Using an appraiser essential to finding true worth of your home

By Geoff Kirbyson

If you absolutely, positively need the most accurate estimate of what your house is worth, bring in an appraiser.

“Appraisers are different from REALTORS® because they’ve attained the appropriate certification and designation to place an unbiased value on a home plus they have no interest in vying to list the home,” said Catherine Schellenberg, REALTOR®  and president-elect of WinnipegREALTORS®.

Appraisers are often brought in by a home buyer’s bank so it can approve the financing conditions and ensure that its client isn’t overpaying for the biggest purchase of their life.

(It’s not unheard of for a would-be buyer to get emotional in a bidding war and offer more than their bank will let them.)

Appraisers take a large number of factors into account when making their calculations, including the basics such as the square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, whether the basement is finished and if the garage is attached to the house.

They’ll also examine what kind of work needs to be done in order to maximize the value and itemize them. That could include fixing cracks in the walls or foundation, adding in a bathroom, updating the kitchen or installing paneling and carpet in the basement.

“They’ll pull (the value) down where the home is weak but also push it up where it’s strong,” she said.

Appraisals aren’t overly expensive — a common bill is between $250 and $500, depending on the size of the property — but you’ve got to ensure you make an appointment to let them tour your house and property. Some appraisers focus on commercial properties, so be sure the appraiser you hire specializes in private residences.

If you’re not selling your house through a REALTOR®, using an appraiser can be crucial. The last thing you want if you’re selling to a family member is to be accused of scamming the estate of a loved one.

Appraisals are often needed when homeowners want to refinance their property and pull out some equity or in the case of a marriage breakdown and one spouse needs to buy out the other.

Appraisers aren’t lone wolves as they do rely on the MLS® price history of homes and REALTORS®’ knowledge of what upgrades have been done on properties in particular neighbourhoods and what impact they’ve had on their appraised values.

But doing the work isn’t necessarily a slam dunk, she said.

“Sometimes I tell them ‘keep the money in the bank unless you feel somebody else is going to love what you do,’” she said.

“If the (renovation) work is so overwhelming that they’d have to spend $100,000 to attract a lot of attention (then they shouldn’t do it). But remember there’s a buyer for every property. If your house needs work but some people are looking for a place that’s move-in ready, they’re not the buyer. Maybe the buyer is somebody who is a flipper. Sometimes it takes awhile to push (the buyer) out of the weeds.”