Real Estate Appraisal Resources: The Ultimate List

Real Estate Resources List Cover

The following is a list of real estate resources compiled for the purpose of having a quick reference to these sources. I will be adding to the list as needed so come back often.

Appraisal Organizations

Other Organizations

Appraisal Tools

Appraisal Blogs

Appraisal Directories

Non-Appraisal Directories

Desktop Appraisals: Everything You Need to Know

Desktop Appraisals Cover

If you’re involved in the real estate industry in any way, you may have seen them or heard about them by now.

They provide a quick estimate of property value without a hefty price tag.

Homeowners, brokers, lenders, developers, and investors all use them.

And no they aren’t restricted appraisal reports.

So what am I talking about?

Desktop appraisals!

What is a desktop appraisal?

The name pretty much gives it away.

Separate the two words and you get “desktop” and “appraisal.” You can see where I’m going with this.

A desktop appraisal is an appraisal that is done at a desk, without leaving the desk.

There’s no interior inspection, no exterior inspection, and no measuring.

Nothing is done in person.

Desktop appraisals use the data available to the appraiser via third-party resources.

MLS, Public Records, and Google Maps are the main three that come to mind, but there are plenty more out there.

Only a licensed or certified appraiser can perform a desktop appraisal.

And they are not the same thing as restricted appraisals or BPO’s (Broker price opinions).

They are full appraisal reports that can be used for many purposes.

Desktop appraisal vs desktop valuation

You may be wondering now what the difference is between a desktop appraisal and a desktop valuation.

You probably have heard both terms because they are often used interchangeably. They are essentially the same thing.

A desktop valuation refers to the process of performing a desktop appraisal. A desktop appraisal refers to the appraisal itself.

The two terms can be used in place of one another, but I prefer to call the appraisal an appraisal and the process a valuation.

Desktop appraisals vs. full appraisals

Now that you know the basics, let’s compare desktop appraisals to full appraisals.

But without getting too in depth quite yet, I’ll simplify it first.

A desktop appraisal is the same as a full appraisal but without the inspection.

Now let’s break it down.

Desktop appraisals are appraisals that are completed without a physical inspection.

That means there is no measuring, photos, or evaluation done in person.

The same property analysis occurs in the report, but the data comes from third-party sources.

As you might be able to conclude already, this can result in a lack of accuracy for many types of properties.

This inaccuracy might involve properties with:

  • Insufficient data
  • Incorrect data
  • Complex or hidden attributes
  • Lack of similar comparables

With that being said, they also have their perks for many other properties.

These might include properties:

  • In tract neighborhoods
  • In average condition
  • With plenty of data
  • With plenty of comparables

Desktop appraisals work great with “cookie cutter” homes in planned developments, but not as well with unique properties.

Here is an example of a property that a desktop appraisal would not work well with:

Unique Property Photo

Here is an example of a property that a desktop appraisal would work well with:

Tract Neighborhood Photo

Now that you know when and when not to use a desktop appraisal let’s compare them to a full appraisal.

A full appraisal is very similar in that it involves the same research and comparable selection.

But, a full appraisal has the added benefit of an in-person inspection of the property.

A desktop appraisal does not.

The inspection allows the appraiser to see the property in real time.

This is great because the inspection date is usually the effective date of the appraisal.

With a physical inspection of the property, an appraiser can see the property for what it truly is.

This way, the appraiser doesn’t have to rely on third-party data that may or may not be accurate.

Without inspecting a property, you may miss major deferred maintenance or expensive upgrades.

Online data may not show that the property has a pool or a 1,000 square foot addition in the rear.

An inspection will reveal all that.

And that’s really where the difference between the two comes to play.

Accuracy

Accuracy is the main concern when comparing a desktop appraisal to a full one.

Don’t get me wrong; a desktop appraisal can be close to as accurate as a full one if there is enough data available.

But, if data on the subject isn’t available, then the appraiser might as well be pulling a number out of thin air.

This is why desktop appraisals aren’t typically used by traditional lenders.

With that being said, as the internet ages, data becomes more and more prevalent.

There are hundreds of sites out there that house real estate data.

Sites like Zillow pull all their information from real MLS listings, so you don’t even need access to the local MLS.

Public record data is available online.

An entire property can be measured on Google Maps.

Google Street View allows an appraiser to see the property from the street. Google Maps even has a 3D option so that you can “fly” around the property as if you were a drone.

Google Street View Photo

With the constant release of new data sources, accuracy becomes less and less of an issue.

And with the availability of new data, desktop appraisals become more and more popular.

Benefits

When comparing a desktop to a full appraisal, the benefits might not be apparent. But, they have their perks.

Desktop appraisals serve best as a way to get a quick estimate of value.

They are much cheaper than a full appraisal, and the turnaround time is much quicker.

The price of a desktop appraisal can be as low as half the price of a full appraisal, and the turn time could be even less.

For this reason, hard money lenders love desktop appraisals. Same with investors looking for a value before they buy (or sell) property.

Anybody that needs a quick value on a property should consider a desktop appraisal over a full one.

Drawbacks

If there are so many benefits, then there have to be drawbacks as well.

Accuracy is the only drawback when it comes to desktop appraisals.

The property is never inspected by the appraiser, so they can never be as accurate.

This means that a lot of assumptions have to be made about the property.

While this might not matter as much for some users, other users might shy away for this reason.

With that being said, I would say that 75% of the time or more, there is enough information for an appraiser to get a somewhat accurate value.

Which one is right for me?

It all depends on what the intended use of the appraisal is, and who the intended user is.

If you are looking to refinance your property through a bank, then a desktop appraisal probably won’t fly.

But, if you are an investor looking for a quick value, and the data is there, then get a desktop appraisal all day long.

Conclusion

As you can see, desktop appraisals are a great way to see what your property is worth, if all you need is a quick value.

They are cheap, fast to complete, and can be close to as accurate as a full appraisal if the data is available.

While they are not ever going to stand up to a full appraisal, desktop appraisals are here to stay.

In fact, they are only becoming more popular as companies accept how much data is available.

How do you count the value of a converted garage when appraising a home?

Appraiser Answers - Garage Conversion Value Cover

This is a question that comes up more than you would think. There could be many different answers, so I’ll try to cover each one below.

Garage ConversionConverting your garage into a studio, man cave, or whatever, can be an excellent way to add some living space to your home.

Most of the time when I see someone has done this is when they have a detached garage with a large driveway. The owners already find themselves parking on the driveway most of the time, so figure “Why not.”

Converting your garage can be perfect for you at the time, but as with anything, there are always pros and cons.

Pros of converting your garage

Of course, the biggest advantage when it comes to converting a garage is the added living area.

When you find yourself using your garage only for storage, then might as well spruce it up and use it for more. If you have plenty of room to park on the driveway, then go right ahead.

My advice to you is to take it a step further and see if you can convert it to a second unit that you could lease out.

Check your local zoning to make sure it’s legal, and you might find yourself with a rent check every month.

Cons of converting your garage

While the pros seem good while you still own the home, the cons come to play when you go to sell it.

If the “conversion” consists of minimal cosmetic changes, like paint, then you’re safe.

However, if you remove the entire garage door, or do some structural work, you might find yourself in a pickle.

Certain buyers will love the extra space, but many will be turned off by it, especially if they wanted a garage.

If you do decide to make the conversion, you will be left with no garage, and that is not always a good thing in the end.

As far as appraisals go…

There are different scenarios when it comes to appraising a home with a converted garage.

First, I would look at it to see if there are any structural changes.

I have seen people remove the garage door completely, add walls inside, or even add sliding doors.

Next, I would see if the owner pulled permits and hired a professional to do the conversion.

Third, I would look to see if this kind of conversion is typical for the area.

Finally, if the garage were now the second unit, I would make sure that it is legal.

Now, when it comes to the value…

The majority of the time, I will give the value to the converted garage as if it were still a garage.

That is to say unless you took the garage door off.

To have the garage conversion count as “living space”:

It would have to be permitted, completed by a professional, and be somewhat typical for the area.

If it follows the rules above and it was converted to a legal second unit, then I would most likely value it as a duplex.

If the garage is attached to the house and was converted illegally, then I would just value it as a garage.

If it is an illegal conversion, has no garage door, and is total crap, then I would value it as a storage space.

There are so many different scenarios that it’s impossible to list them all here.

Unless it has permits and was done professionally, it will most likely appraise as a garage.

Do appraisals take into account home renovations? To what extent?

Home Renovations Cover

There are always pros and cons with any home renovation. The biggest pro is that your home always looks way better, and the biggest con is that it always costs too much money.

Bricks Home RemodelRenovation pros and cons also apply when it comes to home appraisals.

Renovations give your home the added value, but never as much as you spent on the renovations in the first place.

The question is then, are they actually worth it?

We will touch on that in a second. But first, let’s talk about the problems with them and the ones that contribute the most and least value.

But first, I want to note that this is all written from the perspective of an appraiser. Homes sell higher than the appraised values all the time for many reasons. I wrote this article without the bias of outside factors that influence home values.

If you’re getting an appraisal and need to know what you should to prepare, get our free home appraisal checklist.

The problem with renovations and appraisals

A common problem with renovations is that people are spending money on the wrong things. They spend money on things that are not always practical when it comes to added home value.

Backlit onyx and Carrara marble might be appealing to you, but do they add more value in an appraisal?

Not so much.

The majority of the time, renovations like these are for the owner of the home, and not for the added value. Think of how many buyers would actually appreciate these kinds of finishes?

I’m assuming not very many.

Another common problem is that a lot of times the updates are required for safety or convenience.

These kinds of updates, like plumbing and electrical, might cost a lot, but don’t add much value.

So what kind of renovations should you do then?

Keep reading.

Renovations that contribute the most value

PaintingAt this point, you’re probably thinking, why even bother with renovations at all?

Well, I can tell you for sure that there are some that add the value you hope to get.

Most of these renovations are much needed cosmetic updates to outdated homes.

Many of them you can even do yourself, without the help of contractors. However, if you do try and do these yourself, make sure you know what you are doing.

These renovations include things like:

Renovations that contribute the least value

On the flip side, there are many renovations that don’t make financial sense. These are typically renovations done from emotions and not practicality.

The ones that contribute the least value are usually completely unnecessary.

The added value (Or lack of) reflects that.

The worst of these (Unless you live in Beverly Hills), are high-end fixtures and finishes.

I have seen people pour half a million into high-end finishes for their home, only to get half of the cost back or less.

Here are some other renovations that don’t make financial sense:

  • Installing a pool
  • Converting a bedroom to some other use (No, you don’t need a wine cellar, and neither does the new owner)
  • Putting carpet over the hardwood
  • Converting the garage into a “studio” or “man cave”
  • Closet renovation
  • Bathroom/bedroom addition
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Insulation
  • Extensive landscaping
  • Outdoor kitchen
  • Crown moldings
  • Things appraisers can’t see
  • Overbuilding for the neighborhood
  • Fountains, ponds, gazebos, playgrounds
  • RV garages
  • High-end fixtures and finishes (I can’t stress this enough)

So are they worth it?

Yes and no.

Now that you have read the lists above, it’s up to you to make the call. Renovations can work in your favor, and sometimes they won’t.

Some general rules of thumb:

Contribute the most value:

Most of the time, if you are updating old features of your home, you should be safe. Just keep the spending reasonable and deliberate.

Contribute the least value:

If you are renovating out of personal preference for luxury or fun, then you might find yourself in the hole.


Ask an Appraiser

If you have any appraisal questions that you would like to ask us, head on over to our Ask an Appraiser page and fill out the form.

The Home Appraisal Checklist Form [Digital and Printable]

The Home Appraisal Checklist Form Cover

I’m often asked by homeowners if there is anything they need to do to prepare for the home inspection. I usually inform them to clean up a little and gather any information they have on the property.

However, if you want to get the most value out of your home, there is a home appraisal checklist to follow.

While most of these are not required (Except for the installation section), they all can help to boost your home’s value on an appraisal.

Keep in mind, this checklist only applies if you are having an inspection done on your property.

If the appraisal is a desktop appraisal with no inspection, then you don’t need to worry about any of this (Unless you want to keep your house looking fresh.)

Free Bonus: Click here to get access to a free checklist that clearly lays out the items from this post in an interactive (And PDF) checklist.

Home Appraisal Checklist

This list is broken down into five sections that we felt categorized the most important things you could do to prepare for your home appraisal.

The first section talks about the overall maintenance of your home. The second talks about items that you will most likely need to install if you are getting a loan.

The third section focuses more on repairs that should be made. The fourth and fifth sections are less about your home and more about preparation you can do for the appraiser.

So without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Maintenance

One of the key factors that determine value in an appraisal is the condition of your home. The condition is something that every appraiser looks for on every home appraisal inspection.

Curb Appeal

What this means is that your home should look like you take care of it.

Although you may not have the newest and greatest finishes, the condition of your house can go a long way.

I have seen homes with dated finishes sell for similar prices as updated homes in the same area.

Why? Because the owners of the homes with dated finishes took care of them while the others did not.

That means, do some maintenance, clean up the house, and do some landscaping every once in awhile.

Here are some of the things you can do as far as maintenance goes:

  • Clean the house
  • Remove clutter
  • Mow the lawn
  • Do a little landscaping
  • Improve curb appeal
  • Touch up paint
  • Update old fixtures
  • Remove outdated decor

Installations

There are certain items lenders need to know your home has depending on the type of loan you are applying for.

If you are not trying to get a loan, then these are still important but probably not required.

If you are applying for a loan, then these are things that you will most likely need installed and working.

  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide monitors
  • Strapped water heater
  • Security system (If you have one)
  • Appliances installed and working

Repairs

Tools

Repairs are a subset of maintenance, but I split them out because they take a little more money and time.

Like I said before, one of the key contributing factors to an appraisal value is the condition of your home.

This means repairs are always necessary if you want to get the most value for your property.

They may take a contractor and a small budget, but if you don’t fix them, in most cases, they will only get worse over time.

Look at the list below and fix whatever applies in your situation.

The first three are the most important, but these all need addressing if you want a higher value for your home.

  • Roof leaks
  • Damaged flooring
  • Wall cracks
  • Damaged drywall
  • Damaged stucco
  • Peeling paint
  • Any other visible damage

Information Prep

Preparing any and all information you have about your property is a great way to help out the appraiser.

Having info that the appraiser might not have, also ensures that the value is as accurate as possible.

Appraisers have access to the local MLS and public records, but many times the data is not correct.

Changes like additions and improvements can be things that we wouldn’t know about.

While we do our best to be as accurate as possible, having the correct data makes it easier on everyone.

Here is some of the data that can be helpful to us:

  • List of recent improvements (Last 15 years) with estimated prices and dates
  • Copies of previous appraisals or sketches
  • HOA information
  • Known inconsistencies in data
  • Unpermitted additions
  • Easements or encroachments
  • Positive neighborhood traits (Recreational areas, schools, public transportation, etc.)
Free Bonus: Click here to get access to a free checklist that clearly lays out the items from this post in an interactive (And PDF) checklist.

Miscellaneous

These last three things on the list are to make the inspection easier when the appraiser comes.

The appraiser needs access to all the rooms in the home, including bedrooms and bathrooms. We need to take photos so once again, make sure you clean up a little!

Appraisers also need to be able to get around the entire perimeter of the home. This is so that they can measure and take photos.

I love dogs, but many people don’t. If you have an aggressive dog, make sure to contain it somewhere while the appraiser is there.

  • Make sure all rooms of the house are accessible
  • Make sure the appraiser can get around the entire perimeter of the house
  • Contain dogs somewhere if they are aggressive

Have you ever had an appraisal done on your home? Did it go as expected? Would it have helped to know these things before the appraisal?

Did you use this home appraisal checklist for your appraisal?

Let us know in the comments below!

Real Estate Appraisal Forms

Real Estate Appraisal Forms Cover

For homeowners or clients who have limited knowledge of appraisals, here is a list of the different types of appraisal forms that us appraisers typically use. While some of these forms do not apply to every property, these are the typical real estate appraisal forms used by most appraisers in most situations.

Residential Property Forms

Appraisal forms can be divided into a few categories, but the main two are residential and commercial forms. Residential forms are used for residential properties.

Properties that are considered residential properties include: single family homes, condominiums, mobile homes, and 2-4 unit properties.

Interior and Exterior Inspection Forms

1004

The 1004 form is probably the most common and widely used appraisal form for residential appraisers. That is because it is the form for single family residential properties.

The 1004 is used when an appraiser is required to do an interior and exterior inspection. It is typically used when a lender is ordering an appraisal for a refinance or purchase transaction.

Here is a sample of a Form 1004 appraisal.

1073

The 1073 form is probably the second most commonly used real estate appraisal form for residential properties. That’s because it is utilized for condominiums. It is essentially the same form as the 1004 and serves the same purpose.

However, it is modified for condominiums. This means that it includes fields that relate specifically to the condo project the subject is in, and other attributes that single family homes don’t have.

Exterior Only Inspection Forms

The forms above are generally used if the property has been inspected in person.

These following two forms are for when the property is only inspected from the exterior; what they call an “Exterior Only” appraisal.

These are however both still considered appraisal forms for residential properties.

2055

The 2055 form is an exterior only form for single family homes and it is only used when it is requested by the client. The exterior only single family form is typically used when there are tenants living at the property and won’t cooperate with the owner.

1075

The 1075 is basically the same as the 1073 form for condominiums but like the 2055 above, is for exterior-only inspections.

Interior or Exterior Inspection

This is where it gets kind of confusing.

Although a property is actually not required to be inspected at all to perform an appraisal, these following two forms can be used for either an interior or exterior inspection.

Typically they are used for full inspection appraisals.

1004C

Like the 1004 and 1073 forms, the 1004C is also for residential properties, but of a different sort. The 1004C form is for mobile homes. You know, like the ones that belong in mobile home parks.

1025

The 1025 form is a little different than the previous three, but I included it the residential forms section because it is used what is still considered a residential property. That is a 2-4 unit property. Like I said, this form is a little different in that it is laid out with different sections, including rental comparables before the sales comparables and value indicators below the sales comparables.

Now that we have covered the residential appraisal forms, we will get into the commercial ones. Don’t worry; there aren’t nearly as many.

Commercial Property Forms

There are only a few commercial appraisal forms since the majority of commercial properties are appraised with written appraisal reports.

However, if the property is on the smaller side, or the client doesn’t want to pay for an appraisal report, then a form will typically be utilized.

71A & 71B

These two forms are both used for the same type of property, multi-family properties (5 or more units). Both of these forms have the same “skeleton” and come up with the same results, in the same way, the 71A is just a much more in-depth report.

Typically I prefer to use the 71B since it is a heck of a lot shorter and still has the same outcome.

GP Commercial

The third and only other commercial appraisal form is the GP Commercial form. GP forms will be explained better in the following section but what “GP” stands for is “General Purpose.”

With this name, you can get the idea that this form can basically be used for any type of commercial property that isn’t overly complex.

I have appraised everything from office buildings, religious facilities and single room occupancy buildings on the GP Commercial form.

It is very versatile and very easy to work with, to say the least.

General Purpose (GP) Forms

Now, to go a little more in-depth with the General Purpose (GP) forms… The GP forms are a great series of forms that include a special form for each type of property.

A lot of times these forms are used when the client just wants to know an estimate of the market value of a property. They are also the forms you would want to use for estate related appraisals.

GP Residential

The GP Residential is for single family properties, like the 1004 form.

GP Condominium

The GP Condo form is like the 1073 form, for condominiums.

GP Commercial

The GP Commercial form as explained above is for non-complex commercial properties. This form can be used for a wide variety of commercial properties.

GP Land

The GP Land form is the form that is typically used if the client is looking to find the value of a parcel of land. Usually it is used for residential land, but can also be used for commercial land as well.

GP 2-4 Unit

The GP 2-4 unit is used for income properties that have 2 to 4 units. It is similar to the 1025 form.

Other Forms

The major appraisal forms are pretty much summed up above, but there are some additional forms that serve other purposes.

1004D

The 1004D is utilized when a client wants the appraiser to either a) verify that the value has not changed since the effective date of the appraisal, or b) go back and reinspect the property to verify that something has been repaired or replaced.

217/1007

The 217/1007 forms are used as a supplement to any of residential forms talked about above. These two forms are typically used for rental properties and are used to display rental comparables and a simplified income statement.