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Buying & Selling a Home

How to Get a Fair Appraisal

Don't let a bad appraisal mess up your deal. This might happen if the prospective buyer of your home is seeking a conforming loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Some appraisers used for these loans have been hired on the cheap and may lack the education, experience and time to do a good job -- basically, to verify that your home's sale price is supported by its market value. A poorly done appraisal that says your home is worth less than it really is can stop a loan from being approved.

Accepting only cash offers dodges the problem. But it's probably better to do what you can to influence the appraisal process. To start, you and your agent can share information with the appraiser, including your agent's analysis of market prices, says Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute, a professional standards organization. And be sure to point out unusually low sale prices due to short sales and foreclosures, which shouldn't unduly influence your home's appraisal.

Sellers can also get their own appraisal and share that with the appraiser. A "listing appraisal" runs about $350 to $550. Look for an appraiser who has earned the Appraisal Institute's "certified residential" or its top "certified general" designations (visit www.appraisalinstitute.org).

If an appraisal fails to support the negotiated price, you can appeal, but the odds of success are slim. You may just want to move on to another buyer.