An Overview of the Appraisal Process

One's home purchase can be the largest transaction some of us may ever consider. Whether it's where you raise your family, a seasonal vacation home or one of many rentals, 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 having a role in the transaction. The real estate agent is the most known entity in the transaction. Then, the bank provides the money necessary to bankroll the deal. The title company ensures all aspects of the sale are completed and that a clear title transfers from the seller to the buyer is the title company.

So what party is responsible for making sure the value of the real estate is in line with the amount being paid?   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 Washington licensed appraiser from Spencer Appraisals will ensure you as an interested party are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

To determine the true status of the property, it's our duty to first conduct a thorough inspection. We must actually see aspects of the property, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, and so on, to ensure they truly are present 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 illustrating the layout of the property. Most importantly, we look for any obvious amenities - or defects - that would have an impact on the value of the house.

Back at the office, an appraiser uses two or three approaches to determining the value of real property: a paired sales analysis, a replacement cost calculation, and an income approach when rental properties are prevalent.

Replacement Cost

Here, we gather information on local building costs, labor rates and other elements to derive how much it would cost to construct a property nearly identical to the one being appraised. This figure often sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used predictor of value.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers can tell you a lot about the communities in which they appraise. They thoroughly understand the value of certain features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent sales in the area and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the home at hand. By assigning a dollar value to certain items such as square footage, additional bathrooms, hardwood floors, fireplaces or view lots (just to name a few), we adjust the comparable properties so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject.

  • If, for example, the comparable property has an irrigation system and the subject doesn't, the appraiser may deduct the value of an irrigation system from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • But, 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.

A true estimate of what the subject could sell for can only be determined once all differences between the comps and the subject have been evaluated. When it comes to valuing features of homes in Richland and Benton, Spencer Appraisals is your local authority. This approach to value is usually given the most importance when an appraisal is for a home sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third method of valuing approach to value is sometimes employed when a neighborhood has a measurable number of renter occupied properties. In this case, the amount of income the property generates is taken into consideration along with income produced by similar properties to give an indicator of the current value.

Coming Up With the Final Value

Combining information from all applicable approaches, the appraiser is then ready to put down an estimated market value for the subject property. It is important to note that while this amount is probably the strongest indication of what a house is worth, it probably will 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 typically used as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could recover in case they had to put the property on the market again. The bottom line is: An appraiser from Spencer Appraisals will guarantee you discover the most accurate property value, so you can make wise real estate decisions.