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

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may not realize all the steps that go into buying a new home. Some of them, like the home inspection and obtaining the real estate appraisal, can be stressful. So, what should you expect with this next step in the appraisal process? And how long does an appraisal take?

Let’s go over some appraisal basics to help you understand what is involved in one of the last steps in your home buying journey.

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

An appraisal is an objective estimate of a home’s value. It is provided by a licensed professional real estate appraiser.

You need an appraisal for several reasons. First, an appraisal is needed primarily for your mortgage lender. By providing an estimate of the fair market value of your home, the appraisal assures the lender they are not lending more money for a piece of property than it’s actually worth. Also, the appraisal helps protect you, it assures that you’re not paying more for the home than you should.

How long does an appraisal take?

The home appraiser, on average, will visit a property for 1-3 hours, however, you most likely will not get back the final appraisal report for one to two weeks. The amount of time it takes for the appraiser to complete the appraisal process varies depending on the size and complexity of the house. For example, a 10,000 square foot property with a detached carriage house, horse barn, and lots of land in Dallas, TX will take longer to appraise than a three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,900 square foot house in Seattle, WA.

Remember, once the appraiser has done the physical inspection of the property, he or she then needs to begin the work of locating comparable properties and eventually writing up the final report. From the initial inspection of the property to obtaining a final report can take a week to two for a typical property, depending on how busy the appraisers are and what the housing market is doing in your area at the time.

Who orders the appraisal and when?

During an appraisal, the appraiser visits the home where they thoroughly inspect the property, inside and out. Unlike the home inspector who tests all of the systems within the home and recommends any needed repairs, the appraiser is interested in determining the market value of the property as it compares to similar homes in the area.

The appraiser does this by gathering information needed to complete a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. This form is quite detailed and requires the appraiser to measure each room and the lot the house sits on. They also take pictures of every room in the home and the exterior, including the yard.

They have to note, among other things, how old the house is, where it is located, how big it is, and what the structure is made of. They also determine whether the layout of the house is optimally functional, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the overall condition of the interior, roof, and siding.

Once the appraiser has compiled all the necessary information from your property, he will obtain information on nearby homes. It is important that these houses are comparable to your property. He will use all of this information to determine a fair market value of the property, complete the Appraisal Report and forward the report to your lender so you can move forward in the closing process.

And in case you’re wondering, the buyer is typically not in attendance on the day of the appraisal. The seller can be present during the appraisal, but often their agent steps in and takes their place. This way, the agent is available to answer any questions that may come up while the appraiser is conducting the inspection of the property.

3 possible outcomes of a home appraisal

When the appraisal comes in, the fair market value assessed by the appraiser could go one of three ways.

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

You have several options if the appraised value comes in lower than the agreed-upon sale price.

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

If the appraised value of the property is higher than the purchase price, that’s great news. You’ve just bought a home with some equity already built in. An example of this would be if the agreed-upon purchase price is $225,000 but the appraised value is $230,000. In that scenario, you would have $5,000 worth of equity before you even make your first payment. And luckily for you as the homebuyer, the seller can’t demand more money, and the sale of the home will move forward.

3. The appraisal matches the agreed-upon purchase price exactly?

Appraised values often match the amount of the agreed-upon purchase price. If that is the case in your buying situation, then everything is fine and no additional negotiations are needed.

Getting an appraisal will be a requirement if you are obtaining a loan to purchase your dream home. And although it can sometimes be a rocky part of buying a home, remember, once you successfully maneuver past the appraisal process, you can move on to working with a title company to finish out the closing process and finally enjoy your new home.

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