Q. What are the similarities and differences between a home appraisal and a home inspection?
A. Inspections and appraisals play key, but separate, roles in the home-buying and home-selling process.
An inspection is primarily intended to protect a prospective buyer from purchasing a home that has structural defects and other major problems. The appraisal is meant to protect the lender from paying more than the house is worth.
Home inspectors and appraisers shared with our team the highlights of what they do:
The bank requires that a property be appraised before a sale to determine its market value. The lender often hires the appraiser during the closing to look for improvements or deficiencies that may lower the value. In addition, the appraiser takes into account the house’s location, square footage and the sale prices of homes of similar size in the same area.
The appraiser usually addresses conditions that are apparent or observable. Unlike a home inspector, an appraiser does not test mechanical systems and major appliances.
The appraisal helps the lender determine how much to lend against the home, what type of loan to offer, how much of a down payment will be required and, in many instances, what the interest rate will be. The buyer should get a copy of the appraisal.
Note that while the lender orders the appraisal, the buyer pays for it, usually within the closing costs. The fee can be several hundred dollars.
A home inspector, hired by the would-be buyer, focuses on the “guts” of the home. He or she assesses the overall condition, paying close attention to mechanical systems – such as plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling – as well as major appliances.
An inspector determines if the home needs repairs, whether everything meets code standards and if there are health or safety concerns.
A home inspection is highly recommended, though not required. The inspection usually costs a few hundred dollars and can take three or four hours.
If possible, plan to be present at the inspection. Make sure to read the inspection report, which should be thorough and easy to understand. It should include narrative accounts of the inspector’s findings, along with pictures and diagrams. Be aware, however, that an inspection is not a warranty and there’s no guarantee it will find all problems with a property.
Most reports will find some areas that need attention, but if the issues are major, you may want to use the report to renegotiate your original offer for the house.
Before you hire
Appraisers must be licensed in the state where they work and are required to follow various government requirements. Most, but not all, states require that home inspectors be licensed. Be sure that the person you hire is properly experienced and preferably, certified by an appropriate trade association.
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