You've found the perfect house. The buyers take your offer, your loan is preapproved (no small feat nowadays) -- and now, there's just the little matter of the appraisal.
Who is this "appraiser" person who can make or break your dream?
In most cases, the appraiser is dispatched by the loan broker or mortgage company and is sent to do a survey of the property and provide an opinion as to its value. This job is different from -- and often confused with -- the home inspector, who is looking for structural and infrastructure issues that don't necessarily have a bearing on the home's value.
The depth of the survey can range from an inspection inside and out with plenty of picture-taking and measuring, in addition to some legwork around the neighborhood and the latest comparable sales, to what's known in the industry as a "drive by" or a comparative market appraisal.
"If the purchaser is buying property with a gigantic down payment, the lender may just request a cursory appraisal, which is just a quick look at the property and the comparable sales since there's not much risk in the loan," said Mike Evans, a real estate appraiser based in Chico, California.Most transactions today are seeing more requests for full appraisals because of upheavals in the real estate market, which has created more tension in the mortgage broker/appraiser relationship. It's a conflict that's not usually seen by the consumers who are interested only in getting the house they want with a loan they can afford. But it's one that significantly affects how the real estate business is done.
"We're always getting pressure from brokers who want a property to be appraised at a certain figure to make the deal work," said Evans.
"That's the nature of the business. If the value isn't there in a property, I'm not going to make it up. But there are brokers who give their business to some poorly trained appraisers who will hit the figures the brokers need because they need the business."