Appraising your home is crucial in buying and selling a home. Learn what a home appraisal is and how it works.
A home appraisal is an unbiased professional estimate of a home’s value. Whether selling or buying a house, getting your home appraised is an important step. It sets a standard for how much you should sell your house for or tells your potential lender the home’s value before offering you a mortgage loan. Because the appraisal primarily protects the lender’s interests, the lender usually orders the home appraisal while the borrower generally pays the fee. An appraisal typically costs between $300-$450, but the fee can vary based on the size and condition of the home and the level of detail needed.1
How do home appraisals work?
The appraisal process is pretty straightforward. It is scheduled as soon as both parties agree to it to allow enough time for a property visit and to make a report. Then, the lender will select a state-licensed appraiser who will coordinate a time for a home visit with the seller.
The first step is the appraisal inspection, where appraisers traditionally review the home’s interior and exterior to make sure it is in sound structural shape, confirm that there aren’t any safety issues, note the number of rooms, and see if there have been any major upgrades or renovations since the last real estate transaction. The appraiser usually takes photos throughout the house during the walk-through, and homeowners may even be present, especially if they still live there. Buyers can request to be present, but this is somewhat uncommon.
A significant factor in the appraisal value is the price of comparable recently sold homes, particularly those sharing many of the same characteristics as the house being appraised and in the neighborhood or nearby. Appraisers typically review government records and home sale information from the Multiple Listing Service to get this comparative information. The MLS is a real estate database posted by real estate professionals, including home listing and sale information.
Next, the appraiser will take a valuation approach to determine the home’s value. The appraiser may take a sales comparison approach to assess the value or take a cost-based approach which estimates the cost to build that home today combined with the property's land value.2
How long does a home appraisal take?
The entire home appraisal process typically takes a few days to a week, depending on various factors. However, once the mortgage lender has selected a professional appraisal, it should take up to 48 hours for the appraiser to schedule the home visit.
The appraisal can take as little as 30 minutes or up to a few hours. From there, it will most likely take a few days to a week to produce an appraisal report depending on factors like the size or complexity of the home, the appraiser’s workload or schedule, and when the lender ordered the appraisal.
A third-party appraiser will schedule your home appraisal visit within 48 hours of when your mortgage lender orders, and most appraisals can take between a few days and a few weeks. Factors like how complex the property is, where its located and the appraiser’s own schedule will determine how long the appraisal will take.
Once the home has been appraised, the buyer can expect to receive an appraisal report within one to two weeks that includes detailed market analysis along with the report on about the home’s condition.3
How much does a home appraisal cost?
House appraisals typically cost roughly $300 - $450, depending on the state, and appraisers are licensed by the state in which they practice.4
Who pays for a home appraisal?
The borrower pays the appraisal fee, which is included in the closing disclosure document that you’ll receive three days before closing day. Note that factors like location and property uniqueness can change the cost of an appraisal. For instance, it’s more difficult to assess fair market value in rural areas as there are fewer direct comparisons or comparable sales. At the same time, a more one-of-a-kind home will be more difficult for an appraiser to assess.
The refinance appraisal process is similar to the purchase appraisal. An appraisal is as important for a refinance as it is for the original purchase because it provides an updated professional estimate of the home’s value and is used to gauge how much home equity you can borrow against.4
Home inspection vs. appraisal
Appraisers differ from home inspectors in what they analyze. Inspectors only conclude problem areas in the home that may need repair. Beyond the home's condition, home appraisers look at the house's location and other features that may add value. For example, recent homes sold in the neighborhood and additional items like swimming pools and renovated kitchens are considered.
Home appraisal tips for sellers
To get the most out of your home, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the appraisal. The purpose of the home appraisal is to see the worth of your home, so the better maintained your property is, the higher the value. Overall, cleanliness is essential for selling your home as well. Signs of pests, unkempt landscaping, chipped paint, and cracked windows are areas you can fix before an appraiser visits.
Can a home appraisal be challenged?
How happy you are with how a property is appraised may depend on whether you are the seller or potential buyer. Either way, you’ll want to know what can be done if the appraisal is lower or higher than expected.
Be sure to check with the seller’s agent that all significant improvements and repairs were assessed in the appraisal. Also, you can ask what comps the sellers used to arrive at the property’s list price. You may ask the appraiser to review their assessment based on your research if it differs significantly and there is a factual basis for doing so. For example, if new home sales in the area were not included and could impact the appraisal, those can be used to revise the original appraisal. The appraiser may reconsider any new information and reevaluate.
Be sure to challenge the appraisal respectfully and always keep conversations professional. Talk to your broker to help you plan what to say to the appraiser or act as a liaison.5
Protect your home with the proper insurance coverage
A home appraisal is a crucial part of homeownership, whether you’re buying, selling, refinancing, or protecting the true value of your home. Nationally, more than half of U.S. homes are underinsured, so it’s essential to get an accurate assessment of your home’s value to protect it fully. 6
Get a free homeowners insurance quote and the right home insurance coverage to protect you from the unexpected.
 “What Is Home Appraisal?” Amy Fontinelle, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/12/home-appraisals.asp (Accessed December 21, 2022)
 “How Home Appraisals Work,” Bob Musinski, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/mortgages/how-home-appraisals-work/ (Accessed December 21, 2022)
 “How Long Does An Appraisal Take, and What Facroes Can Affect the Home Appraisal Process,” Victoria Araj, https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/how-long-does-an-appraisal-take (Accessed December 21, 2022)
 “What To Expect From A Refinance Appraisal,” Rachel Burris, https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/refinance-appraisal (Accessed December 21, 2022)
 “How To Challenge a Low Home Appraisal,” Tim Parker, https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0312/how-to-challenge-a-low-home-appraisal.aspx (Accessed December 21, 2022)
 “The Problem Affecting 60% of Homeowners Policies,” Caitlin Bronson, https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/news/breaking-news/the-problem-affecting-60-of-homeowners-policies-25269.aspx (Accessed December 21, 2022)