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Bass, Houston & Associates, Inc. has answers to "Frequently Asked Questions"

Bass, Houston & Associates, Inc. is prepared to elaborate on any questions you might have about appraisals in Marietta and Cobb County. Feel free to contact us today.

Define the term "Appraisal"
Describe what an appraiser does
Why would a person request services from Bass, Houston & Associates, Inc.?
How is an appraiser different than a home inspector?
Is an appraisal the same as a comparative market analysis(CMA)?
What can I expect to see in my appraisal report?
After completing the appraisal, what assurance is there that the value indicated is accurate?
What are the requirements to be a certified appraiser?
Who engages the services of appraisers?
Where does an appraiser get the data used to estimate values in Cobb County or other areas?
Why do I need a professional appraisal?
My mortgage statement has an item on it for PMI? Can I get rid of that?
How do I get ready for the appraiser?
What is "Market Value?"
Once complete, who actually owns the appraisal report?
Which home renovations add the most to the price?



Define the term "Appraisal"   (Back to top)

An appraisal report is a thought process that concludes with an opinion of value. There are three "common approaches to value" which assists the real estate appraiser arrive at this opinion or valuation. One of the processes in use is the Cost Approach, which evaluates what it would cost to replace the improvements to the home, minus age and physical deterioration, adding the land value. The Sales Comparison Approach deals with finding similar homes in close proximity and discovering the value based on comparing those properties to the property being investigated. The Sales Comparison Approach is commonly the most accurate and best indicator of a liklely sales price for a residence. One of the least common approaches in appraising houses is the Income Approach, which is mainly used to find the market value of a property based on what an investor would pay based on the income produced by the building.

Describe what an appraiser does   (Back to top)

An appraiser offers a fair and credible opinion of market value, often in the context of a real estate exchange. Appraisers show their expert findings in appraisal reports.


Why would a person request services from Bass, Houston & Associates, Inc.?   (Back to top)

There are many reasons to get an appraisal with the usual reason being real estate and mortgage transactions. A few other reasons for ordering an appraisal report include:
  • If you are applying for a loan.
  • To reduce your tax burden.
  • To help a homeowner realize if they owe less than 80% of their home's value and remove PMI.
  • To challenge improperly assessed property taxes.
  • To settle an estate.
  • To provide you a leg-up when purchasing a home.
  • To find an honest property value when putting your home on the market.
  • To ensure parties are provided just compensation in eminient domain cases.
  • Because a government agency such as the IRS requires it.
  • If you ever find yourself in a civil case.
If you need more information regarding the appraisal process, please click here.


How is an appraiser different than a home inspector?   (Back to top)

Appraisers do not do complete home inspections and are not home inspectors. A third-party home inspector will inspect the structure of the property, from the top to the bottom. For the most part, a home inspection report will discuss the amenities and the requirements of the house: air conditioning (weather permitting), electrical functions, the condition of the heating system, the plumbing; then the structural capacity of the home such as the attic, exposed insulation, walls, floors, ceilings, windows, then the foundation, basement and other visible structures.

Is an appraisal the same as a comparative market analysis(CMA)?   (Back to top)

Frankly, it's like comparing sugar and saccharin. What the CMA relies upon are vague trends. An appraisal relies on comparable sales that can be validated by public record. Also, the appraisal verifies other factors like condition, neighborhood and building costs. The CMA will provide a non-specific figure. Being a documented and carefully investigated opinion of value, appraisals are defensible and stand up in legal situations.

The credentials of the person creating the report is hands down the most significant difference between a CMA and an appraisal. Real estate agents, who may not have a true grasp of valuation methods or the entire market, write CMA's. The appraisal is produce by a licensed, certified professional who makes a living out of valuing properties. Likewise, the agent has something at stake since they get a commission based on the property's selling price - their commission - whereas the appraiser is bound by a code of ethics to collect only a flat fee for work they perform, regardless of their outcome.

What can I expect to see in my appraisal report?   (Back to top)

The main objective of an appraisal document is to let the reader know the value of the real estate in question, and depending on the scope of the report, you'll usually see the following:
  • The client and whose purposes the appraisal is to serve.
  • How the appraisal is supposed to be used.
  • The reason for the appraisal.
  • The type of value reported and a definition of the value reported.
  • The effective date of the appraisal.(Sometimes this is in the past or maybe the future for new construction!)
  • Characteristics of the property that have a bearing on the value, including: location, physical description, legal attributes, economic attributes, the property rights in question, and non-real estate items included in the appraisal, such as personal property, items that are more or less permanently installed and even intangible considerations.
  • Any known easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases, reservations, covenants, contracts, declarations, special assessments, ordinances, and other items of a similar nature.
  • Division of interest, such as fractional interest, physical segment and partial holding.
  • What was included in the process of completing the appraisal.
For a more comprehensive view of the work that goes into an appraisal report click here: Sample Appraisal Report


After completing the appraisal, what assurance is there that the value indicated is accurate?   (Back to top)

In the documentation of an appraisal, each appraiser must ensure the following:
  • That the information analysis contained in the appraisal was appropriate.

  • That crucial errors of omission or commission were not committed individually or collectively.

  • That appraisal services were not rendered in a careless or negligent fashion.

  • The final appraisal report was understandable, legitimate and not easily discredited.
There are intense classroom and practical experience requirements that must be met in order to get an appraisal license in Georgia. Likewise, appraisers must abide by a stringent industry code of ethics and observe national standards of practice for real estate appraisal. The guidelines for working up an appraisal and documenting its results are guaranteed by enforcement of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


   (Back to top) Licensing and certification takes coursework, tests and practical experience. Once an appraiser is licensed, he/she is required to engage in continuing education courses so the license remains up to date. To see the specific requirements for any state click here.

Who engages the services of appraisers?   (Back to top)

Typically, appraisers are called upon by lenders to render a value opinion on a home involved in a loan transaction - to make sure the subject is indeed adequate collateral for the loan. Appraisers also provide opinions for legal settlements, tax matters and investment decisions.

Where does an appraiser get the data used to estimate values in Cobb County or other areas?   (Back to top)

Gathering data is one of the primary things an appraiser performs. Data can be divided into Specific or General. Specific data is from the home itself; Location, condition, amenities, size and other specific data are noted by the appraiser during an inspection.

General data is received from a many places. Local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) have data on recently sold homes that could be used as comparables. Tax records and other public documents reveal actual sales prices in a market. Appraisers often need to report when a property lies in a flood zone, and that information is retrieved from a FEMA data outlet such as a la mode's InterFlood service.

And most importantly, the appraiser gathers general data from his or her past experience in creating appraisals for other houses in the same market.


Why do I need a professional appraisal?   (Back to top)

If you're involved in some sort of financial decision and the value of your home is relevant, you'll want a full appraisal. For those selling a home, you'll want to figure out the price that gets you the most profit but also ensures you don't have to wait too long for a buyer to show up; an appraisal can help with that. If you're buying, it makes sure you don't overpay. If you're engaged in an estate settlement or divorce, it ensures that property is divided fairly. A house is often the single, largest financial asset anybody owns. Without knowing its real value, wise financial decisions are impossible.


My mortgage statement has an item on it for PMI? Can I get rid of that?   (Back to top)

PMI is the common abbreviation for for Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI takes care of the lender in case a borrower defaults on the loan and the value of the home is less than what is owed on the loan. You can have your PMI dropped once you've achieved 20% equity in your home through appreciation and principal payments.

Does your monthly loan payment have a lineitem for PMI?Call Bass, Houston & Associates, Inc. today at (678)354-8363 or send us an e-mail. A new appraisal could save you thousands.

How do I get ready for the appraiser?   (Back to top)

The first step in most appraisals is the home inspection. What this entails is the appraiser, after setting up an appointment, personally going through the home - recording the layout of the rooms, taking photos and documenting the general status of its features. On the home's interior, make sure it is clutter free and that we can find our way to things like furnaces and water heaters. On the outside, trim any bushes so we can be free to get an accurate measurement of exterior walls.

The following items, if available, will help your appraiser to provide a more accurate appraisal in a shorter period of time:
  • Information on the latest purchase of the property in the last three years.
  • Written property agreements, such as a maintenance easement for a shared driveway.
  • Title policy that lists encroachments or easements.
  • Brag sheet that lists major home improvements and upgrades, the amount of their purchase and date of their installation (for example, the addition of Insulation or roof repairs) and permit confirmation (if available).
  • Any "Homeowners Associations" agreements or, if applicable, condo covenants or fees .

What is "Market Value?"   (Back to top)

In real estate appraising, Market Value (as opposed to Fair Market Value) is commonly defined as:

"The most probable price (in terms of money) which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: the buyer and seller are typically motivated; both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their best interests; a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; payment is made in terms of cash in United States dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale."



Once complete, who actually owns the appraisal report?   (Back to top)

In most real estate transactions, the appraisal is ordered by the lender. While the buyer pays for the report as part of the closing costs, the lender retains the right to use the report or any information contained within. The buyer is certainly entitled to a copy of the report - it's usually bundled with all the other closing documents - but is not entitled to use the report for any other purpose without permission from the lender.

The exception to this rule is when a home owner engages an appraiser directly. In these situations, the appraiser may define how the appraisal can be used; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not noted otherwise, the home owner can use the appraisal for any purpose.


Which home renovations add the most to the price?   (Back to top)

A home's location - what city it is in and even what part of that city - is key to this popular question. For example, putting in an inline humidifier could be nice in arid regions, but completely useless near the coast!

As a rule, the best ROI from renovating a home comes in the kitchen. According to one national survey, kitchen remodels returned an average of 88% of the investment. In other words, a $10,000 kitchen remodeling project would add approximately $8,800 to the value of the home. Bathrooms were second, returning 85%. On the contrary, an improvement that may not add value would be painting just for the sake of redecorating.