Q: Why did my house’s appraisal value come in lower than that of another house sold in my neighborhood?
A: When an appraiser evaluates a house’s value, it is a subjective opinion. However, appraisers do need to follow certain rules. For example, they need to use comps sold within the last three months, within a mile of the subject property, similar in age, lot size, and square footage of living space, and in the same zip code or school district. Then they will add or subtract for the house conditions, in terms of whether the house is fully remodeled, number of bedrooms, square-footage differences, and so on.
The appraiser is not allowed to use a two-story house as comp for a one-level, single-family house. He or she can’t use a new house as a comp for a 50-year-old house. Most of my clients who have asked this question have only compared a similar floor plan with their neighbors, but didn’t factor in lot-size differences or house conditions, and therefore might wonder why they got appraisal values different from their neighbor’s sold price.
If you do feel the appraiser has made a mistake, you can initiate a rebuttal process. Typically, you need to provide two to three valid comps to the appraisal firm, and point out the mistakes or miscalculations the appraiser made.
Alicia Zhao is a mortgage consultant. Since 2002 she has successfully guided over 1,000 people toward home ownership through personal mortgage planning. She can be reached at AliciaZ@finetsaratoga.com