What Assessors & Appraisers Do
Real estate Appraisers and Assessors estimate the value of real property—land and the buildings on that land— before it is sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, or developed.
Appraisers and assessors typically do the following:
- Verify legal descriptions of real estate properties in public records
- Inspect new and existing properties, noting unique characteristics
- Photograph the interior and exterior of properties
- Use “comparables,” or similar nearby properties, to help determine value
- Prepare written reports on the property value
- Prepare and maintain current data on each real estate property
- Appraisers and assessors work in localities that they are familiar with so that they know any environmental or other concerns that may affect the property's value.
Appraisers typically value one property at a time, and they often specialize in a certain type of real estate. For example,
- Commercial appraisers specialize in property used commercially, such as office buildings, stores, and hotels.
- Residential appraisers focus on appraising property in which people live, such as duplexes and condominiums, and appraise only those that house one to four families.
When estimating a property’s value, appraisers note unique characteristics of the property and surrounding area, such as a noisy highway nearby. They also consider the condition of a building’s foundation and roof or any renovations that may have been done. In addition to photographing the outside of the building to document its condition, appraisers might also photograph a certain room or feature. After visiting the property, the appraiser estimates the value of the property by considering things such as comparable home sales, lease records, location, view, previous appraisals, and income potential. During the entire process, appraisers meticulously record their research, observations, and methods used in calculating the property's value.
Assessors mostly work for local governments and value properties for property tax assessments. Unlike appraisers, who generally focus on one property at a time, assessors often value an entire neighborhood of homes at once by using mass appraisal techniques and computer-assisted mass appraisal systems.
Assessors must be up-to-date on tax assessment procedures. Taxpayers sometimes challenge the assessment because they feel they are being charged too much for property tax. Assessors must be able to defend the accuracy of their property assessments, either to the owner directly or at a public hearing.
Assessors also keep a database of every property in their jurisdiction, identifying the property owner, assessment history, and size of the property, as well as property maps detailing the property distribution of the jurisdiction.