How to Understand Your Home Appraisal


A home appraisal is an estimate of your home's value.  It's simply a professional appraiser's opinion of what he/she thinks your home may be worth.

Why Do Appraisals Matter?

Mortgage lenders base your loan amount on the LESSER of the appraised value or the purchase price. Here's an example:

  • You sign a contract for a $200,000 home with a $10,000 (5%) down payment.  Your loan amount in this case would be $190,000 (95% of the purchase price).
  • The appraisal comes back at a value of $190,000
  • The mortgage lender is no longer willing to lend you $190,000, because that would represent 100% of the appraised value.
  • The lender reduces the loan amount to $180,500, which represents 95% of the $190,000 appraised value.
  • You have two options:
    • Make up the difference yourself (purchase the home for $200,000 and come up with a down payment of $19,500); or,
    • Ask the seller to reduce the purchase price to make up the difference (purchase the home for $190,000 instead of $200,000, and use a down payment of $9,500)
What if You Don't Agree With the Appraiser's Opinion?

Tough luck!  No, seriously.  Although you and I are entitled to our own opinion on the matter, the mortgage guidelines require the loan amount to be based on the LESSER of the appraised value or the purchase price.

How Does the Appraiser Determine Value?

Appraisers are usually required by the lending guidelines to compare your home with similar homes that have sold within the past 6 months.  Then, they make adjustments based on the differences in the comparable sales (see illustration below).

In this example, Comp 1 sold for $172,000, but it didn't have a finished basement.   So the appraiser adjusted the sales price up by $20,000 to $192,000.  This means that the appraiser thinks Comp 1 could have sold for $192,000 if it was more like your home.  Comp 2 had a basement that was 50% finished, and it only had a 1 car garage.  However, it's a little larger than your home.  All things considered, the appraiser adjusted the sales price up by $10,000 to $191,500. This means that the appraiser thinks Comp 2 could have sold for $191,500 if it was more like your home.  The only major difference between your home and Comp 3, is that Comp 3 is a little bigger than your home. So, the appraiser thinks Comp 3 could have sold for $188,900 if it was more like your home.  In this example, the appraiser thinks your home is worth $190,000 based on the comparable sales (and all the adjustments outlined above).

What does this mean for you?

Here are two things you can do if the appraisal comes back different than your purchase agreement:

  • Option 1:  Renegotiate the sales price.  The benefit with this option is that you may save some money on the purchase price of the house.  The drawback is that you risk losing the deal because the seller may not agree to renegotiate.
  • Option 2:  Increase your down payment.  The benefit with this option is that you close the deal without worrying about renegotiating with the seller.  The drawback is that you'll need a larger down payment and you may be paying more for the house than it's worth.

This is probably one of the most important financial transactions of your life. A CMPS-certified mortgage professional can help you strategize and evaluate your options. Click here to find a CMPS in your area.

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HomeQB is the official housing and mortgage blog of CMPS Institute. CMPS Institute is a national organization that certifies mortgage bankers and brokers. Our mission is to help homeowners and homebuyers improve their lives by using the right mortgage strategies.


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