What's a Home Appraisal?

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A home appraisal is a professional estimate of the value of your home. It is performed by a licensed appraiser.​

Most people get appraisals after they go "under contract" for a home, but before they purchase the property (before the closing). Many lenders require an appraisal before they're willing to issue a loan for the property.

If you're selling your home and you're intent on knowing the value of your home, you can hire an appraiser.

This will cost around $300 to $500, but it will produce the most accurate valuation of your home.

However, in most situations, this is an unnecessary expense. An experienced real estate agent will evaluate comps and help you understand how to properly price your home, without the need to get an appraiser involved.

Lenders require an appraisal of any home before they'll issue a mortgage, which means that your buyer will have an appraisal performed on your home after you're under contract. 

It's important to note that an appraisal and an assessment are two different topics. An appraisal is performed by a private company; an assessment is performed by state or local taxing authorities. Assessments are used in determining the property taxes on your home; appraisals are not. 

Let's imagine, for example, that you order an appraisal on your home, and it comes back showing a higher value. Does this mean your taxes will rise?

Not necessarily. If your locality performs an assessment, and the assessment shows that your home value remains the same, then your taxes will stay the same -- regardless of what the appraisal says. In other words, your appraisal is irrelevant to your taxes. Only the assessment determines your property tax rate.