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The Home Appraisal Process: An Interview with Dana Grover of Dana L. Grover Associates

By Dana Grover

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

My appraisal practice includes appraisals for legal reasons such as divorces, property disputes, settling estates by determining values as of dates of death, relocation appraisals, mortgage appraisals for lenders, and assisting owners in determining a fair price for selling their homes (or for a buyer to pay a fair price for one), just about any situation in which the value of a residential property needs to be determined. In the past I have done appraisals for people challenging their property tax assessments, but can no longer do that type of appraisal. I have been appointed as a Value Hearing Officer by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and now get to hear tax assessment appeals and decide, based on the evidence submitted by the assessor and the appellant, what the assessed value of the property should be.

I started my appraisal career in 1970 as a trainee with Monterey Savings and Loan on the Monterey Peninsula. In 1974 I relocated to San Jose and was a staff appraiser with Northern California Savings and Loan. In 1983 (about) I started my own appraisal practice doing independent fee residential appraisals in the South Bay area. In 1988 I received the SRA designation for expertise in the appraisal of residential real estate, am a past president of the South Bay Chapter of the Appraisal Institute and a current member of the Northern California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute.

What are the key steps in the appraisal process?

When a client engages a real estate appraiser the appraiser will begin gathering the data needed to complete an appraisal. Usually it starts with a phone call, and the appraiser will get basic information, e.g. the property's address, some basic information as the type of property (detached single family, townhome, condominium, multi-family dwelling, etc) and some information as to the property's physical characteristics (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, age, size, number of stories, etc.), whether additions or remodeling have been made to the property. An appointment to visit the property and access to it will be arranged.

During the appraiser's visit to the property he or she will measure its exterior so that the size of the living area can be calculated, note the quality of construction and materials used, the condition of the property, its functionality, note any improvements, remodeling, and/or deferred maintenance.

Once factual data about the property is ascertained the appraiser will research sales in the subject property's market area, make an analysis of market trends in the market area, and select, observe and do an analysis of sales of homes the most similar to the subject that have recently sold to arrive at an opinion of market value. It should be noted that it is the market, not the appraiser, that determines a property's value. It is the appraiser's duty to analyze the factors that affect a property's value and provide an unbiased, supported opinion of that value.

How should one prepare for a home appraisal?

The appraiser of a residential property is only concerned with the real estate itself, not the contents and is not necessarily interested in whether or not there are dishes in the sink, beds are not made, or the teenager's room is an unmitigated nightmare. That said, a neat and orderly home is easier for the appraiser to inspect. The appraiser should not be influenced by the amount of housekeeping, or lack of it, but only the features, quality and condition of the property itself, and any outside or economic factors affecting it.

Is it necessary to stage their home beforehand, or will the appraiser help with that?

Staging is a marketing factor. The appraiser is not concerned with furnishings, what type of art is on the walls, or the aroma of freshly baked bread coming from the oven. He or she is only looking at the real estate itself, its quality and condition, what upgrades have been made to an older property, what obvious repairs are needed, and the quality and condition of landscaping. Importantly, the appraiser will be looking to see if the property is typical for the market area. The appraiser is not involved with the selling of the property so is also not involved in its staging.

What home factors have the biggest influence in the price?

It is a cliché, but location, location and location are the three biggest factors influencing a home's price. Having a prestigious address helps, the school district the property is in is a big factor, having a view, whether or not it is located on a busy street, near a freeway, close to outside negative, or positive, influences. In addition, size of the improvements (bigger is usually, but not always, better), numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, the quality and condition of the improvements, a functional floor plan, and being typical rather than atypical for the neighborhood.

Is an appraisal a one fee service, or is there more to the payment process?

The appraisal is a one fee service. It is not based on a per cent of a value or price, or contingent upon the outcome of a future event. The appraiser has to form a completely unbiased opinion of market value and can never be influenced by a fee based upon that value opinion.

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

I can be reached by phone at (408) 287-4686, or by logging onto my website, www.appraisal-expert.com and sending me an email.

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