Laspina Appraisal Services Inc. has answers to "Frequently Asked Questions"

Laspina Appraisal Services Inc. is prepared to elaborate on any questions you might have about appraisals or real estate in Westmoreland County. Don't hesitate to contact us today.

What is an appraisal?
Describe what an appraiser does
What are the reasons I would require services from Laspina Appraisal Services Inc.?
What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?
Is an appraisal the same as a comparative market analysis(CMA)?
What does the appraisal report contain?
After completing the report, what assurance is there that the value indicated is trustworthy?
How are appraisers certified?
Who are an appraiser's customers?
Where does an appraiser get the data used to estimate values in Westmoreland County or other areas?
Why should I hire a licensed appraiser?
What exactly is PMI and how can I get rid of it?
How do I get ready for the appraiser?
Define "Market Value"
Who has rights to the appraisal report?
Which home renovations add the most to the price?



What is an appraisal?   (List of questions)

An appraiser performs an evaluation that leads to an opinion of value. The appraiser will typically use a several "approaches," typically three, to draw up the estimation of market value. One of the processes is the Cost Approach - which is how much it would cost to replace the improvements, less physical deterioration and other factors, then adding the land value. The most common approach in finding the likely sales price of a house is the Sales Comparison Approach which deals with figuring a comparison to comparable properties close by. Being the most popular approach, the Sales Comparison Approach is generally the most precise and best indicator of market value for a residence. The third approach is the Income Approach, which is of most importance in appraising income producing properties - it deals with estimating what an investor would pay based on the money produced by the property.

Describe what an appraiser does   (List of questions)

An appraiser produces a fair and credible assessment of market value, often in the context of a real estate sale. Appraisers exhibit their expert analysis in appraisal reports.


What are the reasons I would require services from Laspina Appraisal Services Inc.?   (List of questions)

There are a lot of reasons to purchase an appraisal from Laspina Appraisal Services Inc. with the usual reason being real estate and mortgage transactions. A few other reasons for getting an appraisal report include:
  • To obtain a loan.
  • To reduce your tax burden.
  • To build a case for a homeowner's equity and remove insurance.
  • To challenge high property taxes.
  • To settle an estate.
  • To offer you a negotiating tool when purchasing real estate.
  • To figure out an honest price when selling your home.
  • To ensure parties are provided just compensation in eminient domain cases.
  • Government agencies such as the IRS require an appraisal on every home.
  • It's possible you could be involved in a lawsuit - an appraisal will help.
If you need a more detailed explanation of the appraisal process, please click here.


What is the difference between an appraisal and a home inspection?   (List of questions)

Appraisers do not do provide house inspections and are not home inspectors. A third-party home inspector will evaluate the structure of the home, from the top to the foundation. The stereotypical house inspector's report will contain an evaluation of the integrity of the property's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic, and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

Is an appraisal the same as a comparative market analysis(CMA)?   (List of questions)

Frankly, they share nothing in common. The CMA depends on vague local market trends. The appraisal is based on similar definite comparable sales. Also, the appraisal verifies other factors like condition, neighborhood and building prices. A CMA delivers a "ball park figure." Being a documented and carefully investigated opinion of value, appraisals are defensible and stand up in legal situations.

But the most significant factor is who's behind the report. Real estate agents, who may not have a true grasp of valuation methods or the entire market, create CMA's. A certified, state licensed professional who has formed a career on valuing real estate in and around Westmoreland County creates the appraisal. Likewise, the agent has a vested interest in the property's selling price - their commission - whereas the appraiser is bound by a code of ethics to collect only a flat sum for assignments, regardless of their value conclusion.

What does the appraisal report contain?   (List of questions)

Each appraisal should indicate a believable estimate of value and must clearly state the following:
  • The client and other intended users.
  • The intended use of the appraisal.
  • The purpose of the appraisal.
  • The type of value contained and a definition of the value reported.
  • The effective date of the appraisal.(Sometimes this is in the past or maybe the future for new construction!)
  • Relevant property characteristics, including: location, physical characteristics, legal attributes, economic factors, the property rights valued, and non-real estate items included in the appraisal, such as personal property, items that are more or less permanently installed and even intangible items.
  • Any known easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases, reservations, covenants, contracts, declarations, special assessments, ordinances, and other items of a similar nature.
  • Division of interest, such as fractional interest, physical segment and partial holding.
  • What was entailed in the activity of completing the appraisal.
For a more comprehensive look at all that goes into an appraisal report click here: Sample Appraisal Report


After completing the report, what assurance is there that the value indicated is trustworthy?   (List of questions)

In the documentation of an appraisal, each appraiser must ensure the following:
  • The appraisal used an apropos analysis of the data.

  • Whether individually or collectively, there were no critical errors contained in the appraisal, nor any material details left out.

  • That appraisal services were not rendered in a careless or negligent manner.

  • That a credible, defensible appraisal report was conferred.
There are intense classroom and practical experience requirements that must be met in order to become a licensed appraiser in Pennsylvania. Plus, appraisers must stick to a meticulous industry code of ethics and observe national standards of practice for real estate appraisal. The guidelines for developing an appraisal and communicating its results are insured by enforcement of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


   (List of questions) Licensing and certification requires classroom study, tests and practical experience. Once licensed, he/she is required to engage in continuing education courses so the license remains up to date. To see the specific requirements for any state click here.

Who are an appraiser's customers?   (List of questions)

Typically, appraisers are employed by mortgage lenders to render a value opinion on property involved in a loan transaction. Attorneys and CPAs also retain the services of appraisers for divorce and estate settlements.

Where does an appraiser get the data used to estimate values in Westmoreland County or other areas?   (List of questions)

Compiling information is one of the primary functions of an appraiser. Data can be described as either Specific or General. Specific data is gathered from the property itself; Location, condition, amenities, size and other specifics are gathered by the appraiser during an inspection.

General data is collected from a variety of places. Local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) have data on recently sold homes that could be used as comparables. To double-check actual sales prices, we research items in the assessor's office and other public documents that are usually online nowadays. Appraisers often need to report when a property is in a flood zone, and that information is retrieved from a FEMA data outlet such as a la mode's InterFlood product.

And most importantly, the appraiser assimilates general data from his or her collective knowledge gained from doing assignments for other houses in the same market.


Why should I hire a licensed appraiser?   (List of questions)

Any time the value of your home or other real property is being used to make a significant financial decision, an appraisal helps. For those selling a home, you'll want to figure out the price that gets you the most profit but also ensures you don't have to wait too long for a buyer to show up; an appraisal can help with that. When buying, be sure you're not overpaying by commissioning an independent appraisal. If you're engaged in an estate settlement or divorce, it ensures that property is divided fairly. A home is often the single, largest financial asset anybody owns. Knowing its true value is essential to making smart financial decisions.


What exactly is PMI and how can I get rid of it?   (List of questions)

PMI is the common abbreviation for for Private Mortgage Insurance. It takes care of the lender in the event a borrower is unable to pay on the loan and the market price of the property is lower than what the borrower still owes on the loan. Once you can prove the amount you owe on your home is less than 80% of the home's market value, you can make a case to your lender to drop the PMI.

Has your real estate appreciated since you first purchased? Contact Laspina Appraisal Services Inc. today at (724) 325-6309 to see if you can save money by removing your Private Mortgage Insurance premium.

How do I get ready for the appraiser?   (List of questions)

We begin with an inspection of the home. What this entails is the appraiser, after setting up an appointment, personally going through the home - recording the layout of the rooms, taking photos and documenting the general condition of its features. On the home's interior, pick up any clutter and make sure we can get to things like furnaces and water heaters. In the yard, trim any bushes so we can be free to get an accurate measurement of exterior walls.

You can make our visit go faster and improve the accuracy of the appraisal report by having the following things on hand:
  • Information on any written private easements, such as a shared driveway with a neighbor.
  • List of personal property to be sold with the building.
  • Any inspection reports, or other recent reports for termites, EIFS (synthetic stucco) wall systems, your septic system and wells.
  • A copy of the current listing agreement and broker's data sheet and Purchase Agreement if a sale is "pending".
  • A list of "proposed" improvements when the property is being appraised "as complete".

Define "Market Value"   (List of questions)

In real estate appraising, Market Value (as opposed to Fair Market Value) is commonly defined as:

"The most probable price (in terms of money) which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: the buyer and seller are typically motivated; both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their best interests; a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; payment is made in terms of cash in United States dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale."



Who has rights to the appraisal report?   (List of questions)

In most real estate transactions, the appraisal is ordered by the lender. Even though it's the buyer that eventually pays for the report, the lender is the intended user. The buyer is certainly entitled to a copy of the report - it's usually bundled with all the other closing documents - but is not entitled to use the report for any other purpose without permission from the lender.

This rule doesn't apply when a home owner hires an appraiser directly. In these scenarios, the appraiser may define how the appraisal can be used; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not noted otherwise, the home owner can do whatever they want with the appraisal.


Which home renovations add the most to the price?   (List of questions)

Like all things real estate, this is dependent on a home's location. For example, installing an inline humidifier could be nice in arid regions, but completely useless near the coast!

No matter where you go, however, renovating a kitchen is almost always a safe investment. One recent study revealed that putting $20,000 into a kitchen remodel would add about $17,500 to the value of the home - or about an 88% return on investment. Bathrooms weren't far behind, yielding 85%. On the contrary, something that may not add value would be painting just for the sake of redecorating.