SUBSCRIBE NOW

Dear Monty column: Appraisal vs. agent sets home price?

Richard Montgomery
More Content Now
Today our reader is wondering about how to establish the price on their home. Reading the question suggests that both of the options are risky. I wrote about this several years ago but answered the question a different way today.

Reader Question: I am going to sell my house. Would it be wise to have an appraiser evaluate my home rather than depending on a real estate agent? ?

?Monty's Answer: There are differences between both approaches. First, consider approaching value as a "range of value." The range of value means the best price you can expect and the lowest price you should expect. You base your decision on where to price on your circumstances. Some sellers want to price their home to be the next one to sell in the neighborhood because they are in a hurry. Some want to test the market and try not to leave any money on the table. Others want to see if they can sell for more than the highest price they should expect.

Appraisers have no conflict of interest. In a sense, the appraiser doesn't care what you think. They have a process that has several approaches to value, and their job is to apply that process. Appraisers do not act as agents. You pay for their opinion.

Real estate agents have a conflict of interest. They care what you think. They use one approach to value when providing their advice. Agents do not charge for their opinion.

While real estate agents are not equal, neither are appraisers.

Your two choices

You can hire an appraiser and secure their opinion for a fee, or you can ask a real estate agent for their advice at no cost.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveys show that about 70% of home sellers only interview one agent. It is likely that home sellers either know the agent or asking one agent is easy. Yet, in my experience, almost 30% of new listings to the market expire unsold with the original listing broker. Anecdotally, in most markets, that happens even in good times. Super hot markets will have fewer expired listings.  

Here is an alternate method

Ask three different agents that represent various brokerages for their opinion of value. They will all be different. Consider the range of value on your home is the difference between those three opinions. You do not depend on one person's opinion. Other than the extra time you spend showing your home and listening to their explanation, it cost you nothing.

For a fair comparison, if you hired three appraisers, their opinions will all be different. Again, you do not depend on one person's opinion. Here you will have to show your home three times but spend no time listening to an explanation. Appraisers mail you their opinion. This option would cost a considerable amount of money.   

The main point in this discussion is that it is hazardous to depend on one opinion, regardless if it is an appraiser or a real estate agent. I have personally experienced situations where a homeowner used an agent they knew and trusted and undersold their home by significant margins. Anecdotally, I have heard this story countless times over the years. Here is a DearMonty article article to better understand how to evaluate an appraisal. 

Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He is a real estate industry veteran who advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Find him at DearMonty.com.