When valuing your home, don’t simply rely on a few houses that recently sold in the neighborhood. Just because Fred sold his place across the street for $450,000 (or because Trulia/Zillow estimated your value to be $435,000) doesn’t mean your home is worth the same.
Fred’s house is not a good sales comparable if he has:
Without doing your homework, you may be unable to sell your home for the price you want – or your loan entitlement could be much less on a cash-out refinance or reverse mortgage.
The lender will require an appraisal prior to closing – unless an appraisal inspection waiver is granted (such as when you may have substantial equity in your house).
In a conventional or government purchase mortgage, you can get pre-approved by a lender before getting an appraisal (so you shouldn’t spend $485 on an appraisal until you see the loan closing conditions). Whereas in a reverse mortgage, you generally cannot get pre-approved without the appraisal (so make sure your home value estimate is accurate before paying for the appraisal – otherwise you may be disappointed when your approved loan amount is far less than you had expected).
Analogous to lawyers being trained not to ask a question without knowing the answer, you, as a borrower, should be confident in your home valuation before paying for an appraisal.
Here’s the Point:
Before you refinance, don’t waste your money on an appraisal until you have done your own homework on value.
I think it’s time we cut them some slack. No doubt there are instances where the appraiser completely missed the boat – when values were quickly overturned either after correcting errors or reflecting missed facts. I hear countless stories where the FHA appraiser was “too picky” regarding some of the reported observations on the condition of the property.
Lately, I have had several borrower prospects complain about their realtor or mortgage broker not recommending a property inspection. “I bought the house and had no idea there was a roof leak.” “You should have seen the termites in the attic right after we closed the deal.”
Let me tell you something: Engaging a property inspector is entirely up to the borrower/buyer – caveat emptor. Sure, there are times when it is obvious – and therefore when it is incumbent upon the industry professionals to strongly suggest an inspection by a licensed contractor. But if you purchase a property, it is your fault if you elect to forego the inspection and later find serious problems.
One appraiser recently conditioned his report on the receipt of an inspection report – to address what appeared to be some insignificant siding damage. The lender refused to close and fund the loan until a professional contractor confirmed in writing that the damage was cosmetic. It was a great call by the appraiser, because it turned out there was over $15,000 of structural damage from dry rot. That “picky” appraiser saved my clients from committing to a serious money pit.