Whether you are buying or selling a home, it can be a very stressful time. One of my goals is to provide a service that makes the experience as stress-free and transparent as possible. About a year ago, I received a phone call from a local homeowner who wanted to get an appraisal to help them determine a price to list their home. During the conversation he asked, “Why should I hire you?” It caught me off-guard because usually the first question that I get asked is: “How much do you charge for an appraisal?” (I won’t get into that here, but I can promise you that it is not a good idea to hire your appraiser based solely on fee. See my blog article, “The Cheapest Appraiser” for the reasons why.) His question really made me think about what separates me from other appraisers in my market area. I started thinking about the feedback I most often get from clients and what is most important when it comes to how other people perceive me and my company.
I think it is important to state that there are certain fundamental characteristics that every good appraiser should have (i.e.: experience, local knowledge, education, attention to detail, standards and ethics, etc). While I possess all of these characteristics, I know based on what my clients have said time and time again that I provide something else that is invaluable to them. When I’m hired by a homeowner, most of time they want to determine a price to list their home or determine fair market value for divorce, bankruptcy, trust or estate purposes. Most appraisers will measure your home, take some pictures and ask a few questions. Then several days later you probably receive an email with a PDF of an appraisal report. Although you are anxious to see what value of your home is, when you open the report you are disappointed because the 20+ pages are written in appraisal jargon and lending terms that many homeowners find hard to understand.
That’s why it is important for an appraiser to take a different approach to “non-lender” assignments. All of my appraisals involve three consultations (one during the initial phone conversation, a second during the inspection and another after the appraisal report has been completed). During the first consultation I will interview the homeowner to find out what your expectations are and explain how the appraisal process works. During the second appointment we will talk about the house and I will point out any items of concern I see during the physical inspection. Once the report has been completed, I typically schedule the third consultation to discuss the following:
I will explain how the report is laid out and where to find the most important information.
We will review the charts and graphs that I have added to the report and I will explain the current market conditions and property value trends in your neighborhood and how that affected my value conclusion. These charts not only show an overall view of the median sales price trends, but also give an indication of the amount of housing supply on the market. I will explain what an undersupply or oversupply of housing stock could mean for the value of your home.
We will go over the recent sales I used as comparisons and I will point out the differences in condition or quality of construction and which features are more desirable and why. I will then show you the listings in the area that your home would be competing against and what that means for your property. We will also review where these comparable properties are located on the map and discuss any location adjustments that were deemed necessary.
Most importantly, I always ask my clients if they have any questions. I want to make sure that the appraisal/valuation process is as transparent and easily understood as possible.
Clarifying questions is the portion of the appraisal process that my clients appreciate the most. By taking that extra time to explain the report and answer all of your questions, I ensure that you are satisfied. In working with homeowners, I have found that this is my favorite part of the business. It really allows me to help you through the process is an easily understood way. This is much different than the lender/refinance world where rules and regulations get in the way of who you can talk to and what you can discuss. At a time when everyone is in a hurry to move on to the next job I think you will agree that it is important that you find someone who will take their time and make sure all of your questions have been answered.