Like any good question, the answer you will always seem to get is that "it depends". On what you may ask? Since all home appraisals are not created equally, that question has several answers.
The most important factor is what type of home appraisal you are going to be making. There are basically four types of appraisals that you will be able to choose from when you go to buy or sell a home. Some of these appraisals have other factors associated with them that can increase or decrease the cost. We'll cover those in a bit.
The first type of appraisal (and most common) is called a Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. Since you are appraising a house that you are considering purchasing, this will probably be the route you'll want to go if you've began the loan process. In actuality, your lender will probably require it. This is where a specifically trained individual comes to your home and inspects it inside and out. The process generally takes between two and four and hours, and the costs associated with this service usually run between $300 and $400. At the end of the inspection, the appraiser will give you a detailed report breaking down the value of your home. This process is considered the most popular but also the most expensive.
As stated before, there are several factors than can affect a typical URAR inspection. One of those is the type of property you are buying. Multi-family homes would cost more to inspect than single family homes, just solely based on the time and effort it would take to complete the review. Another factor would be the value of the home. A home that is worth more typically has more in it to inspect therefore increasing the price to perform the evaluation. A general cutoff is around $500,000, so any home worth more than that amount will typically cost more to inspect. A third factor is the location of the home. Driving times and mileage are all accounted for these days, so if the home is out in the sticks, you should expect to pay more. There are a few more factors that can influence the cost of an appraisal, but it doesn't sound like they'd become an issue for you. If a property is going to be used for generating income, appraisers will typically require a rent survey and an income statement which increases the cost. Other than that, you shouldn't expect to see any other type of fees.
The second type of appraisal is called a Short Form Report or Drive By Appraisal. Again, this process involves a trained appraiser coming to your home to inspect it. Unlike a URAR, the appraiser only looks at the the outside of the house and bases the inside condition and details off of what the owner says. As you could probably assume, this process generally takes less time and effort thereby driving the cost down. Since the process takes roughly half the time of a full appraisal, the cost is usually somewhere between $100 and $200. You'll want to keep in mind that some lenders and banks will not accept its value for loan purposes. It was not clear, based on your question, at what part of the buying stage you are currently so be careful of this. Also keep in mind the other factors stated previously that may also be associated with this type of appraisal.
The third type of appraisal is typically handled by a real estate agent and is usually free! What's the catch you might ask? The answer is that it's not a real appraisal... technically. Agents use what's called a Comparative Market Analysis (or CMA) to valuate a home. Factors like near-by home values, school districts and the condition of the home are all included. Some of the better agents are usually pretty accurate when figuring out what a house is worth and what they can sell it for. Keep in mind that this feature is usually reserved for sellers as opposed to buyers, but it's worth a shot to ask if you're actually looking to buy. Unfortunately, like with a Short Form Report, these values are not usually accepted by lenders as valid appraisals. In addition, real estate agents are working to make money (shocker I know), so they may be inclined to give you inflated (or deflated) values to entice your business.
The last type of appraisal is an online appraisal. Unlike the other three, these appraisals are strictly handled by the buyer or seller. There are numerous sites that cater to this particular service, and the prices range depending on how much information they are willing to compute. Chances are though that you will be just looking for a basic value so this may be the way to go. Most of the sites today are free and require essentially minimal effort in order to track a home value. Again it wasn't clear where you're at in the buying process, but from the sound of the question, this may be the way for you to go.
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