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Frequently Asked Questions about Home Appraisals: an Interview with Aine O'Mahoney Cronin

By Aine O'Mahoney Cronin

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

S.C. Valuation Group was founded in the Seacoast area of Maine and New Hampshire in 2001. The principal owner, Terance O'Mahoney MAI, SRA, had a long history in appraising and banking in Northern California, of both commercial and residential properties. The company's current focus is residential appraisal clients, which includes lending institutions, private parties, attorneys, etc. Terance's daughter Áine Cronin joined forces with him in 2013 after working for nine years in the private equity field in both Boston and London.

What are some common questions people ask you about home appraisals and their answers ?

What is an appraisal?

An appraisal is a thought process leading to an opinion of value of something, in this case your home and property. An appraiser makes a professional, unbiased opinion of market value based on the characteristics and conditions of the home and property in relation to the comparable sales.

How much does it cost?

Fees vary as significantly as different types of homes (Capes, Colonials, Ranches, etc.) and properties (city, suburban, ocean front, lake view, etc.) on the market.

How long does it take?

This depends on the size and complexity of the property as well. Most often, the appraisal will be received 5-7 business days after the date of inspection.

Why would a person need a home appraisal?

There are many reasons to obtain an appraisal. The most common reason is for real estate and mortgage transactions, however other reasons include:

  • To obtain a loan
  • To establish the replacement cost of insurance
  • To settle an estate
  • To determine a reasonable price when selling real estate.
  • To provide a negotiating tool when purchasing real estate.

Please note that when a bank requires an appraisal for a loan or mortgage, the bank will need to contact the appraiser directly. Banks will most often not accept an appraisal obtained by the homeowner.

If my appraisal comes out higher than my current tax value, can my real estate taxes go up?

No. The appraiser is required to maintain confidentiality with their client (which would most likely be you or the bank, not the town).

What do appraisers look for in comparable sales?

The selection of comparable sales is arguably the most important determining factor in establishing value. The appraiser will research the local real estate market and determine which comparable sales best represent the value characteristics of the subject property. The appraiser will take into account proximity (in suburban areas appraisers first try to find comps within 1 mile of the property), and status and date. Appraisers will generally not use any comps that have sold more than 12 months ago.

How are home appraisers paid? (e.g. standard/fixed fee, transportation costs, etc.)

Appraisers are always paid a fixed fee. The fee is never related to the value of the property.

How long does an appraisal take?

An appraisal is like an iceberg ? the most visible part is the inspection of the property, which generally takes an hour or less. The majority of our time is spent "below the surface" on the selection and inspection of comparable properties and completing the calculations and paperwork that will accompany and explain our valuation.

What advice do you have for someone receiving a home appraisal?

When the appraiser arrives at your home, have a list of capital improvements made to the property in the past ten years ? such as adding a half-bath, replacing the roof or windows. If you have done significant renovations, having a copy of the plans for the appraiser is helpful.

It is also helpful (and appreciated!) if you do not "hover" over the appraiser as him/her makes the inspection, just make yourself available for any questions they might have.

What is the best way for people to reach you and or your company?

The best way to reach us is by email at terry@omahoneyappraisals.com or aine@omahoneyappraisals.com as we are often in the field. You can also find us on the web at OMahoneyAppraisals.com where clients can request an appraisal and learn more about the process.

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