Homes, biggest of the big-ticket buys for many Americans, are also the giants of the valuation business. Far more people seek appraisals for real estate than for, say, personal property.
These assessments are used for estate-tax purposes, insurance, mortgage financing or refinancing, purchases, and sales.
In some states, real estate agents may provide an opinion of value for tax purposes. But most states stipulate that only licensed real estate appraisers can perform this service.
While a real estate agent may come up with values that are quite accurate, the benefit of hiring licensed appraisers is that appraising property is their full-time occupation.
Another reason to hire a licensed appraiser is that real estate agents may have an interest in buying or selling the property. If the appraisal is done for tax purposes, however, there may be no conflict of interest, since the broker isn't looking to entice a buyer.
A significant difference between real estate and personal-property appraisers is that the value of real estate is determined specifically on the local level. A real estate appraiser who has no intimate knowledge of a particular town, or of a section of the town, is less likely to provide an accurate assessment.
The appraiser may spend time learning about the property values of the town to determine an accurate value. But it's unlikely someone living in an area an hour or more away will devote that much time to appraising one property.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society