I get so many questions in regards to this I have a whole page dedicated to it! People get confused understanding the difference between an assessment and an appraisal. Many believe that the two are the same. They are not.
An assessmentis a valuation given to a property from the local government. These values are generally created by a sampling of homes in the subject’s community. The information used is generally based off neighborhood sales, building or home improvement permits, market trends and a computer modeling software that calculates the value of the property. Anassessmentis not meant to be as precise as an appraisal. Otherwise, the local government would have to do a site visit for each individual property. The assessed value is like an “average” price for a home in a particular neighborhood. Your home’s assessed value is the basis for your real estate taxes. This is the value shown on your County “Appraisal” District’s website – but it is not an Appraisal (ie: the confusion).
Appraisals are valuations by an unbiased third party. Residential real estate appraisers are hired by banks, estate attorneys, real estate agents and home owners to give a valuation on a property. Appraisers make a visual inspection of the property and research minimum of 3 closed sales as similar as possible to subject property. These 3 comparables are generally closed sales within 6 months of the subject’s inspection date. In slower markets or rural areas, appraisers might go outside the 6 month range. But generally speaking the more recent the comparable sale, the more accurate the appraisal value. Banks use the appraised value to determine how much money they are willing to loan on a property.
Are these values generally similar? Sometimes they are similar and in other situations they can be very different. Both use very different forms of research to create the property’s value, so you should not assume that the two valuations are one and the same. They are used for very different purposes.