When you try to get a mortgage refinance or a new loan, some lenders will use an appraiser that utilizes a drive-by appraisal process. While this may not seem like a way to obtain an accurate value of the property, if done correctly, the lender can get a fairly accurate assessment of your home value.
With this type of appraisal, the appraiser does not actually come into your house or stop and look at anything. He simply drives by the house and checks the condition from the outside. Then the appraiser uses other source of information to come up with a value for your home. For example, the appraiser may look at court records or previous sales information to determine how much value he should assign to your home for the benefit of the bank.
Although the information is not verified by the appraiser, he can find much of the information that he needs from outside sources. For example, with the local records office, he can find out the size of your house and how old it is. He can also find out what comparable houses sold for in the last six months. Many times, the comparable sales data is the most important part of figuring out how much a home is worth.
One of the common issues that consumers have with drive-by appraisals is the high cost. When you review the closing costs for a mortgage and see a charge for hundreds of dollars for a drive-by appraisal, it can be a bit confusing. Since the appraiser did not actually stop at a property or do anything besides making some calculations from other information, it can be difficult to justify this charge. You can ask the lender to waive the fee and to get a copy of the report.
When Drive-By Appraisals Are Used
When determining an exact value is not as critical, the drive-by appraisal should suffice. For example, if a homeowner has a large amount of equity in his house and he simply wants to refinance his mortgage loan to take advantage of lower interest rates, having an exact value to the dollar is not necessarily critical. He only needs to be able to borrow the amount of the previous mortgage loan. If the house is worth well more than that amount, a drive-by appraisal can determine an approximate value.