Key Questions to Ask Before Letting an Appraiser in the Door

Nov 5, 2013

Should you vet a residential appraiser before letting him in the door? That's the question KPLU's John Maynard had.

"Ask questions!" says Richard Hagar, a Seattle-area real estate appraiser and educator. 

Hagar says it's not uncommon for real estate agents and borrowers to complain about the quality of an appraisal. Either it's too high, too low, or just plain doesn't make sense for the neighborhood where the property is located.

"The largest banks do not necessarily hire the best appraiser. They tend to hire the cheapest," Hagar said, and that means often pulling in appraisers from out of town.

"In one case," Hagar said, "we had a gentleman from Wenatchee who was coming over to appraise a property in Duvall."

That's where a handy list of questions comes in. Hagar says you should ask some key questions before you even make an appointment: 

1. Have you appraised properties of this type in this area?

Is the appraiser familiar with the city or the neighborhood?

2. Are you licensed or certified?

There are two categories of residential appraisal licenses. A licensed appraiser is the lowest level of authorization by a state. Typically, these individuals cannot appraise properties above $250,000. A certified appraiser is the highest level of authorization. They are allowed to appraise any residential property in any price range.

3. Are you a member of the local multiple listing system? 

The MLS is the database of homes listed and sold in the area. These system are local, not national.

4. Have you ever been disciplined by the state?

You can either ask the appraiser this question, or find out for yourself once you get the appraiser's name, telephone number, and office address by visiting the Washington state's Department of Licensing.

Pre-screening the appraiser is a smart thing to do, says Hagar. He says while there are exceptions to every rule, key questions should help weed out fast, cheap and geographically-incompetent appraisers before they complicate your loan or sale.