Real Estate Investing Basics

Home Appraisal Cost: How Much Should You Expect to Pay?

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
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Property assessment. Wooden house with magnifier and calculator.

You are under contract, have gone through inspection, objection, and resolution. Your loan is this close to being funded, all that's left is the appraisal. Just as every other inspection has a price, the appraisal doesn't come for free, either. So how much does a home appraisal cost, and can you shop around?

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Home Appraisals: Some Are Easier Than Others

According to Casey Fleming, author of  The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage“The cost for home appraisals today varies a bit by geographic region, but it has always varied too by the complexity of the assignment. It takes a lot more time to appraise a custom home in the mountains, for instance, than to appraise a tract home in the city.”

Of course, this makes perfect sense. It would be very easy to compare a house in a subdivision to another house the exact same size and floor plan, with extremely similar finishes, conveniently located directly across the street. Conversely, it would be much harder to try to figure out the value of a home if there wasn’t another home like it anywhere.

The appraisal tells your lender how much the home is worth. The appraiser uses recently sold homes in the immediate area and compares them to the home you are buying in order to come up with a value. If there aren't any recently sold homes like yours, any recently sold in your area, or both, their job is infinitely more difficult. Some areas of difficulty that are more time consuming for your appraiser may affect the home appraisal cost.


An appraisal seems like an easy place to game the system, too. Simply hire someone you know already and make sure the appraisal comes in where you need it to.

Related: Home Inspections Can Save You Thousands: Here’s How to Get the Most Out of Yours

And before the current regulations went into effect, this is exactly what people did. I know, I did it once, too. Not in an attempt to be underhanded — I just wanted to make sure the appraisal came in where I needed it to, in order to refinance and pull cash out of my flip. My neighbor was an appraiser, and he was a nice guy. I requested that my bank use him; they did, and holy cow, was he generous.

It wasn’t my intention (or the end result) to be fraudulent, so it didn’t even occur to me that people were doing this specifically to commit fraud. Cue the economic crash of 2008…

The NEW Rules for Home Appraisals

Fleming goes on to say, "You should know how appraisals (for lending purposes) work today. In 2008 new regulations put a firewall between mortgage originators (loan officers/any production folks) and the appraisers to make it impossible for stakeholders to influence the appraisal.

Today we have to order the appraisal through an online portal via the lender’s website. (Mortgage companies and banks do the same, so it isn’t any different. The originator cannot choose or have any contact with the appraiser.)

The lender engages an independent Appraisal Management Company (AMC), which maintains a panel of independent appraisers throughout the country. An appraiser may belong to several, if not dozens, of AMC panels. The loan officer is not even allowed to talk to the appraiser, much less influence them in any way.

There are several implications to this organization: The customer may not shop for the appraiser. The appraiser is selected independently and only through this system.

There is no cost difference between refinancing and purchase transactions, although, as noted above, there could be differences for complexity or scope. For instance, if you are buying a rental property, the appraiser will be asked to complete a rental survey in addition to the appraisal — obviously, the home appraisal cost will be higher.

In our San Francisco Bay area, fees for tract homes are currently running about $500 (range of $475 to $550), but it appears fees are rising.”

Dan Bradley, Chief Appraisal Officer for McKissock, an online real estate education platform, agrees with Fleming, saying, "Appraisal fees vary significantly throughout the country and will vary based on the complexity of the property. For example, a refinance appraisal of a standard single-family residence located in a subdivision might be one price, but a refinance appraisal of a property with acreage and outbuildings in the same geographic area will probably cost more, even if both assignments are completed by the same appraiser. The appraisal on the complex property requires lots of additional research, and that research takes time, and therefore it costs more."

Street of residential houses

Not Everyone Likes the New Regulations

Agent Tracey Hampson with Great Santa Clarita Homes isn’t a fan of the new regulations: “Unfortunately with the real estate crash, lenders are now not allowed to ask for a certain appraiser. It’s very unfortunate because often the appraisers are not familiar with the area and bring in values either completely inaccurate or very low.”

Related: Why Appraisals Don’t Necessarily Value Homes From an Investor’s Point of View

I’ve spoken with other agents who feel the same way. In the past, I’ve recommended that sellers give a cheat sheet of sorts to the appraiser when they get there, including measurements of their home and a list of improvements along with information about the neighborhood, explaining any homes that sold recently for a less-than-market price for reasons not readily apparent. On my street, I know of three houses that sold last year for significantly less than they should have for reasons that would not be known to someone who wasn’t in tune with the latest neighborhood news.

Hampson says, “I do meet the appraiser when it’s my listing and always bring comparables. Sometimes they appreciate it.” I would always recommend doing this. If they don’t look at the comparables you bring, you haven’t really lost out on much. But if they do take them into consideration, you can control the process a bit more.

Hampson also shared home appraisal cost in her area. “Appraisals run approximately $350 to $400 and are the same regardless of the appraisal company.”

Don’t Focus Solely on “Home Appraisal Cost”

Over on the other side of the country, Sam Heskel, President of Nadlan Valuation, an appraisal management company in Brooklyn, points out a good way to look at home appraisal cost: “…the cost of an appraisal runs from $400 to $600, consumers should not focus on the cost of the appraisal. Rather, buyers or sellers should be more concerned about the competency of the appraiser. It is not like you are shopping for a bag of potatoes: a home sale or purchase — often the biggest transaction of a person’s life — depends on the appraisal.”

Good advice, Sam.

Unique Isn’t Always a Good Thing in Real Estate

Every single piece of property is 100 percent unique — there will never be two properties that are exactly alike. However, the more unique your property is, the more difficult it will be to value, and the higher the chances are that your appraisal will come in low.

Your home appraisal cost will run between $350 and $600 for a home that is easier to appraise — and could run much higher for a unique property. Shopping around for the best price isn’t really an option, so focus on making your home look its best, and ask your agent for a list of favorable comparables to share with the appraiser.

How much does home appraisal cost run in your area? Do you have any tips for making the most of our your appraisal?

Leave a comment and let’s talk!

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real est...
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    Nathan Richmond Rental Property Investor from Visalia, CA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I have also been told taking before/after pictures is useful if you’ve done some remodeling or landscaping. I have an FHA mortgage on the duplex I’m living in. I will be remodeling the unit I’m living in (both bathrooms and a completely new kitchen) and I’m going to want to get out from under the PMI I’m paying when I refinance. I will be taking pictures of my 1970’s kitchen so the appraiser can see what exactly it looked like before when it was appraised when I bought it.
    John C. Carlson Appraiser from Victorville, California
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I want to make sure that everyone who reads this excellent post does not think that because they pay $400 to $600 for an appraisal, that that is what the appraiser is being paid. If an appraisal assignment came thru an AMC, the “typical” AMC gets the $400 to $600 and then they hire an appraiser for the lowest price they can. The AMC sends out an e-mail blast to every appraiser on their list and the appraiser who gets the assignment is not the closest in proximity, or the most experienced, it is the appraiser who hits the “accept” button the fastest and who is willing to accept the AMC’s fee. There is one AMC whose standard fee for ALL APPRAISALS is $250, no matter the complexity. This is why I do not work for most AMC’s, $250 was what I was charging in the early 1980s for typical property appraisals. I do work for a few AMCs and Banks who care enough about the appraisal to allow reasonable fees and I am VERY picky about who I work for. When you are called by an appraiser, the first question you should ask is: “By the way, where are you located?”. The second question you should ask is: “do you have access to the local MLS in the area where the property to be appraised is?” What is referred to as “Geographic Competency” is very important. It is less important for those appraisers who have been appraising for decades. You can go to to look up any licensed appraiser to see how long they have been licensed. There is no reason why you cannot hand a list of comparables that you have located to an appraiser. Don’t try to snow the appraiser, if they are experienced, they already have the comparables you just gave them. Don’t let an appraiser tell you that they can’t accept any data from a buyer, borrower or agent. This is baloney, the only thing an appraiser must do is verify the data you give them from a third party. John C. Carlson Certified General Real Estate Appraiser
    John C. Carlson Appraiser from Victorville, California
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Posting again because I didn’t check the boxes below John C. Carlson
    Peter Lishman Investor from Saint Louis, Missouri
    Replied about 4 years ago
    @JOHN C. CARLSON I am about to go through a refi myself soon. The advice provided here is golden but what is the point in questioning the appraiser in his experience or whereabouts he is from since you said its out of the my hands anyway (AMC and Lenders call)?
    John C. Carlson Appraiser from Victorville, California
    Replied about 4 years ago
    @PETER LISHMAN: Peter, it’s better to try to ensure that the appraiser who is selected is experienced and familiar with your property at the beginning of your transaction, than deal with a bad appraisal 3 weeks later. You do have the right to say: (Using So. CA locations) “Hey, my property is in Ontario and this appraiser is coming from Agoura – he/she probably doesn’t know how to spell Ontario”. The AMC or Loan Broker can still tell you to go pound sand, but at least you know you HAVE to assist the appraiser with Comps. Again, if the appraiser tells you they cannot accept Comps from a borrower, you look them in the eye and tell them that FNMA Regs allow the appraiser to accept comps, they just have to verify them from a 3rd. party source. The worst case example I have is when the real estate agent who is in an office on the 1st floor of my building came roaring into my office one day and yelled: “John, I know you can’t help me, but I just have to vent” Seems he had just met an appraiser in our City of Victorville and he knew the appraiser was coming from Los Angeles. He said that the appraiser got out of his car, looked around and said: “who the He&& would live up here?” Several days later he told me that he lost the deal because of the appraiser. He was selling a fully upgraded home and the appraiser used all junk REO properties that were in fair to poor condition.
    John C. Carlson Appraiser from Victorville, California
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Should have written: “familiar with your area”
    Peter Lishman Investor from Saint Louis, Missouri
    Replied about 4 years ago
    @JOHN C. CARLSON Thanks John! I’ll be following your advice!
    Replied about 4 years ago
    This article points up the inherent problem with using comps to value property. If comps were actually reliable measure of value, then by definition, a housing bubble cannot occur. However, a housing bubble did occur because comps overvalued the houses. If appraisers actually look at the houses they are appraising (instead of the armchair appraisals they used to do), they never would have given gutted houses such high valuations.
    John C. Carlson Appraiser from Victorville, California
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Katie, I’ve reviewed hundreds of appraisals over my career, the problem is not the use of comparables, it is the mis-use of comparables. Example: I constantly see this – I’m reviewing a report for a property that is in average condition and the appraiser uses a comparable, states that it is in fair condition and makes an upward +$50,000 adjustment. The reason given by the appraiser for this huge adjustment is that the appraiser says the condition of this particular comparable is inferior to the Subject Property they are appraising. When I verify this comparable, the listing says the following: “fully remodeled, new granite counters, new top-of-line appliances, new forced air and central air, new roof……etc., etc. Obviously, this comparable is in significantly superior condition. The appraiser lies about the comparable in order to balloon up the value of the Subject Property they are appraising. Use of this particular comparable might have been OK, however, a negative adjustment should have been applied for superior condition, not a positive one. The other way appraisers fudge value all the time is to use comparables in a superior neighborhood, where homes sell for significantly more. Usually, the appraiser notes in the report something like: “It was necessary use the comparables shown in the report because there are no sales in the Subject tract” However, when I research the Subject tract, I can find 10 to 15 comparables that could and should have been used, all of which sold for $100,000 less than what the appraiser valued the Subject Property. The comparables sold or more because they were located in a superior tract. There are many other ways that appraisers fudge value. The point I am making is that the proper use of comparables, fully verifying the comparable data, and using market derived adjustments will result in a proper valuation. John C. Carlson Victorville, CA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Even before an appraiser enters the picture, both buyer’s agents and seller’s agents misuse comps. They use comps to tell the seller what price to list the property, and they use comps to persuade the buyer to offer too much. Then they push the appraiser to give an appraisal to match the over-priced offer. An appraiser who honestly appraises loses gigs. (Hopefully the new rules will prevent these problems). Even stranger, if an honest appraisal is less than the offer price, both agents will push the buyer to add the difference in cash (ie a bigger down payment) instead of pushing the seller to accept the appraisal price as the offer price. The agents say a house is worth what buyers are willing to pay regardless of the appraisal. First, if that were true, a bubble would have been impossible. Second, that pretends the influence of agents on the offer did not exist. A lot of agents really do not like informed buyers. They always prefer the greater fool. Any investor who has a good buyer’s agent should be very grateful. They are a rare breed.
    Emmanuel Leger
    Replied 8 months ago
    Wow, that is a very good start. I also love the idea of this kind of approach to being a good thing. If you can get a solid deal on top of a good offer for a good product palm beach county property appraiser jobs with excellent skills, I think you will gain valuable points and gain value from your success.