Clifton Appraisal Services has answers to "Frequently Asked Questions"

Clifton Appraisal Services is prepared to talk to you about any concerns you might have about appraisals in Nassau County. Contact us today to talk about how we can help you with your specific valuation problems.

What is an appraisal?
Describe what an appraiser does
What are the reasons someone would require a real estate appraisal?
How is an appraisal different than a home inspection?
My agent performed a CMA for me. Is that the same as an appraisal?
What can I expect to see in my appraisal report?
Once the appraisal is done, what guarantee is there that the value indicated is valid?
What does it mean for an appraiser to be licensed?
Who are an appraiser's customers?
Where does Clifton Appraisal Services get the information used to estimate values in Nassau County or other areas?
How can a licensed appraiser help me?
My mortgage statement has an item on it for PMI? Can I get rid of that?
Should I do anything in advance of the appraisal appointment
Define "Market Value"
Does the appraisal belong to the bank or the consumer?
Are some home improvements more worthwhile than others?



What is an appraisal?   (List of questions)

An appraisal is an investigation that concludes with an opinion of value. This opinion or estimate is figured through a formal method that generally utilizes three "common approaches to value". One of the processes in use is the Cost Approach, which evaluates what it would cost to restore the improvements to the home, less the age and physical deterioration, plus the land value. Another of the methods is the Sales Comparison Approach - which involves making a comparable analysis to other similar properties within a close proximity which have recently sold. Being the most commonly used approach, the Sales Comparison Approach tends to be the most accurate and best indicator of market value for a house. One of the least common approaches in appraising residential properties is the Income Approach, which is generally used to determine the market value of a property based on what an investor would pay based on the capital produced by the building.

Describe what an appraiser does   (List of questions)

An appraiser provides an unbiased and well justified assessment of market value, in the support of real property exchanges. Appraisers present their expert analysis in appraisal reports.


What are the reasons someone would require a real estate appraisal?   (List of questions)

There are a lot of reasons to order an appraisal from Clifton Appraisal Services with the usual reason being real estate and mortgage transactions. Some other reasons for obtaining an appraisal report include:
  • If you are applying for a loan.
  • To reduce your property taxes.
  • To help a homeowner realize if they owe less than 80% of their home's value and remove Primary Mortgage Insurance.
  • To contest inflated property taxes.
  • To deal with an estate.
  • To give you an edge when purchasing a home.
  • To determine an honest price when listing your home.
  • To ensure parties are provided just compensation in eminient domain cases.
  • Because an official agency such as the IRS requires it.
  • If you ever find yourself in a lawsuit.
If you need a more detailed explanation of the appraisal process, please click here.


How is an appraisal different than a home inspection?   (List of questions)

Home inspectors do not figure out an opinion of value and are not appraisers. The point of a home inspection is to evaluate the structure of the home from basement to rooftop. The standard house inspector's report will contain an evaluation of the integrity of the house's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic, and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

My agent performed a CMA for me. Is that the same as an appraisal?   (List of questions)

To be blunt, it's night and day. The CMA uses market trends to conduct most of their business. An appraisal is based on comparable sales that can be verified by records. Also, the appraisal looks at other factors like condition, neighborhood and building costs. A CMA delivers a "ball park figure." Delivering a defensible and careful analysis, an appraisal will give a clear opinion of value.

But the largest differentiator is who's creating the report. Real estate agents produce CMA's, and they don't always know the whole market or bear specific competence when it comes to home valuation. The appraisal is produce by a licensed, certified professional who makes a living out of valuing properties. Likewise, the agent has a vested interest in the property's selling price whereas the appraiser is bound by a code of ethics to collect only a previously agreed upon fee for work they perform, regardless of their outcome.

What can I expect to see in my appraisal report?   (List of questions)

Every appraisal should demonstrate a believable estimate of value and must identify the following:
  • Who engaged the appraiser and other intended users.
  • The intended use of the appraisal.
  • The appraisal's purpose.
  • Precisely what "value" attribute is being reported and what that value means.
  • The effective date of the appraisal.(Sometimes this is in the past or maybe the future for new construction!)
  • Pertinent property attributes, including: location, physical characteristics, legal attributes, economic factors, the real property interest valued, and non-real estate items included in the valuation, such as personal property, items that are more or less permanently installed and even intangible considerations.
  • All known easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases, reservations, covenants, contracts, declarations, special assessments, ordinances, and other items of a similar nature.
  • Division of interest, such as fractional interest, physical segment and partial holding.
  • The scope of work considered while working up the appraisal.
For a more detailed view of the work that goes into an appraisal report click here: Sample Appraisal Report


Once the appraisal is done, what guarantee is there that the value indicated is valid?   (List of questions)

In communicating an appraisal report, each appraiser must see to it that each of the items below are covered:
  • The appraisal contained an appropriate analysis of the data.

  • Whether individually or collectively, there were no grave errors contained in the appraisal, nor any material details left out.

  • That appraisal services were provided in a careful and cognizant fashion.

  • The final appraisal report was transparent, credible and not easily discredited.
To become a state licensed appraiser, there are extensive education requirements as well as practical experience that must be logged. Likewise, appraisers must abide by a stringent industry code of ethics and respect national standards of practice for real estate appraisal. The guidelines for carrying out an appraisal and documenting its results are guaranteed by enforcement of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


   (List of questions) Licensing and certification requires coursework, tests and experience working under a supervisory appraiser. Once an appraiser is licensed, he/she is required to engage in continuing education courses so that the license doesn't expire. To see the specific requirements for any state click here.

Who are an appraiser's customers?   (List of questions)

Mortgage lenders are an appraiser's most likely client, requiring their services to ensure a home involved in a mortgage transaction is adequate collateral for a loan. Attorneys and CPAs also retain the services of appraisers for divorce and estate settlements.

Where does Clifton Appraisal Services get the information used to estimate values in Nassau County or other areas?   (List of questions)

Compiling information is one of the primary functions of an appraiser. Data can be categorized as either Specific or General. Specific data is gathered from the home itself; Location, condition, amenities, size and other specifics are noted by the appraiser during an inspection.

General data is gathered from a number of places. To find out about recent sales to be used as "comps", an appraiser will typically use the local Multiple Listing Service. To verify actual sales prices, we use items in the assessor's office and other public documents that are usually online nowadays. Flood zone data is retrieved from FEMA data outlets, such as a la mode's InterFlood product.

And most importantly, the appraiser assimilates general data from his or her collective knowledge gained from doing assignments for other houses in the same market.


How can a licensed appraiser help me?   (List of questions)

Any time the value of your home or other real property is being used to make a significant financial decision, an appraisal helps. When selling your home, an appraisal assists you in setting a price that maximizes profit and reduces time on the market. If you're buying, it makes sure you don't overpay. For people settling an estate or divorce, an appraisal from Clifton Appraisal Services is the best documentation to ensure assets are split up properly. A home is often the single, largest financial asset anybody owns. Without knowing its real value, wise financial decisions are impossible.


My mortgage statement has an item on it for PMI? Can I get rid of that?   (List of questions)

PMI is short for for Private Mortgage Insurance. It takes care of the lender if a borrower is unable to pay on the loan and the value of the home is less than the loan balance. Once you reach the point where your home's equity plus the amount you've paid is at least 20% of your loan balance, you can have your PMI dropped.

Does your monthly loan payment have a lineitem for PMI?Call Clifton Appraisal Services today at 904-225-2509 or send us an e-mail. Documentation of your home's present value could save you thousands.

Should I do anything in advance of the appraisal appointment   (List of questions)

The first step in most appraisals is the property inspection. What this entails is the appraiser, after setting up an appointment, personally going through the home - recording the layout of the rooms, taking photos and documenting the general condition of its features. Is there anything you can do to help? Yes there is! First, be sure the appraiser has easy access to the exterior of the house . Trim any bushes and relocate any items that would make it difficult to measure the structure. Indoors, make sure we can get to items like furnaces and water heaters.

The following items, if available, will help your appraiser to provide a more accurate appraisal in a shorter period of time:
  • A survey or plot map of the property and building (if readily available).
  • Written property agreements, such as a maintenance agreement for a shared driveway.
  • Any documents, such as a title policy with information on encroachments or easements encroachments or easements.
  • Any inspection reports, or other recent reports for termites, EIFS (synthetic stucco) wall systems, septic systems and your well.
  • A list of "suggested" improvements if the property is to be appraised "as complete".

Define "Market Value"   (List of questions)

In real estate appraising, Market Value is commonly defined as:

"The most probable price (in terms of money) which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: the buyer and seller are typically motivated; both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their best interests; a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; payment is made in terms of cash in United States dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale."



Does the appraisal belong to the bank or the consumer?   (List of questions)

For mortgage transactions, the lender requests the appraisal, either directly or through a third party. Even though it's the buyer that eventually pays for the report, the lender is the intended user. The buyer is entitled to a copy of the appraisal - it's usually bundled with all the other closing documents - but is not allowed to use the report for any other purpose without permission from the lender.

This rule doesn't apply when a home owner hires an appraiser directly. In these scenarios, the appraiser may stipulate how the appraisal can be used; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not noted otherwise, the home owner can use the appraisal for any purpose.


Are some home improvements more worthwhile than others?   (List of questions)

Like all things real estate, this is dependent on a home's location. For example, adding a central air conditioner in to a home in the South may add significant value, while putting one in a home near the Pacific Northwest might not have much impact.

As a rule, the best ROI from renovating a home comes in the kitchen. One recent study revealed that putting $20,000 into a kitchen remodel would add about $17,500 to the value of the home - or about an 88% return on investment. Bathrooms weren't far behind, returning 85%. Adding bedrooms and baths can also help the value of your home (when done well) as long as your home doesn't then become atypical for your neighborhood in terms of size.