The real estate market involves hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars trading hands. With so much money on the line, both parties have to agree on the approximate or estimated value of a property. That means at least one home appraisal from an unbiased third party.
While home appraisals are important parts of any real estate transaction, you need to know how long a home appraisal takes so you can understand your timeline thoroughly and plan accordingly. Read to learn how long to plan for a home appraisal and more.
What Is a Home Appraisal?
Put simply, a home appraisal is a comprehensive analysis and estimate of a property's value performed by a licensed and unbiased professional. Generally, home appraisals are performed for any real estate transaction involving a single-family home or other residential property. Home appraisals may also be performed when home loans are refinanced by property owners.
Home appraisals are conducted by licensed, trained home appraisers. Think of home appraisals as real estate value estimation tools that ensure home buyers and home sellers have a fair deal and walk away satisfied with the transaction.
Home appraisals are not the same things as home inspections. While also important parts of the home buying process, inspections look for problems with a home that may impact its purchase price, livability, etc.
Why Does a Home Appraisal Matter?
A home appraisal matters to both a homebuyer and a home seller. To a homebuyer, a home appraisal is important to make sure that you don't pay too much money for a given property (and to catch potential elements that may be overpriced).
Similarly, a home appraisal is important for a home seller since it ensures that you list or sell your property for a competitive, market-appropriate price.
Home appraisals are even important for other parties, like home lenders or mortgages when underwriting a loan or refinancing a loan. A home appraisal will determine the current market value of the property and that determines the loan amount your lender will approve you for.
Who Coordinates a Home Appraisal?
Home appraisals are conducted by trained home appraisers who have local or state licenses to perform these services. Home appraisals are normally ordered by a lender providing a mortgage loan to a prospective homeowner. Home appraisers are then hired by contacting a third-party company.
Once a home appraiser is hired, they can no longer be contacted by the mortgage lender, the potential home buyer, or any other party to prevent interference. The home appraisal company decides when the appraisal will occur and when the home appraisal report — containing the detailed breakdown of what the home appraiser found — will become available to all interested parties.
Does the Homeowner Need To Be Home During an Appraisal?
No. However, homeowners hoping to ensure their home is valued correctly may wish to be home during an appraisal so they can point out details or property elements that an appraiser may miss.
That said, homeowners cannot discuss value directly with a home appraiser, as this may be construed as interfering with the appraisal process. Still, a property’s homeowner does not need to be present during an appraisal whatsoever. The mortgage lender behind the property should provide the appraiser with keys or other tools necessary to enter and examine the property in its entirety.
What Happens During a Home Appraisal?
Most typical home appraisals include three primary parts. The point of a home appraisal, remember, is a comprehensive and thorough analysis of a property’s fair market value, which includes not just the home’s physical elements but also the broader real estate market and the neighborhood or area around the home.
Physical Inspection of the Home
Home appraisals first include a detailed physical inspection of the home in question. During a home appraisal, the appraiser will walk the property inside and out and take note of things like:
The age of the house
The home’s layout (in terms of square footage) and modernity — for example, a home with four bedrooms is usually worth more than a home in the same area with only three bedrooms
The home’s aesthetic
Any neat features or upgrades of the home, such as energy-efficient appliances, new windows, etc.
Anything else that may contribute to the home’s value
The physical inspection of the home will take anywhere between an hour and a few hours. If the home in question has a lot of outdoor space or acreage, the home appraiser may also analyze these grounds to determine how they contribute to the property’s value.
Comparable Sales Selection
A home appraisal doesn’t just focus on the physical value of a home. It also looks at what similar properties in the area have sold for recently.
Analyzing so-called “comps” or comparable properties make up another important part of a standard home appraisal. In the comparable sales section, the home appraiser will look at what similar homes have sold for in the past, generally over the last month or two.
For instance, if a home next door to a given property sold for $450,000 in the last month, this will impact the estimated or expected value for the appraised home as well. Home appraisers look at a lot of factors when determining comps, such as:
Number of bedrooms
Home style similarity
Home location and amenity access
If a home is relatively isolated, or if there aren’t many good comps, the appraised value could be less accurate than if a home has many similar, recently sold properties nearby.
Evaluation of Home Data
Lastly, a home appraiser will evaluate the overall home or real estate market data for the local area. For instance, if the local real estate market is hot and there are many homes being sold for rising prices, the appraised home will likely benefit from a higher valuation as well (due to perceived homebuyer demand or home scarcity).
The reverse is also possible. In a buyer’s market, where there are plenty of homes to sell and sales have decreased, an appraiser may value a real estate property as lower than it would otherwise.
Put together, these three steps allow home appraisers to create roughly accurate analyses of residential real estate properties, enabling homebuyers and sellers to ensure they barter over fair prices.
How Long Does the Appraisal Take?
From start to finish, a home appraisal will take between one to two weeks on average, although some home appraisals may take closer to a month, depending on certain factors. Home appraisal timelines are usually dictated by a few distinct phases.
First, the mortgage lender or homeowner has to schedule an appraisal. This can take anywhere between two and 14 days, depending on the specifics of the housing market and how busy the appraisal company is. Remember, lenders have to contact licensed third-party companies and cannot have one of their own agents come out to do the appraisal.
Next, the physical appraiser inspection date occurs. On the date of the home appraisal, the appraiser makes a physical visit to the home in question, looks around, and takes note of anything of importance. Depending on the size of the property and the complexity of the appraisal, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to upwards of three hours. Larger properties usually take longer to be fully appraised, of course.
Lastly, the appraiser will create a home appraisal report. The home appraisal report details their findings, the estimated value of the property, and more. Both the homebuyer and the mortgage lender receive the appraisal report, as well as any other interested parties who need it. This can take between two days and seven days, depending on the appraiser's schedule and the complexity of the appraisal itself.
How Much Time Should You Wait Before Contacting the Appraiser?
You should not wait very long before contacting an appraiser because it can take a few weeks for the process to finish. Generally, if you are a homeowner, you should schedule an appraiser at the earliest opportunity. That will ensure you have the appraisal report on hand and ready to go, but it will also help you list your home for a competitive price.
A Busy Market Makes the Turnaround Time Longer
Naturally, if the housing market is busy, third-party appraisal companies will also be busier. Busy housing markets can thus make the turnaround time for both home appraisals and appraisal reports a little longer than during other market conditions.
Labor Shortages in the Appraisal Industry: How They Affect You
Furthermore, labor shortages in the appraisal industry may impact how long you have to wait for a home appraisal appointment. Unfortunately, the appraisal industry has been in decline since around 2019, meaning labor shortages (exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic) have increased the wait times for many home appraisals across the country.
The Bottom Line on Appraisal Times
Home appraisals can take anywhere from two weeks to a month or longer but generally finish within that timeframe. Ordering a home appraisal from a knowledgeable professional is a good way to get the ball rolling quickly so you can secure a sale or purchase and proceed with your plans.
With Vaster's help, you can find the financing solution you need quickly, plus begin the process of ordering a home appraisal for your upcoming transaction. Contact us today to learn how we can help you buy the perfect property with our lending connections.