real estate appraiser will give the property a “walk-through” (a complete visual inspection of the property) and take photos of the interior and exterior, including a street view and a sketch of the outside of the building. They’ll make note of any aspects that would contribute to the market value, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and amenities.

Once the walk-through is completed, the appraiser gathers data about current market trends, the neighborhood, and recent sales of comparable homes in the area (called “comps”) to compile an analysis and estimation of the property’s worth. Their appraisal inspection report will include:

  • An appraised value of the property
  • A sketch of the exterior of the building
  • Photos of the front, back, and street in front of the house
  • An explanation of how the square footage of the home was calculated
  • A street map showing the appraised property and comparable sales in the area
  • Photos of the exteriors of any comparable properties used in the analysis
  • Any other relevant information such as public tax records, land records, and market data

Like a home inspector, the appraiser might also look for any conditions that need repair; however, they’re there to get the big picture of the house’s general condition as a factor in estimating the property’s worth. They’re not going to perform an in-depth inspection like an inspector would.

If something doesn’t appear to be wrong with the HVAC system, for instance, the appraiser will assume it’s working as it’s supposed to. On the other hand, an inspector would turn the heating and air conditioning on and do a series of checks to be sure there are no problems.

How do you find an appraiser and how much does an appraisal cost?

Unlike home inspectors, all 50 states require an appraiser to be certified. You can check the federal database for the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) to find a registered appraiser who’s knowledgeable about your area.

Home appraisals for average, single-family homes typically cost $300-450, though a larger house or a more expensive location can raise the price into the $500-800 range.

Some exceptions: FHA and VA appraisals

If you’re getting an FHA loan or VA loan, you’ll be required to get an appraisal from a HUD-certified or VA appraiser.

An FHA appraisal is different from a standard appraisal in that they’re not only determining the market value of the property, but also doing a “health and safety” inspection to make sure the home meets HUD’s minimum safety standards. If the home doesn’t meet these standards, the transaction can’t go forward.

Similarly, a VA loan requires the buyer to get a VA appraisal to make sure the home is worth the agreed-upon price in the sales contract. A VA appraiser will also make sure the property meets the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements for safety and structural soundness.

One word of caution: these “health and safety” inspections aren’t a complete home inspection. In fact, HUD encourages buyers to get an independent home inspection – but unlike the appraisal, a full inspection isn’t required for an FHA loan to be approved.