Three Questions An Appraiser Will Not Answer During The Appraisal Inspection

If you’ve ever tried to ask an appraiser any questions while they’re at your house you might agree that we can be a little tight lipped about certain things. Not that we won’t answer any questions about the appraisal process and exactly what we’re looking for during the inspection, but beyond that there are certain things we are not at privilege to discuss. Today I thought I would not only tell you three questions an appraiser will not answer, but I also want to explain to you why.

What do you think my house is worth?
During the appraisal inspection the main objective for the appraiser is to collect all the physical data about your property. I’ve written in the past about exactly what appraisers look for during the inspection so I won’t focus on that here, but I will say that this is only the beginning of the process. At this point the appraiser  has no idea what your home may be worth because we still have to research sales and perform market analysis.

It’s not that we don’t want to tell you what your home is worth but because we haven’t completed all of the analysis it wouldn’t be fair to guess. We are sometimes able to do research before we go to your home to see if there  has been any sales activity in your neighborhood but it’s really not enough to give you a value. In addition, if we are doing the appraisal for a bank or mortgage company we are also subject to appraiser-client privilege, meaning that since we were hired by the lender they are our client and they are the only one we can communicate with about the value. The best thing for you to do would be to wait until we have finished the report and submitted it to our client, then you can get the value from them.

How big is my house?
To be honest, this is not information that we can’t give to you, however it’s usually not possible to do quick calculations and provide accurate square footage on the spot unless the appraiser does their sketch on a mobile device like some do. Either way this information is included in the appraisal report after we sketch out your home using a software program that calculates square footage area. When most people ask how much square footage their home has they usually want to know what the total area is, and more specifically how much is heated and cooled.

When performing an appraisal the appraiser has to list the above grade area separately from the below grade, or basement area. Most people think that they are not getting credit for this area because of this but that is not the case. In a previous post I explained  how basement area contributes value at a different rate than above grade area so it is not a good idea to combine the two. Whenever we compare your home to others we look at them the same way so that we are comparing apples to apples and can provide you with the most accurate estimate or opinion of value.

How much are you getting paid for this appraisal?
If you hire an appraiser directly this will not even be a question you’re concerned about, however if you are getting a mortgage for a refinance or a home purchase you may find yourself in this situation. Before the introduction of Appraisal Management Companies (AMC’s) several years ago the appraisal fee was pretty straight forward, however after AMC’s got involved the fee to the homeowner has increased. This is not because the appraiser is making more money, it is however the result of the cost of the management company being added to the overall fee. In fact many AMC’s are charging more for the appraisal and paying the appraiser less, which doesn’t make sense.

Appraisers are typically not at liberty to disclose the fee to the homeowner because there could be a misunderstanding or confusion as to why they were told one fee and the appraiser quoted another fee. Just keep in mind that if you have a question about the fee it should be directed to your loan officer or other contact person that you’re working with and they can fill you in on what all the fees are for.

I hope I have shed some light on three topics that may have confused you in the past. Have I left anything out? Is there something else you may have asked your appraiser that they were not able to answer? Please leave your question or comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.

This article was originally published HERE for more articles from Tom Horn you can visit

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About Tom Horn

Tom Horn
Tom Horn provides residential appraisal services in the central Alabama area. He has over 24 years experience in the business and holds the SRA designation from the Appraisal Institute. In addition to performing appraisals for first mortgage loans and refinancing he prepares reports for other uses such as estate planning, private mortgage insurance removal (pmi), For Sale By Owner marketing, and insurance valuations. Tom is the author of, where he helps agents, mortgage lenders, attorneys and home owners learn why and how appraisers do what they do by explaining the appraisal process. He has contributed content to nationally know appraisal provider McKissock and speaks regularly at local real estate offices to help bridge the gap between appraisers and agents.

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  1. Avatar
    Annemieke Roell Hamilton

    Good info. But how many borrowers read the Appraisal Buzz?

  2. Avatar
    James Falcon Pratt

    DUMB, the AMC Fees should be a % of the Appraisers fee. Lets say the
    Appraiser charges $450 and the % for an AMC is 35%. Then the AMC fee
    would be $157.50.
    The total fee to the borrower would than be $607.50

    do I see today as an Appraiser? Well, I get asked all the time what my
    fee is by the home owner or the borrower or his agent. I tell them I
    can’t talk about my fee, even as the basic fee is $450. They tell me
    that the bank collected $975 to $1,100.

    WOW, I do all the work and I get $450

    The AMC makes some phone calls to find an appraiser and does almost nothing more and they are pulling in $525 to $650

    they cry if it takes more that 2 days on my end, even if it requires
    extra trips to look on old microfilm to look up permits and other needed

    And all this was put in place to help the system and the borrowers?

    hate to think what the owners of the mountain property I did last month
    paid for the report I completed. My fee along was $850, so what did the
    AMC add on to that one?

    And now the AMCs attempt to tell us
    WHAT VALUES TO REACH FOR THE FINAL VALUE (yup, just last month)

    We can do without the AMCs, all they do is create costs and problems that
    we don’t need in the system

  3. Avatar

    I generally tell the homeowner or realtor what my fee is when ever asked. I think it’s part of the disclosure? Right

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