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Understanding Appraisal Vs. Assessment

Jun 2, 2024



What’s the difference between an appraisal and an assessment – and how are these terms defined in real estate? While it’s not uncommon to hear these phrases used interchangeably, they’re not actually the same in practice.

Although both words can refer to ways of measuring a property’s value, they take widely different approaches to the calculation of this figure. Noting this, understanding the difference between an appraisal and an assessment can help you become more aware of what your home is ultimately worth and how it may be taxed.

Assessed Value Vs. Appraised Value: What’s The Difference?

A home assessment and home appraisal and are both relative measures used to determine the value of a home. However, the two serve different general purposes and therefore can’t be used interchangeably. Let’s take a closer look at the way these terms are defined and used in real estate.

  • Appraisal: When a real estate professional conducts a home appraisal, they determine the fair market value of the property based on recent sale prices of properties in the area and other factors. Appraisals are usually required when you take out a mortgage.
  • Assessment: The assessed value of your home determines its property tax bill. An assessment isn’t usually necessary before listing a house for sale.

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How Do Appraisals Work?

A state-licensed appraiser is seeking to determine your property’s current market value when they conduct an appraisal on your property.

These appraisals – which impact the home selling price and mortgage amount – are provided as a form of assurance to lenders and potential home buyers to help ensure they’re not being asked to loan or borrow more money on a property than it is actually worth.

What Do Appraisers Look At During A Property Appraisal?

As part of the process, the appraiser will visit your home, tour the inside of the building, and conduct a thorough review of your home’s:

  • Current operating state
  • Building materials
  • Improvements
  • Overall size
  • General wear and tear

They will also compare your real estate holding to other comparable homes in your nearby area. After doing this research, and weighing all of these factors, the appraiser will render an estimate of what they believe to be the fair market value of your property.

What Factors Can Influence My Home’s Value?

Primary factors that can influence home values include the property’s location, the condition of the home and any amenities or special features. Appraisers analyze the following factors as part of their evaluation:

  • Total square footage
  • Major structural improvements, such as additions or renovations
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Architectural style
  • The HVAC system
  • Foundation
  • Basement condition
  • Built-in appliance upgrades

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How Do Assessments Work?

Local governments – cities, municipalities, towns, etc. – take in significant revenues by levying property taxes upon local homeowners. These are used to pay for expenses such as public works, public safety, schools, parks and other shared resident benefits.

Local jurisdictions set tax rates and home assessment methodologies and employ assessors to review property data and visit local homes to determine their assessed value.

To arrive at a property’s assessed value – which is considered the most widely accepted dollar value indicator – home assessors may take into account various factors, including:

Note that the tax assessments these assessors provide are primarily for purposes of taxation. These findings will not necessarily represent or reflect the total amount that you could obtain through an actual sale of the property on the open market.


Assessed Vs. Appraised Value: How Do They Compare?

The appraised value of your home represents the home’s fair market value (what a buyer might expect to pay if you listed your house for sale on the market), while its assessed value is used to determine property taxes (which increase the larger your assessed value becomes).

Tax assessed values are largely utilized by the government, though your mortgage lender may use these findings in computing how much it requires you to put away each year in escrow. An appraised value is the finding which most frequently comes into play if a property is being bought or refinanced, however.

The Bottom Line

Your home’s appraised value effectively reflects what you might expect to get in exchange for the sale of the property if you put it up at market while its tax-assessed value is used to determine how much you can anticipate paying each year in property taxes.

Mortgage lenders need to know the former value to ensure that they’re not lending a home buyer more money than a property is worth, and the latter value to know how much to ask you to put away annually in escrow.

Ready to get your new home appraised? Apply for approval today to get moving on the rest of your mortgage process.


Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.