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Know Your Rights to Receive
A Fair & Unbiased Home Appraisal

Real estate is tangible and includes both land and improvements, which exist independently, regardless of any desire for possession. Property rights in real estate are normally appraised at market value.

 

A general definition of market value is the most probable price the property would bring if freely offered on the open market with both a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Get informed, then take action.

If you believe you may have received an inaccurate appraisal, there are several things you can do to increase the appraised value of your property.

 

1. Learn what appraisers take into consideration. Appraisers generally use one or some combination of three approaches to determine home value. Each gives a separate indication of the value and are as follows:

  1. Sales Comparison (or Market Data) Approach

  2. Cost Approach

  3. Income Approach.

The appraiser cannot allow the general neighborhood composite of ethnic, religious, or minority populations to detract from a clear and objective evaluation of the property appraised on its own merits.

Appraisers take many factors into account when assessing a home. They include the following:

  • the sales prices of similar recently sold properties in close proximity to the subject property
    in the last six months or less.

  • the average time it takes for homes to sell in the general neighborhood

  • the price and value trends of homes in the neighborhood. Are values trending upward or downward?

  • the supply and demand of homes at the present time. Is there a shortage or glut of homes?

  • the overall condition and construction quality of the home

  • the square footage and gross living area of the home

  • key traits, such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and any distinct features

  • for older homes, major home improvements that have been made since the date of purchase

  • whether the home has features that are functionally obsolete

  • the lot size relative to other homes in the neighborhood or properties in the general area

  • the zoning of the property

  • the uniqueness of the home and whether it has a high likelihood of limiting buyer interest in the home

2. Request and review a copy of your appraisal to verify its accuracy. Two common home appraisal errors are the use of the wrong homes as comparables, more commonly referred to as, "comps" and misreporting the specifications of the home, such as its square footage, number of bedrooms and other key details. 

  • Take a look at the homes that were used as comparables. Real estate values are relative, so the appraiser has to compare your home to similar properties to decide the current market value. If the appraiser omitted homes that are more comparable to the specs and condition of your home, you should notify the bank of the error. This can significantly increase the appraised value of your home.

 

  • Ensure the specs of your home are accurate and that the comps that best match your home were used. Factors related to the recorded specs and comps may include the following:

    • its age - the year built

    • square footage (interior)

    • home type - i.e. single-family home, townhome, condominium, etc.

    • amenities - outdoor living space, gate, number of garage doors and more

    • condition - both structurally as well as the age and condition of your roof, HVAC, floors and more

    • location - its location within a community relative to neighboring homes, proximity to public transportation, etc.

    • lot size

    • school district

 

3. Work with a realtor who has successfully sold homes in your area at fair prices. Your realtor should serve as your advocate. Their professional experience should help to ensure your home is prepared and presented so that the list price is both reflective of current market demands and area comps. Have your agent run a comparative analysis and have them provide you with a printout and electronic copy of comparables with their Brokers Price Opinion (BPO).  In addition, if you have attempted to increase the value of your home by paying for upgrades like granite countertops, new cabinets, kitchen and bathroom renovations, finished basement or adding hardwood floors make a list of these repairs. 

 

4. Request that the financial institution assign an appraiser who has demonstrated familiarity with the area where the home to be appraised is located. In real estate, it is very common for buyers to place a higher value on one neighborhood vs. another in the same city or town. If an appraiser is not from the area from which they appraise, they might not understand the unique variables that make neighborhoods appealing.

5. Know the value of your home before an appraisal is ordered. Work with a real estate agent using the Multiple Listing Service. Prepare a record of all updates made to your home and include the dates in which repairs were made, as well as the cost. In the event you need to appeal an appraisal, you can cross-reference your notations to that of the appraisal. If the appraiser omitted key features, your document can help to make your case and thereby increase your appraisal value.

Common mistakes made by appraisers may include the following:

  • taking shortcuts, such as simply driving past the house rather than entering the home to create a detailed report

  • using outdated comps rather than searching for more relevant options, even if that requires expanding the radius

  • not accounting for recent home improvements

  • clerical errors

  • lack of familiarity with the area to make relevant location adjustments that are often appealing to buyers

6. Petition the appraisal for a reassessment. Contact the appraiser and voice your concern that the appraisal came in lower than you anticipated. Send an email to the appraisal and a courtesy copy to the lender that ordered the appraisal. Here is a sample email that you can send:

 

Good Day Mr/Ms. Appraiser,

I am writing in response to the appraisal you completed on my home, located at [INSERT YOUR ADDRESS].

I believe you undervalued my/our home and have attached materials that may help to clarify the actual value
of my/our home based on recent area comps and the specifications of my/our home.

 

To help rectify this issue, attached are the following:

  • An independent Market Analysis (CMA) completed by a reputable real estate agent that is familiar
    with this area

  • A list of upgrades completed that the appraisal did not take into consideration

  • The CMA average price per sq ft in the subject community

 

I request that you reaccess the value of my/our home and look forward to receiving your response soon.

Sincerely,

[INSERT YOUR FIRST AND LAST NAME]

Ryan Lundquist, an appraiser in Sacramento California, has a great template letter you can use when disputing an appraisal. Take a look at the link to see how to write a professional letter going through each comp and challenging potential adjustments that were made for each of the comparable sales.

If the appraiser refuses to amend the appraisal, request that their rationale be detailed in writing. Keep the appraiser's response as a matter of record.

7. Request another appraisal. If you believe your appraisal does not accurately reflect the value of your home, and you can submit data that supports your claim, you can contact your lending institution to request another appraisal.

What to do if you believe your property appraised under market value:

  • You have options that can allow you to proceed with a sale or purchase, but there are
    a few important things to keep in mind.

 

With a home sale:

  • the seller can reduce the sale price of the home to the appraised value

  • the buyer can cover the difference so that the property has a better loan-to-value ratio

  • a combination of the two, where the seller drops the price and the buyer comes up
    with the additional down payment

  • the buyer secures a second mortgage to cover the difference between the sale price
    and appraised value

With a refinance to secure a home equity loan, the homeowner is capped based on the lender's appraised value matched with their cash-out percentage criteria.

  • You have the right to inquire about or file a formal complaint.

​The US Department of Housing & Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) offers resources in multiple languages to assist individuals who believe their rights may have been violated.

FHEO investigates complaints related to one or both of the following:

  • Discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (including housing that is privately owned and operated)

  • Discrimination and other civil rights violations in housing and community development programs, including those funded by HUD

 

For more information or to submit a complaint, visit the FHEO website.