Real Estate Appraisals: A Primer

One's home purchase can be the biggest investment most of us may ever consider. Whether it's where you raise your family, a seasonal vacation property or a rental fixer upper, purchasing real property is a complex financial transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to see it through.

To learn more about appraising, click here to see a short video or call us today to talk about your specific property.


Most of the people participating are quite familiar. The real estate agent is the most recognizable entity in the exchange. Next, the mortgage company provides the financial capital required to finance the exchange. The title company ensures that all areas of the exchange are completed and that the title is clear to transfer to the buyer from the seller.

So what party makes sure the real estate is consistent with the amount being paid?   This is where the appraiser comes in.   We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer could expect to pay - or a seller receive - for a property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A professional California licensed appraiser from JS Appraisal will ensure you as an interested party are informed.

Inspecting the subject property

Our first task at JS Appraisal is to inspect the property to ascertain its true status. We must physically view features, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, living areas, etc., to ensure they truly are present and are in the shape a typical buyer would expect them to be. To make sure the stated size of the property is accurate and document the layout of the house, the inspection often requires creating a sketch of the floor plan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious amenities - or defects - that would affect the value of the house.

Back at the office, we use two or three approaches when determining the value of real property: sales comparison and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Replacement Cost

Here, we gather information on local construction costs, labor rates and other factors to calculate how much it would cost to replace the property being appraised. This estimate commonly sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. The cost approach is also the least used method.

Paired Sales Analysis

Appraisers get to know the communities in which they work. We innately understand the value of certain features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the property in question. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, additional bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we add or subtract from each comparable's sales price so that they more accurately portray the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable property has an extra half bath that the subject doesn't, the appraiser may deduct the value of that half bath from the sales price of the comparable.
  • However, if the subject has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an amount 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 typically given the most importance when an appraisal is for a home sale.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

A third way of valuing approach to value is sometimes used when a neighborhood has a measurable number of rental properties. In this scenario, the amount of income the property yields is taken into consideration along with other rents in the area for comparable properties to derive the current value.

Arriving at a Value Conclusion

Combining information from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to document an estimated market value for the property in question. It is important to note that while this amount is probably the most reliable indication of what a property would sell for in an open market, it may not be the final sales price. Depending on the specific situations of the buyer or seller, their level of urgency or a buyer's desire for that exact property, the closing price of a home can always be driven up or down. Regardless, the appraised value is often employed 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 JS Appraisal will help you discover the most accurate property value, so you can make profitable real estate decisions.