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What is the difference between a real estate appraisal and evaluation?

What is the difference between a real estate appraisal and evaluation?

When it comes to real estate, two terms are often used to describe the estimated value of a property: appraisal and valuation. Many people may not be aware of the difference between a real estate appraisal and evaluation. Still, it’s important to know this when you’re entering into any property transaction.

Real estate appraisal

A real estate agent typically provides an appraisal, which is an informal valuation. The agent will judge the price that the property may fetch based on market conditions and other factors. This report provides u a ballpark estimate before you go further.

These appraisals are often used as price guides for buyers. However, depending on the market conditions, the property may sell for more. Whether you’re planning to sell or buy a house, an appraisal can be a useful starting point.

Real estate agencies usually offer this as a free service. Since market values fluctuate, an appraisal given today may not apply in a few weeks or months. It's important to compare the property to similar properties in the same area that have sold within the last three to six months.

Since no two properties are the same, an assessment is a rough estimate based on the information available at the time. Real estate agents who are familiar with recent property transactions would be able to predict a possible selling price by analysing recent comparative sales.

Real estate evaluation

A real estate evaluation is different from an appraisal as it’s a detailed report about a specific property. Only a trained and certified valuer may perform a structured valuation. This ensures that all features and issues relating to the property are considered. It also helps the seller, buyer and lender, get a clear picture of the property and arrive at a price based on a thorough evaluation.

During a real estate evaluation, a thorough examination of the property is conducted. This will include verifying the number of rooms and the size of the land, describing environmental and business risks, and analysing the current state of the property.

The valuer will include details of the recent sale prices of comparable properties. Any problems discovered during the property inspection or other searches will also be listed in detail. Post valuation, the client, usually the property’s owner, will receive a written report outlining the property's value. There will also often be a fee involved in getting a real estate evaluation due to the complexity and detail involved.

Why is a valuation more important? 

A property valuation is a detailed report on the market value of a property. It varies from an appraisal in that it establishes a more precise and widely accepted property value. Since the process requires expertise, a formal valuation can only be performed by a certified valuer in some Australian states. A valuation is conducted by a professional with an unbiased opinion, unlike real estate agents who have an interest in offering an appraisal to get the property sale. 

Real estate valuations are important because they are a figure based on a thorough study. You may need one when you’re buying or selling a home, applying for a home loan, determining the value of a deceased estate, or settling a dispute over a property.

The valuation is credible and will hold up in court if you hire a competent and professional valuer. The main difference between a real estate appraisal and evaluation is that the latter is a diligent report created by a qualified professional and accepted by lenders and authorities. 

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home loans

Is it free to get your house appraised?

A house appraisal, in which a qualified real estate agent assesses a property to make an estimate of its value, is a service that is generally offered to homeowners free of charge.

Local real estate agents tend to offer free property appraisals to homeowners as a way to build a relationship with them, and potentially secure the listing if the homeowner has plans to sell.

It can also be a good opportunity for the homeowner to gauge the agent’s level of expertise and determine whether or not they would be an ideal listing agent for the sale of their home.

You may also like to consider using an online service like RateCity to get a free property value report. Similar to an appraisal, the report is a computer generated valuation based on a significant amount of data and insights, and can provide details including the estimated property price and information about similar properties for sale or recently sold in the area.

What is my property value?

Your property’s value is how much your property is worth to a bank or mortgage lender, when it comes to securing a mortgage over a property and calculating the loan to value ratio (LVR).

A professional valuer assesses a property’s value based on data about the property, its sale history, and other recent sales in the area. The valuer may also visit the property to assess its condition in person.

A property’s value may be different to a real estate agent’s appraisal, which indicates how much a property may sell for. It’s also often different to a property’s sale price at auction or private sale, which shows how much a buyer thinks it’s worth in the current market. 

What is an appraisal?

An appraisal is the process by which a qualified real estate agent conducts an inspection and assessment of a property in order to make an educated estimate of its value, typically in preparation of it being listed for sale. It is not to be confused with a valuation, which is conducted by a Certified Practising Valuer on behalf of a mortgage lender to determine the Loan to Value Ratio in relation to the borrow amount.

To begin the appraisal, the agent will start by visiting the property and assessing features such as the size, layout, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, quality of fixtures and fittings, and how well it has been maintained.

Next, the agent will use the findings to compare the property the with other similar properties in the area that have recently sold. In doing so, they are able to determine a more accurate appraisal that is representative of the current market demand.

What is a valuation?

A property valuation is a formal assessment of how much your home is worth, to determine the Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) when you’re applying for a mortgage.

A valuation is carried out by a certified practicing valuer on behalf of a bank or mortgage lender, and is often based on available data about the property and recent sales of other similar properties in the local area. The valuer may also visit the property to assess its condition in person.

A valuation is typically different to an appraisal from a real estate agent, which is an informal estimate of how much a property could sell for at auction or via private sale.

What is a property report estimate?

A property report estimate is an approximate calculation of a property’s value, found in an online property report. These estimates are typically based on the property’s age, size, location, and number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces. The property’s history of previous sales, plus recent sales of similar properties in the local area, may also help to calculate the property’s current value. 

How much is my house worth?

Your house’s worth may depend on its age, size, location, and overall condition. This may be affected by its number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces, as well as its previous sale history, plus recent sales of similar properties in the local area. A property report provides a summary of this information to help you make an estimate.

You may get a different estimate of how much your house is worth if you ask a real estate agent, a professional valuer, or a property purchaser at an auction or private sale. This is because an appraisal from a real estate agent is an estimate of how much your house could sell for; a valuation is a professional assessment of whether your home’s value is enough to secure a mortgage; and a sale price is how much a buyer thinks your house is worth on the current market. 

What is a valuation and valuation fee?

A valuation is an assessment of what your home is worth, calculated by a professional valuer. A valuation report is typically required whenever a property is bought, sold or refinanced. The valuation fee is paid to cover the cost of preparing a valuation report.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

What is a secured home loan?

When the lender creates a mortgage on your property, they’re offering you a secured home loan. It means you’re offering the property as security to the lender who holds this security against the risk of default or any delays in home loan repayments. Suppose you’re unable to repay the loan. In this case, the lender can take ownership of your property and sell it to recover any outstanding funds you owe. The lender retains this hold over your property until you repay the entire loan amount.

If you take out a secured home loan, you may be charged a lower interest rate. The amount you can borrow depends on the property’s value and the deposit you can pay upfront. Generally, lenders allow you to borrow between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the property value as the loan. Often, you’ll need Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) if the deposit is less than 20 per cent of the property value. Lenders will also do a property valuation to ensure you’re borrowing enough to cover the purchase. 

What is appraised value?

An estimation of a property’s value before beginning the mortgage approval process. An appraiser (or valuer) is an expert who estimates the value of a property. The lender generally selects the appraiser or valuer before sanctioning the loan.

How fast can you get a home equity loan?

Completing an application for a home equity loan may only take 20 to 30 minutes. It may take a lender anywhere from a day to a few weeks to process and approve your application. This may be affected by your financial situation, your level of equity, and whether or not your lender needs to organise an in-persona valuation of the property.

 Before you can apply for a home equity loan, you’ll need to build up some equity in your property. The more money you can put towards extra repayments to reduce your home loan principal, the faster you can increase your equity. Also, if property values in your area increase, this may help deliver an instant equity increase once your property has been valued.

What is a line of credit?

A line of credit, also known as a home equity loan, is a type of mortgage that allows you to borrow money using the equity in your property.

Equity is the value of your property, less any outstanding debt against it. For example, if you have a $500,000 property and a $300,000 mortgage against the property, then you have $200,000 equity. This is the portion of the property that you actually own.

This type of loan is a flexible mortgage that allows you to draw on funds when you need them, similar to a credit card.

What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty is the tax that must be paid when purchasing a property in Australia.

It is calculated by the state government based on the selling price of the property. These charges may differ for first homebuyers. You can calculate the stamp duty for your property using our stamp duty calculator.