This home has some structural issues and an appraiser can easily come to a conclusion of value without bringing in other professionals. However, it is not always this easy for the appraiser.
Real estate appraisers are not home inspectors. Appraisers look at homes from the standpoint of an informed buyer or seller, then analyze the marketability issues of a property and come to an opinion of value that is consistent with the scope of work for the assignment. This means that an appraiser should recognize when potential structural issues require scrutiny by other professionals to help develop a credible opinion of value.
One area that can be difficult for appraisers is recognizing foundation problems. Here is a list of signs that might signal that a structural inspection is necessary:
1. Cracks in the Foundation: Small cracks in home foundations are common. Larger cracks that grow over time are more alarming. The most severe cracks are stair step in shape or get larger on one end.
2. Walls that Bulge: A wall that is not plumb up and down may signal settling.
3. Jammed Doors: Doors that do not open and close well, especially in areas that are suspected of structural movement, could be a sign of a subsided foundation.
4. Sloping Floors: Sloping floors can signal that the foundation has shifted. However, this is not always the case. I once inspected a house that had floors so badly sloped that it made me uncomfortable to stand. When I questioned the homeowners about this, they provided me with a recent engineer’s report showing that the home had no structural problems. Once I had that report, I knew the sloping floor was only a marketability issue of buyer preference (for a level floor) and not a lack of structural soundness.
5. Cracks in Sheetrock: Cracks in sheetrock are common, but are most alarming when they are vertical between a door and ceiling or where separation occurs between the ceiling and the wall.
If an appraiser is inspecting a home with one or more of these foundation issues, it may be time to call in an expert. A structural technician will provide the necessary information so that the appraiser can form an accurate opinion of value.
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