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Silicon Valley home buyers are sometimes confused about the difference between a home inspection and a home appraisal.  Are they one and the same? Not even close!

magnifierA property or home inspection is done to determine if the major components of a house, townhouse, condo, etc. are all working and in satisfactory condition, and to point out defects and problems so that they may be addressed by the current or future owner.  The property inspector will make a visual inspection of things like the foundation (is it cracked, is it bolted?), are there any issues in the crawlspace (moisture, ponding water, cellulose debris), the attic (is there evidence of vermin? are electrical junctions all in boxes? is there enough insulation?) as well as the furnace, water heater, etc.  The inspector may check to see if the water flow is good in the home and at the water main.   These are all things that the appraiser does not do. (There are other possible inspections, too, besides just the home inspection, such as chimney, roof, HVAC, pool, foundation, etc.)

Typical Cambrian Gardens Floorplan: 3 bed, 2 bath, about 1250 SF (San Jose neighborhood)An appraisal is a formal statement of value by a licensed appraiser.  The appraiser measures the size of the home to establish the square footage.  The appraiser does not check to see if the furnace works! However, if the roof is very old, if the home needs substantial remodeling, that will impact the assigned value.  The appraisal is used by the lender to determine how much the bank should be lending on.  Often, that’s the same amount as the purchase price.  But sometimes not!

What happens if the appraisal is lower than the purchase price of a home?

A buyer with 20% down payment is in contract to purchase a Cambrian house for $1,400,000.   The expectation is that the bank will fund a loan for 80% of purchase price, or $1,120,000.  If the appraiser finds the value to be only $1,350,000, the loan will be 80% of that number – not the purchase price. In that case, the mortgage would be at $1,080,000. Note: most people think that the buyer will be “making up” the full $50,000 shortfall, but that’s not the case.  The amount to make up is $40,000, not $50,000 because it’s the percentage of the gap, not the whole thing.

If you happen to be buying residential real estate “all cash”, you will not be required to have or pay for an appraisal.  You are also never required to have inspections, but unless a seller is providing excellent pre-sale inspections, it would be a huge and possibly costly mistake to skip having them.

Related reading:

Home buying: home inspection (on the popehandy.com site)
Home selling: pre-sale home inspections (also on popehandy.com)