All About Appraisals

“And of course we’ll get an appraisal…” Realtors say it. Lenders say it. Homebuyers and homeowners nod; hey, it sounds like a normal part of a real estate transaction.

But what exactly is an appraisal? Who does it? And why does everyone need one?

In her 25-year career, Nicole Daly has done thousands of appraisals -- many for KMS Partners. The owner of Daly Appraisal Services, and a certified residential appraiser, she’s the perfect person to explain her profession.

“An appraisal is an estimate of the current market value of a property,” she begins.

“Most of my work is for mortgage financing. Banks want to make sure the buyer is not paying too much for a property.”

Connecticut requires appraisers to be licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection. Lenders go further: They demand certification. That means many hours of education and field training, followed by an exam.

However, “homeowner’s getting ready to sell will often hire me when they perceive a disconnect from a realtor pricing analysis and what they think their home is worth. It can be a reality check sometimes and helps to give them a true understanding of the value of their home from a licensed 3rd party perspective.”

Daly studied as an “apprentice” (provisional appraiser) for two years. She was certified in 1994, and formed her own firm in 2008.

When a lender asks her to appraise a property, Daly contacts the real estate agent (or, in the case of refinancing, the homeowner). She learns a bit about the property online. But to make an informed appraisal, she must actually visit it.

Increasingly, banks are asking for photos of interiors.

Daly works with the realtor and Multiple Listing System to find comparable properties. That usually includes sales within the past six months, and homes within one mile. Armed with that information, she arrives at an estimate of market value.

Though her work is “number-centric,” Daly says, she works with realtors to know “tweaks” -- extenuating circumstances, like the fact that a homeowner must sell quickly because of a divorce, or that a home looks great because of excellent staging.

Though the field originally attracted only men, Daly is seeing more female appraisers. She like the job because she is not an office all day, and can create her own schedule.

“This is a great area. It doesn’t get better than Fairfield County,” Daly says. She has appraised some of the most beautiful homes in the state (and been inside a few “celebrity homes” too).

Part of Daly’s work involves watching for red flags. For example, if she sees a deck -- but it’s not reflected on the town’s tax card -- that could mean trouble.

“If you’re a homeowner, be sure to get the appropriate permits and zoning variances for any improvements you make,” she warns. “You don’t want it to be an issue when it comes time to sell.”

Daly notes that appraisals are valid for only 90 days.

“It’s a snapshot in time,” she says.

Hopefully, now the real estate picture is a little bit clearer.

Got questions about appraisals -- or any other aspect of real estate? Contact KMS Partners: or 203.454.5411