Lenders require an appraisal to verify the value of the home and set limits on how much they’ll loan for a property.
An appraised value below the offer price could put your home purchase in jeopardy.
Appraisals generally take 1 to 2 weeks, but can take as long as 4 weeks in a busy real estate market.
The biggest reason for appraisal delays is lack of appraiser availability. The number of available appraisers is declining 3% each year.
An appraisal typically costs between $300 and $450, but some buyers may pay as much as $900.
After months of saving money, browsing listings, and competing in bidding wars, you’ve finally got an offer accepted on your dream home. Only, there’s still a major milestone standing in your way — the appraisal.
An appraisal can be make-or-break for homebuyers, so it’s understandable to feel uncertain at this stage of the process. What can you expect? And how long will the appraisal take?
Thankfully, it’s probably not as complicated as you think. Here’s what buyers need to know.
What is a home appraisal?
An appraisal is used to determine the value of your future home. If you’re using a mortgage, the lender will generally require an appraisal so they can work out how much they’re able to safely loan you for the property.
How it works
The lender hires an independent professional appraiser.
The appraiser schedules a visit to the property for an inspection.
The appraiser compares the home and its features to similar properties that have recently sold nearby (also called “comps”).
The appraiser uses all of this data to set a value for the home, and creates a report explaining their conclusion.
The report is used by the lender to help set the loan amount.
Check out our home appraisal tips for sellers.
What it costs
As the buyer, you’ll most likely pay for the appraisal. The cost can vary widely depending on your location and the details of the property. Typically an appraisal costs between $300 to $450, though the price can go up to $900.
What is the appraisal timeline?
An appraisal usually takes around 1 to 2 weeks, total. In some circumstances, it could take up to a month. The timeline can vary based on the availability of appraisers and how busy the real estate market is in your area (more on this below).
Scheduling an inspection (2 to 14 days)
Once your offer has been accepted, the lender will usually contact a third–party appraiser within 1 to 2 business days to schedule an inspection. However, that doesn’t mean the appraiser is necessarily available right away. Depending on their schedule, the inspection could happen within a few days to a few weeks.
Another thing to note is that the appraisal inspection is different from the home inspection. The home inspection is meant to evaluate the overall condition of the property and identify any repairs it might need. The appraisal inspection is to help verify the home’s value based on its unique features.
The physical appraiser inspection (30 minutes to 3 hours)
On the scheduled day, the appraiser will make a physical visit to the property to take a look around. This is to examine the condition of the home’s interior and exterior, and make note of any special features that could affect its value. The inspection process can take 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on the size and complexity of the property.
Receiving the appraisal report (2 to 7 days)
Finally, the appraiser will gather all of the information they’ve collected on your would-be home plus the comps to set its final value. They’ll put together a report laying out their findings, and send it over to the lender. This could take around 2 to 7 days, again, depending on the appraiser’s schedule and workload.
Why might an appraisal take longer?
When a real estate market is busy and a lot of homes are being sold or refinanced, the appraisal process can take longer.
The basic reason for this is that there are only so many appraisers that know your market inside and out. In fact, the number of qualified appraisers is declining by 3% every year. That means if there are a lot of transactions happening at once, you may need to “wait in line” so to speak.
If you’re buying during a less busy time of year, you can generally expect the process to be quicker.
In early 2022, real estate markets across the U.S. were ultra busy, and appraisal timelines were running longer than average — sometimes taking up to a month. Now, as interest rates are rising, market activity is slowing, so appraisals may be quicker as a result.
What to do after you’ve got the appraisal report
As the appraisal report comes in, you might be feeling apprehensive, or even downright nauseous. That’s totally normal. The appraisal is a big deal. Let’s walk through the possibilities.
If the appraised value is the same as what you offered, you’re in. You made an offer that reflects the value of the home, and you’re on the road to closing.
If the home appraises for more than what you offered, congratulations! You just gained some equity (that’s your stake in the property). You’re ready to close and add some extra value to your portfolio.
If the appraised value comes in below the offer price, that can put the entire deal at risk. For example, let’s say your final offer came in at $400,000. Yet the appraiser determines the home is worth $380,000. If the seller won’t come down on price, you could end up paying the difference out of pocket — or lose the home entirely.
Once you’ve got the appraisal report in your hands, closing can take an additional 3 to 6 weeks. But it will all be worth it when you’ve finally got the keys to your brand new home.