How Long Does an Appraisal Take?

Congratulations! You’ve been preapproved for a home mortgage, found your dream home, negotiated an agreeable sales price, and successfully maneuvered through the home inspection process. You now have the fully executed sales contract for your new house.

Next, on to the home appraisal.

You’ll need a home appraisal anytime you take out a loan from a mortgage lender. The appraisal process can get bumpy sometimes, but it’s an important and enlightening part of buying a home.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you might not realize how many steps there are until you’re in the thick of it. It helps to prepare yourself for the appraisal process and know how long it will take ahead of time.

How long does a home appraisal take?

The on-site inspection portion of a home appraisal usually takes 1-3 hours. Some appraisal inspections take less than an hour. It can then take up to a week or two to complete and deliver the final appraisal report.

After the appraiser visits the property, they’ll look at comparable home sales in the area. They factor these properties into their appraisal report along with everything they found during their physical inspection.

An appraisal can take longer depending on the appraiser’s workload and the current housing market in your area. The size and complexity of the property can also affect the appraisal timeline.

For example, it will generally take longer to inspect and prepare reports for 6,000 square-foot homes in Dallas, TX than 1,500 square-foot houses in Seattle, WA.

What is an appraisal, and why do I need one?

home appraisal is an unbiased estimate of your home’s value performed by a licensed real estate appraiser. Here’s why you might need one:

  • First, your mortgage lender will likely need an appraisal. By providing an estimate of the fair market value of your home, an appraisal assures the lender they aren’t lending more money for a property than it’s worth.
  • An appraisal also protects you by proving you aren’t paying more for the home than you should.

Who orders the appraisal and when?

Your mortgage company or lender usually orders the appraisal once the home inspection is complete and repair negotiations have been finalized.

The buyer pays for the appraisal. The home appraisal cost is usually between $300 to $400, depending on the property. It may be more expensive for bigger or more complex properties. The home inspection cost is separate from the appraisal.

The buyer usually isn’t there on the day of the appraisal. The seller can be present, but their real estate agent usually steps in for them. That way, the agent can answer any questions that come up while the appraiser is inspecting the property.

Once the appraisal process is complete, you’ll be ready to move forward with a title company and close on your new home.

What happens during an appraisal?

During an appraisal, an appraiser visits the home and thoroughly inspects it. They’ll take time to examine the home exterior and lot, then come inside to look at the interior.

They gather all the information they need to complete a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. This detailed form includes measurements of the lot and each room in the home. They’ll also take pictures of each room, the home’s exterior, and the yard.

Here’s what appraisers look at in order to prepare their report:

Property condition

Homes will generally appraise for less when there are clear signs of structural problems or damage. The appraiser will check things like:

  • Condition of the roof and foundation
  • Condition of the walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Construction quality and building material
  • Structural integrity (how well the home holds up under its own weight)

Measurements and features

Next, the appraiser will take note of the home’s dimensions and features, including its location. This includes:

  • Age of the home
  • Square footage
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • How functional the layout is
  • Recent renovations, updates, or repairs
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Included appliances
  • Home location
  • The surrounding area (including nearby schools)

Comparable sales

Once the appraiser has the information they need, they’ll use real estate software to see how the recently sold properties nearby compare to yours. These are comparable sales, sometimes called “comparables” or “real estate comps” for short.

Appraisers often look within a quarter- or half-mile radius of your home. They might use distances of a mile or more if the homes in your neighborhood are further apart.

Appraisers check similar properties for things like age, size, overall condition, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the home’s location in the neighborhood, and more.

The appraiser will use comparable sales along with their earlier inspection notes to decide the property’s fair market value. Then, they’ll complete the appraisal report and forward it to your lender. You can then move forward in the closing process.

aerial view of noe valley neighborhood in san francisco

3 possible outcomes of a home appraisal

When the final report comes in, the appraisal value could go one of three ways:

1. The appraisal comes in lower than the agreed-upon price

Let’s say you agreed to pay $250,000 for a house, but the appraisal says the home is only worth $240,000. You have several options:

  • Request an appraisal review. A different licensed appraiser prepares an independent report using the same appraisal elements. The reviewer then comments on the accuracy of the first appraisal.
  • Offer to pay the difference. You could pay the additional $10,000 in closing costs to make up the difference between the appraised value and the agreed-upon price. Some closing costs are tax-deductible.
  • Ask the seller to lower the purchase price. If the seller agrees, they would take $10,000 off the home price, reducing it to $240,000.
  • Compromise with the seller. You can try to meet the seller halfway. In one scenario, you might offer to pay $5,000 in closing costs and ask the seller to lower the sale price by $5,000. This would make up for the entire $10,000 difference.
  • Walk away. If you signed an appraisal contingency and still can’t come to an agreement, you can withdraw your offer without penalty. This tends to be the last resort for homebuyers since it can mean they have to start their home search from scratch.

2. The appraisal comes in higher than the agreed-upon price

Great news, you just bought a home with some equity already built-in.

Let’s say you agreed on a $250,000 price, but the appraisal shows a property value of $260,000. In this case, you’d be starting with $10,000 worth of equity before you even make your first payment.

The seller can’t demand more money if an appraisal comes back higher than expected, so the home sale can move forward as planned.

3. The appraisal matches the agreed-upon price

Sometimes the appraised home value matches the agreed-upon purchase price exactly. This means the buyer, seller, and lender are all happy, and the buying process can move forward without extra negotiations.

two people shaking hands

Home appraisal FAQs

Why is my appraisal taking so long?

Waiting for your appraisal report can be nerve-wracking, especially when it takes longer than expected. This can happen for a couple reasons:

  • Large homes can give appraisers more things to consider during their evaluation. In some cases, you may need to wait for an appraiser who’s qualified to assess that specific property.
  • Sometimes an appraiser is busy finishing other projects, so it takes them longer to complete your appraisal. There can also be work shortages in certain areas due to high demand or a lack of qualified appraisers.

Either of these scenarios will affect the final appraisal timeline.

When does the buyer get the appraisal report?

The buyer receives the appraisal report after the appraiser has physically inspected the property, assessed comparable properties in the area, and factored everything into a final appraised value. Once they’ve finalized the report, they’ll send it to the mortgage lender that ordered it.

It can take a few days to a few weeks to get an appraisal report back. If you haven’t heard anything after a while, ask your real estate agent or lender if they can offer any updates.

How long does it take to get an appraisal scheduled?

You can usually get an appraisal scheduled within a day or two of it being ordered. Like other parts of the home buying process, workforce shortages and the appraiser’s workload could affect availability.

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