What Is an Appraisal?

An appraisal is a valuation of property, such as real estate, a business, collectible, or an antique, by the estimate of an authorized person. The authorized appraiser must have a designation from a regulatory body governing the jurisdiction of the appraiser. Appraisals are typically used for taxation purposes or to determine a possible selling price for an item or property.

Understanding Appraisals

Appraisals are used in many types of transactions, including real estate. If a home appraisal, for example, comes in below the amount of the purchase price, mortgage lenders are likely to decline to fund the deal. Unless the prospective buyer is willing and able to come up with the difference between the appraised value and the lender's financing offer, the transaction will not go forward.

The appraiser can use any number of valuation methods to determine the appropriate value of an item or property, including comparing the current market value of similar properties or objects.

Appraisals are also done for tax purposes when determining the value of charitable donations for itemized deductions. Deductions can reduce your taxes owed to the IRS by deducting the value of your donation from your taxable income. Appraisals can also be a helpful tool in resolving conflicts between heirs to an estate by establishing the value of the real estate or personal property to be divided.

Key Takeaways

  • An appraisal is a valuation of property, such as real estate, a business, collectible, or an antique, by the estimate of an authorized person.
  • The authorized appraiser must have a designation from a regulatory body governing the jurisdiction of the appraiser.
  • Appraisals can be done for tax purposes when valuing charitable donations as well as with insurance policies that require appraisals of goods being insured.

Home Appraisals

A home appraisal is necessary during the process of buying and selling a home as well as a refinance of an existing mortgage. A refinance is when a loan or mortgage is reevaluated and updated to current interest rates and new terms.

An appraisal determines the value of the home to ensure that the price reflects the home’s condition, age, location, and features such as the number of bathrooms. Also, appraisals help banks and lenders avoid loaning more money to the borrower than what the house is worth.

In the event of default, which is when the borrower can't make the payments anymore, the bank uses the appraisal as a valuation of the home. If the home is in foreclosure whereby the bank takes possession of the house, it must be resold to help the lender recoup any losses from making the mortgage loan. It's important to remember that when a bank lends for a mortgage, it gives the full amount of the home's value to the seller on the date it's sold. In other words, the bank is out the money and in return, has a promise to pay, plus interest, from the borrower. As a result, the appraisal is important to the lending process since it helps the bank avoid losses and protect itself against lending more than it might be able to recover if the borrower defaults.

Appraisals of Collectibles or Antiques

Professional appraisals can be done for many items, including collectibles, antiques, or grandma's silver. Ideally, you'll want multiple valuations for an item from an accredited professional. Appraisers might charge an hourly rate of a flat fee

A certified appraiser's valuation will likely be fair and unbiased, whereas the local collectible shop has an incentive to offer you less for the item. Also, owners can get an idea of an item's value by checking collectible magazines and online appraisal websites. Most websites charge a small fee, such as $10, to value an item. Of course, obtaining a value online is done through photos of the item and is not an official appraisal, but it should give you an idea of what it's worth before proceeding. If you decide to pursue an appraisal, the American Society of Appraisers has thousands of members and is a great place to begin searching for an accredited professional.

Appraisals and Insurance

Some types of insurance policies also require appraisals of goods being insured. Homeowners and renters insurance policies protect policyholders against the loss of personal property due to theft or damage. These blanket policies cover items up to a preset dollar limit. Obtaining an appraisal of the contents of a home creates an inventory of the owner's property and establishes its value, which helps to ensure a swift settlement if a claim is filed.

When the value of specific items exceeds a homeowners policy limit, the policyholder may wish to obtain additional insurance that covers luxury items such as jewelry or collectibles, including art objects, and antiques. Prior to issuing personal property insurance policies for high-end items, many insurance underwriters require applicants to have the object appraised. The appraisal creates a record of the item's existence, along with its description. It also helps establish the item's actual value.

Some insurance contracts include an appraisal clause that specifies the owner agree to obtain an appraisal from a mutually agreeable expert in the event of a dispute between the owner and the insurance company. Neutral appraisals can speed resolution of a settlement and keep disputes from escalating into lengthy and expensive lawsuits.