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The Westra Group has answers to "Frequently Asked Questions"

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about appraisals and our company. If you still have concerns or questions, please feel free to contact us today.

Tell me more about the Westra Group?
Is an appraisal the same as a home inspection?
My agent performed a CMA for me. Is that the same as an appraisal?
I need an appraisal for a mortgage, can I order that?
Do you need anything from the homeowner in advance?
How does an appraiser define "Market Value"?
Does the appraisal belong to the bank or the consumer?

Tell me more about The Westra Group?   (Go to list of  questions)

The Westra Group was officially formed as Westra and Company in 1991. The name changed in 2005 for no particular reason. The name "group" may be deceptive in that the so-called group is really just one appraiser - Kyle Westra-  and a few support staff. The Westra Group, aka, Kyle Westra, specializes in residential appraisal. Some of the services provided include: 
  • REO
  • Relocation
  • Estate Valuation
  • Sale Consideration
  • Financing
  • Insurance determination
  • Divorce
  • Legal matters

Is an appraisal the same as a home inspection?   (Go to list of  questions)

Appraisers do not provide house inspections and are not home inspectors. The point of a home inspection is to evaluate the structure of the home from foundation to top. For the most part, a home inspection report will evaluate the amenities and the necessities of the home: air conditioning (weather permitting), electrical functions, the condition of the heating system, the plumbing; then the structural integrity of the home such as the attic, exposed insulation, walls, floors, ceilings, windows, then the foundation, basement and other visible structures.

My agent performed a CMA for me. Is that the same as an appraisal?   (Go to list of  questions)

Simply, the process is similar, however, the intentions are completely different. A CMA performed by a Realtor is typically done with the intent of getting your listing. The Realtor is not acting in an impartial view. Since the appraisal is completed by an individual who has no potential interest in the property, the value estimate should be completely impartial.

I need an appraisal for a mortgage. Can I order that?    (Go to list of  questions)

The easiest and quickest answer is simply No.  Federal regulations are very firm in this answer. If the appraisal is for a federally related mortgage transaction (most mortgages fall under this class), the appraisal can not be ordered by the homeowner or buyer. The reason for this is to avoid influence by the owner or buyer on the appraiser.

Do you need anything from the homeowner in advance?   (Go to list of  questions)

I typically will send the following letter to homeowners to let them know what to expect from the appraisal process:

I want to take this opportunity to provide you with a brief summary of what to expect from the appraisal process of your home.  I have been appraising for over 30 years and have appraised over 21,000 homes. It has been my experience that homeowners might be concerned that I might miss something about the home during my inspection. It is only natural for a homeowner to want to point out features of the home. Therefore, if you feel there are some items or features of the home which you feel are important, please provide me with a summary of those features. I prefer you send the summary to me in an email as I have a paper free office. If you can do this prior to the inspection, that would be most helpful. If you prefer to print out a summary, I will gladly take that as well. The following are items of interest to me.  I don’t require a response of these items. This is just something you might want to provide.

·        Updates to the home within the past ten years – floor coverings, cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures, roof, additions, furnace, air conditioning, and water heater.

·        When did you purchase the home? If in the last three years, it would be helpful to have the month and year. If over three years, the year purchased will be good enough.

·        Unique features of the home – things you like or dislike about the home.

·        Features of your neighborhood – what do you like about the neighborhood – examples would be: close to schools, close to transportation, close to work, close to shopping, great neighbors, secluded, etc..

What to expect at the time of inspection?  The inspection time varies depending on the size and complexity of the home. When I arrive at the home, I will measure the outside of the home to determine the square footage. I may ask you to open your garage door so I can get additional measurements in the garage. Once I am finished with the exterior, I will come into the home. I don’t have a problem with removing my shoes if you would like. I will roam through the home and I will need to enter every room. Please understand that I take photos of every room except for laundry rooms and pantry areas. I will take a photo of the laundry if it is part of a larger room such as a sewing room.

People ask what I am looking at while in the home. Quality of finishings such as the floors, moldings, cabinets, fixtures, and features of the home. Floor plan is also something I pay attention to. I don’t care about how clean the home is. I have five kids and I know what a messy bedroom looks like. But I do pay attention to the condition of the home. There is a difference between a messy room and a home with wear and tear.  Please keep in mind, the appraisal is based upon the “as is” condition of the home at the time of inspection. If you have future plans for renovation, I am unable to take that into consideration in the appraisal. This is a lender requirement.

What you need to do to prepare for the appraisal.

·        The level of cleanliness is your preference. The appraisal is a market value estimate. In simple terms, it is “what a typical buyer would pay for your home”. So I tell people that your home should appear as if you were selling the home to me, a typical buyer.

·        Please make sure I can enter every room. That means no sleeping people. Make sure everyone knows I will be coming into every room. I don’t want to surprise anyone as I walk into their room.

·        I love dogs. If you have a dog, you don’t have to kennel the dog or whatever you might do. But, I do need to do my job and that can sometimes be difficult if the dog is protective. You know how your dog is around strangers. Please do what you feel is needed.

·        I’m very prompt. If I’m running late, I will call.  I would also ask the same in reverse. If I have to make a second trip because nobody was home, I charge the client for a trip fee.   

This is most important - I follow a very strict routine while inspecting a home to make sure I don’t miss things. I focus on the task at hand, and that means I don’t spend time talking. Some people take that as being rude. When I’m done, I love to talk. But while I’m inspecting, please let me do my job. Some people don’t feel comfortable letting a stranger walk through their home unaccompanied. I don’t have a problem with someone following me. Just don’t talk to me. If I get distracted, I might miss something which could result in difference in the value estimate of your home. Lastly, when I am finished, I do not know the value of your home. The inspection is only the beginning process. When I do have the report completed, it is sent directly to the client in an encrypted file. It will be up to the lender to relay the results to you. My agreement with the client prohibits me to relay any details of the appraisal to you or anyone else. If you have questions once you have received the results of the appraisal, the client (lender) has instructed me to not discuss the results of the report. I am to refer you to speak with your loan officer if you have any questions or concerns.

How does an appraiser define "Market Value"?   (Go to list of  questions)

In real estate appraising, Market Value (as opposed to Fair Market Value) is commonly defined as:

"The most probable price (in terms of money) which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: the buyer and seller are typically motivated; both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their best interests; a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; payment is made in terms of cash in United States dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale."

Does the appraisal belong to the bank or the consumer?   (Go to list of  questions)

In most real estate transactions, the appraisal is ordered by the lender. Even though it's the buyer that eventually pays for the report, the lender is the intended user. The buyer is entitled to a copy of the appraisal - it's usually bundled with all the other closing documents - but is not allowed to use the report for any other purpose without permission from the lender.

This rule doesn't apply when a home owner engages an appraiser directly. In these scenarios, the appraiser may state the purpose of the appraisal; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not noted otherwise, the home owner can use the appraisal for any purpose.