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The Home Appraisal Process: An Interview with Joel A. Buthray of O'Hara Buthray Associates, Inc.

By Joel Buthray

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Our appraisal company started in 1995. The owners are my partner Michael O'Hara and myself. We both previously worked as appraisers for Patrick McMahon Associates from 1986 until owning the business in 1995. Michael O'Hara and myself have the MAI designation and are Certified General Appraisers. The two of us oversee 7 residential appraisers in our firm. Our company can appraise any type of residential and commercial property. Our clients include banks, attorneys, accountants, private clients, municipalities, etc.

What are the key steps in the appraisal process?

The appraisal process typically starts with inspecting the property on the interior and exterior. There are occasions when we are asked to do a drive by appraisal which diminishes the scope of the assignment. Photographs and descriptive notes of the property will be taken during the inspection. It is important to drive around the neighborhood to get an understanding of the condition and quality of the nearby properties and to see if there are any negative or positive influences that would have an impact on the value of the subject property.

Research would include reviewing the zoning of the property to determine if it is legally conforming or not. The zoning can also have an impact on the highest and best use of the property. For example, a single-family property on a main route in a commercial zone might have an alternative superior use for re-development with a commercial use. We typically check the flood status of a property. Properties in a flood zone generally have to pay higher insurance rates which can be a negative. We also check to see if a property has had any issues regarding contamination from hazardous waste. It is important to know what utilities are servicing a property. Properties with septic systems are often checked for Title V before financing or acquisition due to the high cost of replacing the system if it were to fail. Following detailed research of the important factors of a property and determining its highest and best use, comparable data is researched to be utilized in the valuation of the property. The three primary means of appraising a property are by the sales comparison approach, the cost approach, and the income capitalization approach. Depending on the type of property appraised, anywhere from one to all of the approaches may apply. If multiple valuation methods are used to appraise a property, the appraiser will reconcile the values into a final value. Sometimes one approach to value will be the best indicator of value, or it might be a mixture of multiple approaches being the best indicators of value.

How should one prepare for a home appraisal?

Having a house appraised does not require any significant preparation on the home owners part. The appraiser will have their check list of questions to ask the homeowner. If the homeowner has a site plan and floor plans, this would be useful for the appraiser. If there is any important information to point out to the appraiser regarding the property, this information should be made known.

Is it necessary to stage their home beforehand, or will the appraiser help with that?

It is not necessary to stage the home for an appraisal. This would only be important for selling the home. Appraisers do not value a property based on its cleanliness. They base the appraisal primarily on the condition and quality of the house.

What home factors have the biggest influence in the price?

The home factors that have the biggest impact on price actually start outside the home with location. The most important influences on value regarding the home itself from the bigger picture is the condition and quality of the home. Keeping a property maintained and using good quality materials will enhance the value. A fresh coat of paint inside and outside goes a long way. The upkeep and quality of kitchens and bathrooms are major influences on value. Finished basements can be a plus and a minus. Finished basements provide additional living area, however, can reduce needed storage space. Garages are in high demand in New England, given the difficult winters we have to endure.

Is an appraisal a one fee service, or is there more to the payment process?

An appraisal is typically a one time fee, however, there are times when additional services will be needed including a final inspection if a new construction is the subject of the assignment, or if the assignment is part of a renovation project.

What is the best way for people to reach you and or your company?

Our company is located at 11 Harvard Street, Worcester. Our phone number is 508-757-9381. My email address is jbuthray@oharabuthray.com.

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