Whether you're buying or selling a home or getting into the field of real estate, you've probably heard of an appraiser and a surveyor. Both professionals contribute necessary findings to home transactions but their reports serve two different purposes. A surveyor presents a depiction of the land and its features, while an appraiser sets its true value on the market at the time.
A land surveyor creates an accurate graphical depiction of a piece of real estate in feet, inches and degrees. A survey from a licensed surveyor is considered a legal representation of the land's size, location and basic physical features, such as a house's location and dimensions. Surveys are used for different purposes and are often required in a real estate transaction, such as a home sale, to ensure the property is accurately represented to everyone involved. The surveyor might uncover problems, such as the placement of a fence on some of the neighbor's land.
An appraiser sets a property's value. While the exact formula used varies by appraiser, it usually involves the current sales prices of similar properties in the same area, current trends in local market values and the results of a physical visit to the home. The appraiser looks at the property for problems that could reduce its value, such as broken windows, and features that might improve its value, such as a new hot tub. Appraisers are often necessary in real estate transactions because the appraiser's report helps determine whether the sale price is reasonable. Lenders require appraisals prior to issuing home loans to confirm the home is worth the requested mortgage amount.
Surveyors use more physical tools to help determine the dimensions and features of the land they're preparing a survey for. For example, they use compasses to determine the proper cardinal directions so they can note these directions on the survey print. Appraisers, on the other hand, use modern technology programs to complete reports, including online property databases and real estate value locators. While surveyors use software and appraisers do use some physical tools, the emphasis is usually opposite in the two jobs.
Property owners usually receive both a survey and an appraisal at the time of the real estate purchase. An appraisal is usually valid only for a specific amount of time after its preparation because of market changes, with the length depending on what the appraisal was for. A land survey, however, is often still held as accurate as long as the subject property remains unchanged.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images