real estate

Home appraisals come under more scrutiny

Sellers can offer comps to appraiser

An appraisal review can cost several hundred dollars while a second appraisal generally involves a second full fee, according to Sara Schwarzentraub, owner of Inter-State Appraisal Service in San Diego. These costs usually are paid by the buyer.

"It's commendable that the lenders are being cautious and having stricter criteria to protect themselves because in the long term that protects everybody, but it does make it more costly," she says.

Home sellers can offer the appraiser information that might affect the appraiser's opinion of the home's value. This information is best handed over before the appraisal is prepared.

"If you know of a sale that's similar to your house and it was a foreclosure, short sale, divorce or anything of that nature, make the appraiser aware of that," Sellers says.

Real estate brokers can help buyers and sellers find comps to offer the appraiser, Johnson suggests. If the broker believes comps may be present a problem, the buyer and seller can plan accordingly.

"A good real estate agent is aware of these issues. Many times, an agent will call us and say, 'I know we are going to have problems with comps on this," he says.

Neither the buyer nor seller can choose the appraiser, but Sellers says buyers can insist on a minimum competency, which he defines as having local market knowledge and being certified as well as licensed.

Buyers and sellers also can agree on longer timeframes for the home appraisal contingency and closing date. Schwarzentraub suggests that asking for a 45- or 60-day closing, rather than 30 days, is not unreasonable.

Buyers are entitled by federal law to a copy of any appraisal for which they've paid a fee. Buyers should look over the appraisal and notify the lender of any errors that could have affected the appraiser's opinion of the home's value.

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