Home appraisals can vary
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By Ken Schrier  May 2, 2014 12:00 am

Appraisals should be an exact science, but as with most things, they’re not. Why do they vary? Is it possible to have three different appraisers come through your home and give you three different values? You bet.

Even though there are minimum standards for appraisers and their guidelines, every appraiser has their own unique system for “grading” a property. In most cases, they usually go back about three months for closed sales but may have to go back as much as six to eight months if an area has not turned over as much. Obviously, they will take into account the market conditions for that time and make corrections as needed. In addition to the closed sales of the neighborhood, they will also look at active homes on the market and current homes under contract within that specific radius.

In a perfect world, apples are compared to apples, and oranges are compared to oranges. Of course, we live in the real world and see more fruit salad than individual fruits, so there has to be adjustments on almost every property when comparisons are used.

Everything has a value – number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, upgrades, lot size, etc. All these are important, and there is a lot to factor in. Unfortunately, there is no universal system for these items, and you may see adjustments for interior space vary from $20 to $60 a square foot and exterior adjustments for lot size go between $5 to $30 a square foot. It’s crazy.

The same goes for living space. Bedrooms can vary in value from $10,000-$25,000 per bedroom, and bathrooms can adjust from $2500-$15,000 depending on the appraiser. Amenity adjustments for pools and location can range from $5,000-$30,000 per item.

All appraisals will vary to some degree, and you may expect a variance of $5,000-$15,000 on your property when the smoke finally clears. Unless the appraisal is blatantly inaccurate in both value and comparisons used, it may be difficult to dispute even if both sides of the transaction feel a new appraisal is warranted.

Even if the appraisal is contested, the appraiser, as an independent contractor, reserves the right to stand by their numbers and in most cases, may not be obligated to change their values.


Ken Schrier is a licensed Realtor working locally for RE/MAX PROs and works with Buyers and Sellers throughout Sonoma County but focuses primarily on Rohnert Park, Cotati, and Penngrove. He can be reached by email at ken@kenschrier.com or by cell at 707-529-4819.

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