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Hire a good appraiser

Your house is probably your biggest single investment. Get it appraised properly to get the best return on your money. A key factor in that equation is the appraiser.

Gary Deane of the National Association of Master Appraisers in San Antonio, Texas, shares what to look for when selecting a residential real estate appraiser.

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1. Ask how the appraiser is licensed -- state licensed or certified. To become licensed an appraiser must have 2,000 hours of experience, 90 hours of classroom education and pass a state exam. Certification requires an additional 30 classroom hours, plus an additional 500 hours of experience. You should also ask for a resume. Most appraisers will have a brochure, a marketing tool, to convince you to use them. It should list credentials, training, areas of specialization, how long they've been in business and which associations they belong to.

2. Once you find an appraiser, hang around while he's doing the job. Watch what he's doing and feel free to ask questions. Ask for a copy of the appraisal. Unless you hired the appraiser yourself you won't automatically get one. If the bank hired the appraiser then the bank is the client, even though you're paying for the appraisal. By law you have to be given a copy if you ask for it. Deane says look it over thoroughly; there have been cases where a whole room has been left off.

3. Generally the appraiser will come in with a higher value than the tax assessor will. Most appraisals should come within $5,000 of comparable homes in the neighborhood. If there's a $25,000 difference, something's wrong -- get another appraisal.

Deane adds that appraising real estate isn't totally scientific, there's some opinion in it -- what one appraiser sees as a plus another may see as standard.

Read on to find out how the right appraiser can get you the right price.

-- Updated March 18, 2004




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