls, and outdoor amenities.
- Home improvements. If the current owner made home improvements that added value to the property, then appraisers will take them into consideration.
- Comparable sales. The appraiser will research comps to inform their opinion on the market value of the home.
- General property factors. This includes factors like the garage and driveway, the home’s square footage, and whether the home has an accessory dwelling unit.
Different types of home appraisals
There are different types of appraisals you may encounter, including:
- In-person appraisal. An in-person appraisal is the traditional home appraisal where an appraiser visits the home for an on-site inspection and evaluates its condition.
- Desktop appraisal. A desktop appraisal is done remotely instead of in person. The appraiser will use floor plans, comps, and public records to estimate the home’s value.
- Hybrid appraisal. A hybrid appraisal involves multiple people in the appraisal process, and is a combination of a desktop appraisal and an in-person appraisal. In addition to researching data to make an informed opinion, an appraiser will evaluate the home in person.
- Drive-by appraisal. In a drive-by appraisal, also known as an exterior-only appraisal, an appraiser examines only the outside of the home. Drive-by appraisals are typically only used in certain scenarios, like when a homeowner wants to use home equity for a home equity loan.
The Cost of a Home Appraisal
Here’s how the different types of appraisals vary in cost:
- In-person appraisal: $300 to $600. The cost of an in-person appraisal can vary depending on the home’s size and location. Rural homes and larger properties tend to be more expensive to appraise because there are often fewer appraisers available in rural areas, and fewer comps to serve as a reference for larger properties.
- Desktop appraisal: $75 to $200. Desktop appraisals usually cost less than in-person appraisals because the appraiser doesn’t visit the property.
- Hybrid appraisal: $250 to $400. Hybrid appraisals usually cost less than traditional appraisals, unless demand is high in the market.
- Drive-by appraisal: $300 to $400. Drive-by appraisals usually cost less than full appraisals because the appraiser doesn’t need to go inside the home.
Factors that affect the cost of an appraisal
- Property size. Appraisals for larger, more expensive homes typically cost more.
- Location. Appraisals can cost more in remote areas where there are fewer appraisers.
- Number of comps available. If the appraiser must do additional research, the appraisal can cost more.
- Type of mortgage. Government-backed loans — such as Federal Housing Administration loans or Veterans Affairs loans — require a more extensive appraisal because the home needs to meet certain structural and safety requirements to qualify.
Who Pays For the Home Appraisal?
The buyer typically pays for the home appraisal in their closing costs. However, in a buyer’s market — where the supply of available homes exceeds demand and sellers have a harder time finding a buyer — it’s possible to negotiate to have the seller cover the cost of the appraisal.
How to pay for the appraisal
You’ll pay for the home appraisal as part of your closing costs. The appraisal fee will be listed on your loan estimate and closing disclosure.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about home appraisals.