A property appraiser is a type of professional who works in the real estate industry and whose job it is to determine the value of a particular parcel of property. The main job of a property appraiser is to provide an appraisal for a certain piece of property. 

An appraisal is a process whereby the property appraiser sets the value of the property using the current fair market value, along with a few other factors. While the appraisal process is most often used in connection with a specific form of real property, such as a home, apartment, or other type of dwelling place, it can also include items of personal property like jewelry, fine arts, or antiques.

An appraisal is generally recommended for when a person purchases a new home. This is to ensure that the house is valued appropriately and that the buyer is not being overcharged for the purchase. However, an appraiser may also be hired if the value of the property is in dispute or if it cannot be easily calculated. Additionally, an appraiser can be specially appointed by a court if a judge deems it necessary. 

Regardless of the reason an appraiser is being hired, a homebuyer can find an appraiser by searching for appraiser solo practices or revaluation firms. The appraiser will be required to render a neutral, unbiased opinion concerning the prices of the property. An appraiser must not violate this standard since they must abide by a set of ethical and licensing principles. Thus, an appraiser can lose their license if they do not conduct an appraisal accordingly.

Lastly, once the appraisal process is complete, the appraiser will draw up a detailed, written report of their findings that will include the final valuation of the property that is being appraised. The report can also be used to clarify whether the value of the appraised property has increased or decreased over time. 

What Is the Difference Between an Appraiser and an Assessor?

As previously discussed, an appraiser almost always exclusively focuses on determining the value of a single parcel of real property at one time. Appraisers also usually tend to have their own clients and are often hired by private individuals who are attempting to ascertain an accurate valuation of the property in question.

On the other hand, an assessor is hired when a person or an entity needs to figure out the value of multiple plots of real property, such as an entire neighborhood community or for numerous buildings in a specific commercial zone. Thus, assessors are typically hired by a federal, state, or local government agency rather than by private individuals. A government agency may hire an assessor for a number of reasons, including:

  • For zoning purposes;
  • To devise or plan out a development scheme for a particular area; and/or
  • To maintain records of economic and other statistical data.

Accordingly, if the value of a single home is in question, then a prospective homebuyer will normally need to consult an appraiser, not an assessor. In contrast, if a government agency wants help calculating the value of real property in a commercial zone, then it will consult with an assessor, not an appraiser.

When Is It Necessary to Hire an Appraiser?

As mentioned above, it is generally recommended that a homebuyer hire an appraiser before signing an agreement to purchase a house. However, there are also other situations in which it may be necessary to hire an appraiser. Some common examples of when it may be necessary for a person or entity to hire an appraiser include the following:

  • If there is a dispute over the final valuation of the property or if the monetary value of the property is difficult to calculate;
  • If a person wants to either help prevent fraudulent activities or abuses from occurring in connection with the property (e.g., overpricing);
  • If the disputing parties cannot agree on a private appraiser and must use one that is appointed by the court;  
  • If a property appraisal needs to be performed for property being distributed in accordance with a will or trust; and/or
  • If a valuation is needed for personal property or non-physical assets, such as loan amounts, jewelry, antiques, investments, or property taxes. 

What Should I Do Before I Decide to Hire an Appraiser?

The first step that a person or entity who is interested in hiring an appraiser should take is to check out the appraiser’s professional background and credentials to make sure that they hold a valid appraiser license and are properly qualified. 

It is also important to confirm that they are not doing work for any other parties, such as a real estate broker or agent who is associated with the property being appraised. When a person fails to do their due diligence or conduct a background check, it allows these types of professionals to accomplish real estate scams. 

For instance, if an appraiser and a real estate agent are working together, both will be privy to the real estate scheme that either one or both of them devised. This will make it easier for them to artificially increase the price of real property without any other parties (aside from the buyer) asking them probing questions. 

While this type of real estate scam does not happen too often, it occurs regularly enough that a person should be cautious when hiring an appraiser to assess the value of real property.

A person should also document details about a particular piece of property before an appraiser even arrives or starts the appraisal process.

For example, if a homebuyer needs a home appraised to get a solid valuation before purchasing it, then they may want to take pictures of the home and/or make copies of all relevant documents (e.g., the title, deed, etc.). The information a person collects about the property can be useful in the event that a future dispute arises.

In addition, it should be noted that in some cases an insurance or loan company will send out their own appraiser. If a person refuses to work with the appraiser that an insurance or loan company sends out, then they might be denied a home loan because there are no specific laws that guarantee which party’s appraiser must be hired.

Also, while a person is free to still hire their own private appraiser, the loan company will most likely use the figures provided by the appraiser that the loan company hired. 

If the person has a serious issue with the valuation provided, then they may petition the court for an injunction or request that a judge appoint a separate appraiser. This type of legal action is known as filing a “Motion to Appoint Appraiser”, which will usually involve a brief hearing. An individual should consider consulting a lawyer prior to the hearing. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Appraisal Matters?

Disputes concerning property valuations are extremely delicate matters. They should be approached with caution. An individual would do well to educate themselves about the law surrounding these issues as well as have a solid understanding of the facts and conditions of their particular situation.

Therefore, if you believe there is an issue with the appraisal process or the final valuation of a home, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local property lawyer for further assistance with your matter. An experienced property lawyer will be able to advise you on the next steps you should take. Your lawyer can also inform you of your rights and protections under the law when it comes to guarding your property interests.

Additionally, should you need to attend a motion to appoint an appraiser hearing, your lawyer can assist you with it by providing guidance and legal representation.