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Gage Appraisal Services has answers to "Frequently Asked Questions"

Gage Appraisal Services is always willing to reply to any concerns you might have about appraisals in Lansing and Allamakee County. Feel free to contact us today.

Describe an appraisal
What does an appraiser do?
Why would I require your services?
What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?
Is an appraisal the same as a comparative market analysis(CMA)?
What's in an appraisal report?
Once the assignment has been delivered, what guarantee is there that the value indicated is accurate?
What are the requirements to be a certified appraiser?
Who do appraisers work for?
Where does Gage Appraisal Services get the information used to estimate values in Allamakee County or other areas?
How can a licensed appraiser help me?
What exactly is PMI and how can I get rid of it?
Do you need anything from me in advance?
Define "Market Value"
Who has rights to the appraisal report?
Are some home improvements more worthwhile than others?



Describe an appraisal   (Back to top)

The appraisal process is an evaluation that generates an opinion of value. There are three "common approaches to value" which helps the appraiser come to this opinion or valuation. One of the processes in use is the Cost Approach, which finds what it would cost to restore the improvements to the home, minus depreciation and physical dilapidation, plus the land value. Easily the most common approach in finding the likely sales price of a home is the Sales Comparison Approach which concerns making a comparison to comparable properties close by. Being the most popular approach, the Sales Comparison Approach is generally the most precise and best indicator of market value for a residence. The third approach is the Income Approach, which is the most important method in appraising income producing properties - it involves estimating what an investor would pay based on the money produced by the property.

What does an appraiser do?   (Back to top)

An appraiser produces a fair and credible opinion of market value, to be used in making real estate transactions. Appraisers reveal the details of their analysis in appraisal reports.


Why would I require your services?   (Back to top)

There are many reasons to obtain an appraisal from Gage Appraisal Services with the most common reason being real estate and mortgage transactions. Some other reasons for purchasing an appraisal include:
  • To receive a loan.
  • If you would like to reduce your property tax burden.
  • To demonstrate a homeowner's acquired equity and remove Primary Mortgage Insurance.
  • To contest improperly assessed property taxes.
  • To settle an estate.
  • To provide you an edge when purchasing real estate.
  • To determine a reasonable price when listing your home.
  • To protect your rights if your property is being taken by means of eminent domain in a condemnation case.
  • Because a government agency such as the IRS requires it.
  • It's possible you could have to deal with being in a lawsuit - an appraisal will definitely help.
For a more detailed description of the appraisal process click here.


What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?   (Back to top)

Appraisers do not do complete home inspections and are not home inspectors. A third-party home inspector will evaluate the structure of the home, from the roof to the foundation. For the most part, a home inspection report will discuss the amenities and the requirements of the house: air conditioning (weather permitting), electrical functions, the condition of the heating system, the plumbing; then the structural capacity of the home such as the attic, accessible insulation, walls, floors, ceilings, windows, then the foundation, basement and visible structures.

Is an appraisal the same as a comparative market analysis(CMA)?   (Back to top)

Honestly, they have nothing in common. The CMA uses market trends to conduct most of their business. The appraisal is based on similar verifiable comparable sales. Also, the appraisal checks other factors like condition, neighborhood and construction costs. All a CMA does is generate a "ball park figure." Being a documented and carefully investigated opinion of value, appraisals are defensible and stand up in legal situations.

But the largest differentiator is who's doing the report. A CMA is written by a real estate agent who may or may not have a true grasp of the market or valuation concepts. A certified, Iowa licensed professional who has formed their livelihood on valuing properties in and around Allamakee County creates the appraisal. Further, the appraiser is an unbiased voice, with no vested interest in the property's value, unlike the real estate agent, who gets a commission based upon the price of the home.

What's in an appraisal report?   (Back to top)

The main purpose of an appraisal report is to provide a value opinion, and depending on the scope of the report, you'll usually see the following:
  • Who engaged the appraiser and whose purposes the appraisal is to serve.
  • How the appraisal is supposed to be used.
  • The reason for the appraisal.
  • The type of value reported and a definition of that value.
  • The effective date of the appraiser's opinions and conclusions.(Sometimes this is in the past or maybe the future for new construction!)
  • Characteristics of the property that have a bearing on the value, including: location, physical attributes, legal attributes, economic attributes, the property rights valued, and non-real estate items included in the valuation, such as personal property, trade fixtures and even intangible factors.
  • Any known easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases, reservations, covenants, contracts, declarations, special assessments, ordinances, and the like.
  • Division of interest, such as fractional interest, physical segment and partial holding.
  • What was included in the activity of completing the assignment.
For a more in depth look at all that goes into an appraisal report click here: Sample Appraisal Report


Once the assignment has been delivered, what guarantee is there that the value indicated is accurate?   (Back to top)

In the documentation of an appraisal, each appraiser must see to it that each of the items below are covered:
  • That the information analysis implemented in the appraisal was appropriate.

  • That critical errors of omission or commission were not committed individually or collectively.

  • That appraisal services were not rendered in a careless or negligent manner.

  • The final appraisal report was easy to explain, sound and conclusive.
To become a state licensed appraiser, there are education requirements as well as real world experience that must be logged - all with the end goal of being able to provide unbiased value opinions. In addition, appraisers must abide by a stringent industry code of ethics and respect national standards of practice for real estate appraisal. The rules for developing an appraisal and communicating its results are insured by enforcement of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


   (Back to top) Regulations regarding licensing and certification of Real Estate Appraisers are different from state to state. However, licensing and certification is most often associated with many hours of classroom study, tests and practical experience. Once an appraiser is licensed, he or she must then take continuing education courses so that the license doesn't expire. To see the specific requirements for any state click here.

Who do appraisers work for?   (Back to top)

Commonly, appraisers are called upon by mortgage lenders to render a value opinion on a home involved in a loan transaction - to make sure the real estate is indeed adequate collateral for the loan. Appraisers also provide opinions for legal settlements, tax matters and investment decisions.

Where does Gage Appraisal Services get the information used to estimate values in Allamakee County or other areas?   (Back to top)

Collecting data is one of the main things an appraiser does. Data can be described as either Specific or General. Specific data is from the home itself; Location, condition, amenities, size and other specific data are documented by the appraiser while on site.

General data is received from a number of sources. Local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) provide information on recently sold homes that could be used as comparables. To verify actual sales prices, we use items in the assessor's office and other public documents. Appraisers often have to report when a property lies in a flood zone, so that information is retrieved from a FEMA data outlet such as a la mode's InterFlood product.

And last but not least, the appraiser gathers general data from his or her past experience in creating appraisals for other houses in the same market.


How can a licensed appraiser help me?   (Back to top)

Any time the value of your home or other real property is being used to make a significant financial decision, an appraisal helps. For those selling a home, you'll want to determine a price that gets you the most profit but also ensures you don't have to wait too long for a buyer to show up; an appraisal can help with that. If you're buying, it makes sure you don't overpay. If you're engaged in an estate settlement or divorce, it ensures that property is divided fairly. Simply put, a home is often the single, largest financial asset anybody owns. Without knowing its real value, wise financial decisions are impossible.


What exactly is PMI and how can I get rid of it?   (Back to top)

PMI is short for for Private Mortgage Insurance. This supplementary policy protects the lender if a borrower defaults on the loan and the value of the home is lower than the loan balance. Once you can prove the amount you owe on your home is less than 80% of the home's market value, you can make a case to your lender to drop the PMI.

The money you keep from cancelling the PMI required when you got your mortgage will make up for the cost of the appraisal in a matter of months. Nobody is more qualified than Gage Appraisal Services when it comes to analyzing real estate appreciation in Lansing and Allamakee County. Contact us today.

Do you need anything from me in advance?   (Back to top)

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. The best thing you can do to help is make sure we have 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.

To help expedite our work as well as ensure a more accurate report, attempt if possible to have the following items:
  • A survey or plot map of the property and building (if readily available).
  • Any documents, such as a title policy with information on encroachments or easements encroachments or easements.
  • Home inspection reports, or other recent reports for termites, EIFS (synthetic stucco) wall systems, your septic system and your well.
  • A copy of the current listing agreement and broker's data sheet and Purchase Agreement if a sale is "pending".
  • A bill for your most recent real estate taxes which should also contain a legal description of the property.

Define "Market Value"   (Back to top)

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."



Who has rights to the appraisal report?   (Back to top)

For mortgage transactions, the lender orders 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 included 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 situations, the appraiser may state how the appraisal can be used; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not stated otherwise, the home owner can use the appraisal for any purpose.


Are some home improvements more worthwhile than others?   (Back to top)

Like all things real estate, this is dependent on a home's location. For example, while quality appliances are attractive, a $7000 built-in refrigerator won't pay off in a neighborhood of moderately priced homes

No matter where you go, however, renovating a kitchen is almost always a safe move. 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, yielding 85%. Adding bedrooms and baths can also boost the value of your home as long as your home doesn't then become overbuilt for your neighborhood in terms of size.