Whether you're a first time home buyer or you're selling your current home after twenty years of living there, it can be difficult to know what a property is worth. Property values tend to be very subjective anyway, depending heavily on what the buyers of the hour are willing to spend on your house so pricing a property can be a difficult task for people who are not familiar with the real estate market and how it works. For these people, home appraisals can often be useful.
A home appraisal is an independent valuation on the worth of your home. A professional appraiser will come to your home and look around, judging how much a buyer would likely be willing to pay based on its location, interior and exterior condition, and features. An appraisal is non binding opinion, meaning if you don't like what the appraiser has to say, you are not obliged to be guided by his or her estimation of the value of your home.
Home appraisals should not be confused with home valuations, which are conducted by the local tax authority and used to gauge the worth of your home for taxation purposes. They should also not be confused with home inspections, with are conducted by a professional and used to tell if a property is in good physical condition and conforming to the local building codes. If a home inspector deems the property unsafe or in dire need of repair, you can bet the listing will not be sold until the matter is resolved. Appraisers on the other hand, are not qualified to speak on the condition of the home with any authority.
You might consider having a home appraisal done for a number of reasons. Firstly, if you're not sure what your condo is worth and you don't want to hire a real estate agent to sell your property for you, getting a home appraisal will save you from having to do a lot of research into the local market conditions. If you're buying a home and you don't believe the asking price is reasonable, you can have a home appraiser come to the property to determine fair market value and use this in your negotiations.
When you're looking for a home appraiser, look for someone with a lot of experience in the real estate market. Former agents and brokers know their stuff. Unconnected accountants and business school grads may not. Interview, collect referrals from friends, and vet using BBB archives for safety. Appraisals in general cost a couple hundred dollars.