Real Property Appraisals: A Primer

One's home purchase is the biggest investment many might ever make. It doesn't matter if it's where you raise your family, a seasonal vacation property or one of many rentals, purchasing real property is a complex financial transaction that requires multiple people working in concert to see it through.

To learn more about appraising, click here to see a short video or call us today to talk about your specific property.


Practically all the people involved are quite familiar. The most familiar entity in the transaction is the real estate agent. Then, the lender provides the money required to bankroll the deal. The title company ensures that all areas of the exchange are completed and that the title is clear to pass to the buyer from the seller.

So who's responsible for making sure the property is consistent with the amount being paid?   In comes the appraiser.   We provide an unbiased estimate of what a buyer could expect to pay - or a seller receive - for a property, where both buyer and seller are informed parties. A professional Virginia licensed appraiser from Christopher C. Call will ensure you as an interested party are informed.

The inspection is where an appraisal begins

To determine an accurate status of the property, it's our responsibility to first complete a thorough inspection. We must see aspects of the property hands on, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the location, living areas, etc., to ensure they really are present and are in the condition a reasonable buyer would expect them to be. To ensure the stated size of the property is accurate and describe the layout of the property, the inspection often includes creating a sketch of the floor plan. Most importantly, we identify any obvious features - or defects - that would affect the value of the house.

Back at the office, we use two or three approaches when determining the value of the property: sales comparison and, in the case of a rental property, an income approach.

Replacement Cost

This is where the appraiser analyzes information on local building costs, labor rates and other elements to figure out how much it would cost to build a property comparable to the one being appraised. This estimate usually sets the upper limit on what a property would sell for. It's also the least used method.

Analyzing Comparable Sales

Appraisers get to know the neighborhoods in which they appraise. We thoroughly understand the value of specific features to the homeowners of that area. Then, the appraiser looks up recent sales in close proximity to the subject and finds properties which are 'comparable' to the real estate at hand. Using knowledge of the value of certain items such as fireplaces, room layout, appliance upgrades, additional bathrooms or bedrooms, or quality of construction, we adjust the comparable properties so that they are more accurately in line with the features of subject property.

  • For example, if the comparable has a storm shelter and the subject does not, the appraiser may deduct the value of a storm shelter from the sales price of the comparable home.
  • However, if the subject property has an extra half-bathroom and the comparable does not, the appraiser might add an amount to the comparable property.
Once all necessary adjustments have been made, the appraiser reconciles the adjusted sales prices of all the comps and then derives an opinion of what the subject could sell for. The sales comparison approach to value is usually given the most consideration when an appraisal is for a real estate exchange.

Valuation Using the Income Approach

In the case of income producing properties - rental houses for example - we may use a third way of valuing real estate. In this scenario, the amount of income the property produces is taken into consideration along with other rents in the area for comparable properties to give an indicator of the current value.

Putting It All Together

Combining information from all approaches, the appraiser is then ready to state an estimated market value for the property in question. Note: While the appraised value is probably the best indication of what a house would sell for in an open market, it may not be the price at which the property closes. Depending on the specific circumstances of the buyer or seller, their level of urgency or a buyer's desire for that exact property, the closing price of a home can always be driven up or down. But the appraised value is often employed as a guideline for lenders who don't want to loan a buyer more money than they could get back in case they had to sell the property again. Here's what it all boils down to: An appraiser from Christopher C. Call will guarantee you attain the most fair and balanced property value, so you can make the most informed real estate decisions.