Basic Real Estate Appraisal Terminology

Every job field has terminology that sounds like a foreign language to a normal person. These terms become part of your everyday vocabulary after working in a certain field for a while, and eventually, you don’t even realize that no one has any idea what you are talking about when you use them. I put together this list of real estate appraisal terms that appraisers frequently use so that people unfamiliar with them can understand what we are talking about all of the time. This list is a working list that I will add to every so often. Enjoy!

Adjustment

The term “adjustment” is used when talking about comparable properties in the appraisal report. Once the appraiser has identified the comparable properties that are most similar to the property being appraised, he will make “adjustments” to the sale or list price of each comparable. These adjustments are made in the form of dollar amounts and are used to bring the comparable properties into equivalency with the subject property.

“As Is”

“As Is” is used when discussing the condition of the property. All it refers to is the property in its current state. The majority of appraisals are written for the “As Is” quality and condition of the property.

“As Completed” or “Subject To”

These terms can be used interchangeably but sometimes mean different things in different circumstances. Sometimes an appraisal can be written on a property that is not complete yet or suffering from items that need to be repaired before further action can be taken. Both terms refer to the property as if it has been completed or repaired.

Bracketing

“Bracketing” describes how the comparables in the Sales Comparison Approach grid have superior and inferior characteristics compared to the subject property. As an example, the subject property has a 5,000 square foot lot, Comparable 1 has a 6,000 square foot lot, and Comparable 2 has a 4,000 square foot lot. Comparables 1 and 2 “bracket’ the subject property’s lot size.

Comparable or “Comp”

Comps! This is the one word of appraiser jargon that you will most likely hear the most and probably already hear a million times if you have ever dealt with an appraiser. Comparables, or “Comps” for short, are the comparable properties that the appraiser uses to compare to the subject property being appraised. Comps are mostly used in the Sales Comparison Approach to value, but they can also be used in the Income Approach as rental comparables.

Cost Approach

Three approaches to value can be used to estimate the value of the property. Typically, the sales comparison approach is always used. But the Cost Approach is another approach to value that is used in most residential appraisals as well. The basis for the Cost Approach is basically how much the subject property would cost if it were to be reproduced at that point in time.

Drive-By

The term drive-by refers to an exterior-only appraisal inspection. It is called a “drive-by” because the appraiser drive by and does an exterior inspection of the property from the street. This usually consists of taking photos and noting whatever characteristics are visible from the exterior.

Effective Date

The effective date is an important date in an appraisal report because it is the date when the value is effective. The effective date is typically when the appraiser inspects the property, but when an appraisal is done for an estate, the effective date is the date of death.

Grid

The grid is an essential part of the sales comparison approach (Discussed further down this page). It is where all the comparable properties are laid out, each with their property traits, such as lot size, square footage, bedroom/bathroom count, and more. The grid is where the adjustments are made to bring the comparable properties into equivalency with the subject property.

Income Approach

As mentioned before, there are three approaches to valuing a property. The income approach is one of these three and is typically only used when a property is making income or will be in the future.

Inspection

Inspections are what the appraiser typically does before writing the appraisal report. Inspections can be done in the form of a full inspection or an exterior-only inspection. A full inspection is when the appraiser comes out to measure the property and inspect both the interior and exterior. An “exterior only” or “drive-by” inspection is where the appraiser just takes photos from the exterior and doesn’t measure the property.

GLA

GLA is a simple acronym that stands for Gross Living Area. GLA is all of the above-grade floor space inside your home. The appraiser will typically determine the GLA of the property by measuring its exterior dimensions.

GBA

GBA is also a simple acronym that stands for Gross Building Area. Not to be confused with Gross Living Area, Gross Building Area is all of the space, including below-grade space, as long as it is finished. GBA is typically used when referring to 2-4 unit and commercial properties. Not so much with single-family residential properties.

MLS

The Multiple Listing Service is a collection of data on all the current and past real estate transactions for an area. Brokers use the MLS to list properties for sale, so all listings, sales, expirations, cancellations, and more are shown on the MLS. This is where the majority of our information comes from when writing a residential appraisal report.

Obsolescence

Obsolescence occurs when a property is no longer desirable because more desirable alternatives are available. There are two kinds of obsolescence in real estate appraisal practice. These can be divided into functional obsolescence and external obsolescence. Functional obsolescence is obsolescence that pertains to the property itself. Functional obsolescence is divided into two categories, curable and incurable. Curable means that the cost of “curing” the obsolescence is less than the value it will add to your home. Incurable means that the cost of “curing” the obsolescence is more than the value it will add back. External Obsolescence is a little different because it is an outside factor that is out of your control and affects the value of your property. This is typically something like a busy road or commercial building adjacent to the property.

PUD

Planned unit development, or PUDs for short, are communities of homes that can include single-family homes, condos, and even commercial properties. All the homes are built around the same time, and there are typically only a few different floor plans, so they all look similar. Planned Unit Developments are similar to condominium complexes because they have an HOA, but they are different in how repairs and other maintenance issues are handled. PUDs are more common in urban and suburban areas.

Sales Comparison Approach

The third and most commonly used approach to value is the Sales Comparison Approach. If you have ever had any exposure to appraisals, this is the approach you probably recognize the most. The sales comparison approach is performed by finding similar comparable properties and making adjustments to these comparable properties to come to an opinion of value for the subject property. These comparable properties and their specific traits are laid out in a grid, where the adjustments are made.

Scope of Work

The scope of work essential consists of six key parts, including the client and intended users, the report’s intended use, the value’s definition, any hypothetical conditions or extraordinary assumptions, the effective date, and the salient features of the property. But all you need to know is that the scope of work describes the need for the appraisal and why it was ordered in the first place.

SF

This is a unit of measurement you will see a lot when communicating with appraisers. It stands for square foot and is a measurement that appraisers use all the time, referring to lot size or the size of the home itself.

Subject

The subject property, or subject for short, is the property that is being appraised. Often, appraisers will just refer to it as the subject since it is easier than saying subject property.

URAR

URAR stands for Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. This is an appraisal form used to appraise single-family homes. This is arguably the most common and widely used appraisal form for real estate appraisers.

USPAP

This is another appraisal acronym for Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. You could call it the law of appraisal practice. USPAP is essentially a large collection of quality control guidelines for real estate appraisal practice.

UAD

The acronym UAD stands for Universal Appraisal Dataset. UAD is the acceptable terms and values allowed on an appraisal report. It is a set of standard rules and abbreviations for use in appraisal reports. However, only a select few UAD forms are in use. These include the 1004, 1073, 2055, and 1075 forms. These four forms are otherwise known as the forms used to appraise single-family residential properties and condominiums.

Walk-Through

A Walk-Through is what an appraiser does when he comes to inspect the property. He “walks through” the home to mark down the rooms on his sketch, take pictures of each room, and take note of the finishes and other necessary details. A walk-through is part of the appraisal inspection (Talked about further up the page).
Founder, Principal at Realvals
Austin Fernald writes about the Bay Area and Northern California real estate market, as well as the real estate appraisal industry as a whole.
Austin Fernald