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An appraiser (from Latin appretiare, to value), is one who sets a value upon property, real or personal. In England the business of an appraiser is usually combined with that of an auctioneer, while the word itself has a similar meaning to that of "valuer." (See Auction, Valuation (finance).)
In the United States, the most common usage relates to real estate appraisals, while the term is often used to describe a person specially appointed by a judicial or quasi-judicial authority to put a valuation on property, e.g. on the items of an inventory of the estate (law) of a deceased person or on land taken for public purposes by the right of eminent domain. Appraisers of imported goods and boards of general appraisers have extensive functions in administering the customs laws of the United States. Merchant appraisers are sometimes appointed temporarily under the revenue laws to value where there is no resident appraiser without holding the office of appraiser (U.S. Rev. Stats. § 2609).
Nature of the Work (U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics) Appraisers and assessors of real estate estimate the value of real property for a variety of purposes, such as to assess property tax, to determine a sales price, or to determine the amount of a mortgage that might be granted on a property. They may be called on to determine the value of any type of real estate, ranging from farmland to a major shopping center, although they often specialize in appraising or assessing only a certain type of real estate such as residential buildings or commercial properties. Assessors determine the value of all properties in a locality for property tax purposes whereas appraisers appraise properties one at a time for a variety of purposes, such as to determine what a good sale price would be for a home or to settle an estate or aid in a divorce settlement.
Valuations of all types of real property are conducted using similar methods, regardless of the type of property or who employs the appraiser or assessor. Appraisers and assessors work in localities they are familiar with so they have a knowledge of any environmental or other concerns that may affect the value of a property. They note any unique characteristics of the property and of the surrounding area, such as a specific architectural style of a building or a major highway located next to the parcel. They also take into account additional aspects of a property like the condition of the foundation and roof of a building or any renovations that may have been done. Additionally, they may take pictures to document a certain room or feature, in addition to taking pictures of the exterior of the building. After visiting the property, the appraiser or assessor will determine the fair value of the property by taking into consideration such things as comparable home sales, lease records, location, previous appraisals, and income potential. They will then put all of their research and observations together in a detailed report, stating not only the value of the parcel but the precise reasoning and methodology of how they arrived at the estimate.
Appraisers have independent clients and focus solely on valuing one property at a time. They primarily work on a client-to-client basis, and make appraisals for a variety of reasons. Real property appraisers often specialize by the type of real estate they appraise, such as residential properties, golf courses, or strip malls. In general, commercial appraisers have the ability to appraise any real property but may generally only appraise property used for commercial purposes, such as stores or hotels. Residential appraisers focus on appraising homes or other residences and only value those that house 1 to 4 families. Other appraisers have a general practice and value any type of real property.
Assessors predominately work for local governments and are responsible for valuing properties so a tax formula can be used to assess property taxes. Unlike appraisers, assessors value entire neighborhoods using mass appraisal techniques to value all the homes in a local neighborhood at one time. Although they do not usually focus on a single property they may assess a single property if the property owner challenges the assessment. They may use a computer- programmed automated valuation model specifically developed for their assigned jurisdictions. In most jurisdictions the entire community must be revalued annually or every few years. Depending on the size of the jurisdiction and the number of staff in an assessor’s office, an appraisal firm, often called a revaluation firm, may do much of the work of valuing the properties in the jurisdiction. These results are then officially certified by the assessor.
When properties are reassessed, assessors issue notices of assessments and taxes that each property owner must pay. Assessors must be current on tax assessment procedures and must be able to defend their property assessments, either to the owner directly or at a public hearing, as accurate, since assessors are also responsible for dealing with tax payers who want to contest their assigned property taxes. Assessors also keep a database of every parcel in their jurisdiction labeling the property owner, issued tax assessment, and size of the property, as well as property maps of the jurisdiction that detail the property distribution of the jurisdiction.
Appraisers and assessors write a detailed report of each appraisal. Writing these reports has become faster and easier through the use of laptop computers, allowing them to access data and write at least some of the report on-site. Another computer technology which has impacted this occupation are electronic maps, made by assessor’s offices, of a given jurisdiction and its respective property distribution. Appraisers and assessors use these maps to obtain an accurate perspective on the property and buildings surrounding a property. Digital cameras are also commonly used to document the physical appearance of a building or land at the time of appraisal, and the pictures are also used in the documentation of the report.