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House Appraisal vs Market Value: how much is your home worth?

House Appraisal vs Market Value: how much is your home worth?

What is a property actually worth? The answer may depend on if you were to ask a real estate agent or a valuer working for a mortgage lender.

What is an appraisal?

An appraisal from a real estate agent is an estimate of what a property may sell for, whether by private sale or auction. This appraisal sets a benchmark that can help buyers and sellers manage their expectations. But as we all know, there can be a big difference between an agent thinks a property may sell for and the final price when the auctioneer’s hammer falls.

A real estate agent may base their appraisal on recent sales of similar properties in the area, considering the property’s age, size, location, and number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces. An agent may also consider lifestyle features and benefits that could make the property more appealing to a first home buyer, owner occupier or property investor, such as proximity to public transport, shops and schools.

Other improvements to a property, such as recent renovations, a landscaped and well-maintained garden, or even just new fixtures and fittings or a fresh coat of paint could all affect an agent’s appraisal of a property’s potential sale price. These little touches could potentially tug the heartstrings of potential buyers, adding to the property’s appeal.

What is a valuation?

A valuation for a mortgage lender is a formal assessment of a property’s value for the purpose of securing a home loan. Because a property valuation is used as part of a legally binding contract, it’s important that it’s an accurate reflection of the property’s value, rather than a broad estimate of what it could sell for.

Property valuers are more likely to base their assessment on the facts regarding the property, and are less likely to be swayed by emotional considerations. A valuer will look at the age, size and location of a property, along with its number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces. A valuer may also consider whether property values in the local area are rising or falling, and the local area’s zoning.

If enough information is available about the property and the local area, a valuer may be able to make their assessment without ever leaving their desk. Even when conducting a valuation in person, a valuer is less likely to be concerned about the presentation of the property (e.g. painting, fixtures, gardens), though they’ll want to know about the property’s overall condition and if there are are any structural issues.

Why are appraisals and valuations so different?

Because real estate agents and valuers have different goals in mind when conducting property appraisals and valuations, they tend to come up with different results. Valuations are traditionally considered more conservative than appraisals, as banks are chiefly concerned with how the property can serve as security for a mortgage, rather than what a buyer might pay for a home or investment property. It’s why comparing home appraisal vs market value may see noticeable differences.

Sometimes a buyer who offers to buy a property at a high price will have their purchase halted if the bank’s valuation comes back much lower than what the buyer has agreed to pay the seller, as this may increase the Loan To Value Ratio (LVR) of the buyer’s mortgage. To complete the purchase, the borrower may need to come up with extra money as a deposit, or cover the costs of Lender’s Mortgage Insurance (LMI) to cover their lender’s financial risk in case the borrower defaults on their home loan repayments.

Applying for a free property report before you buy or sell a property could be a good way to get a benchmark for the property’s value, and provide an understanding on property value vs market value. While the estimate may not be exactly the same as the appraisal from an agent or a bank valuation, it can help you set your own expectations when it comes to buying or selling a property, or applying for a mortgage.

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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

What is appreciation or depreciation of property?

The increase or decrease in the value of a property due to factors including inflation, demand and political stability.

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 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. 

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 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. 

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.

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. 

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

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.

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

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.

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.