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"Thornfeldt Appraisal Services helped me save money on property taxes by successfully appealing the assessed value of my home."

Jim Norton, Boise

Idaho Coverage Areas

Thornfeldt Appraisal Services, Inc. offers valuation services in five counties in Southwest Idaho.

  Making Informed Choices

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an appraisal?
Real estate appraisal is a process that leads to an opinion of value. The opinion of value is usually derived from three approaches: the cost approach, the sales comparison approach and the income approach. The appraiser provides an unbiased opinion of value for a property. We are not advocates for a sale, a loan or a cause – we are advocates for a property.
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What are comparable sales?
The sales comparison approach is generally the most utilized approach to value for most residential properties as it most accurately measures market activity and the reactions of buyers and sellers. This approach is based on the Principal of Substitution in that values are based on sales of properties that provide a similar utility and desirability of the property we're appraising – these are comparable sales. The comparable sales are placed in a grid and adjustments are made for factors that impact value, such as size, location, quality, condition, view, bedroom and bathroom counts and exterior features. These adjustments are based on market reactions to these characteristics and vary from market to market. For example, construction quality is usually recognized more by upper-end buyers than starter home buyers. In the end, we have an adjusted range and reconcile a value within that range.
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What is "Market Value?"
FNMA has defined market value as:

    "The most probable price that a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: (1) buyer and seller are typically motivated; (2) both parties are well informed or well advised; (3) a reasonable time is allowed for exposure to the open market; (4) payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and (5) the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale."

There are numerous real estate transactions in our market today that do not meet the criteria of this definition of market value. Bank-owned properties, for example, are often liquidated with less than reasonable exposure to the market. Short sales are clearly affected by undue stimulus. Sales between friends or family members are between parties that are not typically motivated. We, as appraisers, are trained to recognize sales that meet the definition of Market Value.
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What are appraisals used for?
An appraisal is useful for most transactions that involve real estate. They are most commonly used for mortgage loans, pricing and marketing recommendations and legal proceedings such as divorces and estates. Other uses include evaluating investment opportunities, cost/benefit analysis of home improvements, removal of private mortgage insurance, feasibility analyses for builders and developers and property tax assessment appeals.
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What's the difference between an appraisal and an appraisal report?
An appraisal is a process that leads to an opinion of value. An appraisal report is how the methodology and conclusions are delivered to the client. The most common appraisal report is a URAR (FNMA Form 1044) which is required by lenders for most mortgage loans. There are numerous other kinds of reports ranging from a verbal opinion to an extensive narrative, depending on the client's needs, the type of property being appraised, the nature of the assignment and regulatory requirements. We've developed many custom reports that are often less expensive and more relevant for specific uses than standard forms.
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How accurate are assessed values and on-line valuation services?
On-line services and county assessors use computer generated mathematical models that take several important factors into account and they can be a helpful tool but there are several weaknesses with their approach. The property data they rely upon is usually derived from assessor's records which are often inaccurate. Take my house for example – it has four bedrooms (Assessor's records show three bedrooms), 2.75 bathrooms (Assessor's records show 1.75 bathrooms) a 645 sf basement that is about 50% finished (Assessor's records show the basement has having 343 sf and being unfinished) and an 840 sf detached shop (Assessor's Records show a 310 sf detached garage). Using their data to estimate the value of my home would clearly result in an inaccurate conclusion. Plus, these models usually doesn't account for factors such as condition, quality and changes made to a property which obviously impact value. There are also subjective features that a computer can't compute – if one home backs to a community park and another backs to a busy street, are they really similar? Further, the raw data used in these models is often dated and does not differentiate between distressed sales and arms-length transactions.
 
A professional appraisal is the most reliable estimate of your property value because it focuses specifically on your home and the market in which it competes. Features of your home are verified and documented and value-intrinsic characteristics such as quality, condition, site characteristics and exterior features are taken into account. We are able to recognize and eliminate potential comparable sales that were not arms-length transactions. Most importantly, we as humans can judge subjective attributes that no computer can recognize.
 
We recommend you use all information at your disposal when making a valuation decision, including assessed values, on-line services, realtor's opinions and especially our appraisal services. Like we say, the best decisions are usually made by those most informed.
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How should I prepare for an appraisal appointment?
Please don't stress - we are not going to lower the value of your house if your bed isn't made. We are friendly folks and make every effort to have your appraisal appointment experience be as pleasant as possible. It is important that we have access to all areas of your home so we can take measurements and photos and observe surface areas. If you have issues that you think may impact value, safety, livability or marketability (like being in the middle of a major remodel), ask us when we contact you to set up the appointment and we can talk about it. Feel free to provide us with any information you feel is relevant - the more information we have, the better job we can do. Helpful hint – you might consider adjusting your automatic lawn sprinklers if they are set to start spraying when the appraiser is measuring the exterior of your home.
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Why don't I get a copy of my appraisal report when I paid for it?
This depends on the client. In the case of mortgage loans, the appraiser's client is the lender, not the borrower, even if the borrower is paying the fee. The appraiser is required to protect the confidential nature of the appraiser-client relationship and is prohibited by law to provide a copy or disclose the contents of an appraisal report to anyone other than the client. Although the appraiser cannot provide the borrower with a copy of the appraisal without the client's permission, the borrower typically has the right to receive a copy of the appraisal from the lender, provided they have paid for the appraisal and the loan involves 1-4 unit residential property.
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Does an appraisal impact my property taxes?
No. Appraisal reports are confidential to our clients and are not provided by us to local tax authorities.
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What is PMI and how can I remove it?
PMI is short for Private Mortgage Insurance and is the supplemental insurance that many lenders require home buyers to purchase when the amount being loaned is more than 80% of the value of the home. This additional payment is usually folded into the monthly mortgage payment and is quickly forgotten. PMI becomes unnecessary when the remaining balance of the loan - whether through market appreciation or principal paydown - falls below the 80% level. In fact, the United States Congress passed a law in 1998 (the Homeowners Protection Act) that requires lenders to remove the PMI payments when the loan-to-value ratio conditions have been met. Don’t expect your lender to contact you about removing your PMI. The first step is to contact the company you make your payments to and request they send you a letter outlining the process to have your PMI removed. Then, contact us and we will help you decipher the letter they send and talk to you about your options. The cost of our services is often recovered within a few months of not paying PMI.
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