Lifestyle Tax & Appraisal LLC has answers to "Frequently Asked Questions"

Lifestyle Tax & Appraisal LLC is always ready to handle any inquiries you might have about appraisals in Mosinee and Marathon County. Contact us today to talk about how we can help you with your specific valuation problems.

What is an appraisal?
Describe what an appraiser does
Why would someone request a real estate appraisal?
How is an appraiser different than a home inspector?
What is the difference between an appraisal and a comparative market analysis (CMA)?
What are the contents of an appraisal report?
After completing the report, how can I have confidence that the value conclusion is veritable?
How difficult is it to become certified?
Who do appraisers work for?
Where does an appraiser get the data used to estimate values in Marathon County or other areas?
What can a full appraisal do for me?
My mortgage statement has an item on it for PMI? Can I get rid of that?
Do you need anything from the homeowner in advance?
How does an appraiser define "Market Value"?
Who has rights to the appraisal report?
How can I get the most ROI out of home improvements?



What is an appraisal?   (See list of FAQ's)

An appraisal is an investigation that concludes with an opinion of value. This opinion or estimate is arrived at by a formal process that typically uses the three main "common approaches to value". The Cost Approach is one of the processes that real estate appraisers use to find value; it involves finding what the improvements would cost less physical degradation, adding the land value. The most common approach in figuring the likely sales price of a house is the Sales Comparison Approach which concerns concluding a comparison to comparable homes close by. The Sales Comparison Approach is commonly the most accurate and best indicator of value for a residential property. The Income Approach is mainly used for finding the market value of income-producing properties based on what an investor would pay based on the amount of income a property would bring in.

Describe what an appraiser does   (See list of FAQ's)

An appraiser generates a fair and credible assessment of market value, to be used in making real estate transactions. Appraisers demonstrate their professional findings in appraisal reports.


Why would someone request a real estate appraisal?   (See list of FAQ's)

There are many reasons to get an appraisal from Lifestyle Tax & Appraisal LLC with the usual reason being real estate and mortgage transactions. Other reasons for purchasing an report include:
  • If you are applying for a loan.
  • If you would like to lower your property tax obligations.
  • To build a case for a homeowner's equity and remove insurance.
  • To fight high property taxes.
  • If you need to settle an estate.
  • To give you an edge when purchasing real estate.
  • To find a likely property value when putting your home on the market.
  • To defend your rights if your property is being taken by means of eminent domain in a condemnation case.
  • Because a government agency such as the IRS requires it.
  • If you ever find yourself in a lawsuit.
Click here for a more detailed explanation of the process involved in getting an appraisal.


How is an appraiser different than a home inspector?   (See list of FAQ's)

Home inspectors do not generate an opinion of value and do not do appraisal reports. An inspection is a third-party investigation of the accessible structure and electrical and mechanical systems of a property, from the roof to the foundation. The archetypal property inspector's report will contain an evaluation of the integrity of the house's heating systems, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic, and accessible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

What is the difference between an appraisal and a comparative market analysis (CMA)?   (See list of FAQ's)

Frankly, it's like comparing sugar and saccharin. The CMA uses market trends to conduct most of their business. Appraisals use comparable sales which are verifiable resources. In addition, the appraisal verifies other factors like condition, location and building prices. The CMA will provide a non-specific figure. An appraisal delivers a defensible and carefully documented opinion of value.

But the most significant factor is the person behind the report. Real estate agents, who may not have a complete understanding of valuation methods or the entire market, generate CMA's. A certified, state licensed professional who has formed a career on valuing homes in and around Marathon County is behind the appraisal. Likewise, the agent has something at stake since they get a commission based on the property's selling price whereas the appraiser is bound by a code of ethics to accept a flat fee for work they perform, regardless of their value conclusion.

What are the contents of an appraisal report?   (See list of FAQ's)

The main point of an appraisal document is to provide a value opinion, and depending on the scope of the report, you'll usually see the following:
  • Who engaged the appraiser and whose purposes the appraisal is to serve.
  • The intended use of the report.
  • The appraisal's purpose.
  • The type of value contained and a definition of the value reported.
  • The effective date of the appraiser's opinions and conclusions.(Sometimes this is in the past or maybe the future for new construction!)
  • Characteristics of the property that have a bearing on the value, including: location, physical description, legal attributes, economic factors, the real property interest valued, and non-real estate items included in the appraisal, such as personal property, permanent equipment installations and even intangible items.
  • All known easements, restrictions, encumbrances, leases, reservations, covenants, contracts, declarations, special assessments, ordinances, and other items of a similar nature.
  • Division of interest, such as fractional interest, physical segment and partial holding.
  • The scope of work considered when completing the job.
For a more in depth view of all that goes into an appraisal report click here: Sample Appraisal Report


After completing the report, how can I have confidence that the value conclusion is veritable?   (See list of FAQ's)

In communicating an appraisal report, each appraiser must make sure of the following:
  • The appraisal used an appropriate analysis of the information.

  • That significant errors of omission or commission were not committed individually or collectively.

  • That appraisal services were not conducted in a careless or negligent manner.

  • The final appraisal report was transparent, legitimate and defensible.
There are intense education and real world experience requirements that must be adhered to in order to become a licensed appraiser in Wisconsin. In addition, appraisers must obey a stringent industry code of ethics and comply with national standards of practice for real estate appraisal. The guidelines for working up an appraisal and reporting its results are insured by enforcement of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


   (See list of FAQ's) Regulations regarding licensing and certification vary from state to state. In general, licensing and certification is most often associated with many hours of coursework, tests and experience working under a supervisor. Once an appraiser is licensed, he or she must then complete continuing education courses so that the license doesn't expire. To see the specific requirements for any state click here.

Who do appraisers work for?   (See list of FAQ's)

Typically, appraisers are hired by lenders to estimate the value of a home involved in a loan transaction - to make sure the real estate is truly adequate collateral for the loan. Attorneys and CPAs also retain the services of appraisers for divorce and estate settlements.

Where does an appraiser get the data used to estimate values in Marathon County or other areas?   (See list of FAQ's)

One of the primary activities of an appraiser is to compile property data. Data can be divided into Specific or General. Specific data is taken from the property itself; Location, condition, amenities, size and other specific data are documented by the appraiser during an inspection.

General data is gathered from a numerous sources. To find out about recent sales to be used as "comps", we typically use the local Multiple Listing Service. To verify actual sales prices, we look at items in the assessor's office and other public documents. Flood zone data is available from FEMA data outlets, such as a la mode's InterFlood servers.

And last but not least, the appraiser assimilates general data from his or her collective knowledge gained from doing assignments for other properties in the same market.


What can a full appraisal do for me?   (See list of FAQ's)

If you're making any kind of financial decision and the value of your home is relevant, you'll want to hire a licensed appraiser. If you're selling your home, an appraisal assists you in setting the most appropriate price. If you're buying, it makes sure you don't overpay. If you're engaged in an estate settlement or divorce, it ensures that property is divided fairly. Simply put, a house is often the single, largest financial asset anybody owns. Without knowing its real value, wise financial decisions are impossible.


My mortgage statement has an item on it for PMI? Can I get rid of that?   (See list of FAQ's)

PMI is short for for Private Mortgage Insurance. It guards the lender if a borrower defaults on the loan and the value of the house is less than the balance of the loan. You can have your PMI dropped once you've achieved 20% equity in your home through appreciation and principal payments.

Did you have less than 20% to put down on your mortgage? Call Lifestyle Tax & Appraisal LLC today at 715-693-4400. You may be able to cancel your Private Mortgage Insurance payment.

Do you need anything from the homeowner in advance?   (See list of FAQ's)

The first step in most appraisals is the property inspection. During this process, we will come to your home and measure it, determine the layout of the rooms inside, confirm all aspects of the home's general condition, and take several photos of your house for inclusion in the report. On the home's interior, pick up any clutter and make sure we can get to things like furnaces and water heaters. On the outside, trim any landscaping so we can be free to get an accurate measurement of outside walls.

You can make the inspection go faster and improve the quality of the appraisal report by having the following things on hand:
  • Records on the latest purchase of the property in the last three years.
  • Written property agreements, such as a maintenance agreement for a shared driveway.
  • Any documents, such as a title policy with information on encroachments or easements encroachments or easements.
  • Any inspection reports, or other recent reports for termites, EIFS (synthetic stucco) wall systems, your septic system and wells.
  • Any "Homeowners Associations" agreements or, if applicable, condo agreements or fees .

How does an appraiser define "Market Value"?   (See list of FAQ's)

In real estate appraising, Market Value is commonly defined as:

"The most probable price (in terms of money) which 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 and 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: the buyer and seller are typically motivated; both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their best interests; a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; payment is made in terms of cash in United States dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and 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."



Who has rights to the appraisal report?   (See list of FAQ's)

In most real estate transactions, the appraisal is ordered by the lender. While the buyer pays for the report as part of the closing costs, the lender retains the right to use the report or any information contained within. The buyer is entitled to a copy of the appraisal - it's usually bundled with all the other closing documents - but is not allowed to use the report for any other purpose without permission from the lender.

It's different when it's the homeowner engaging the appraiser for things outside securing a mortgage. In these situations, the appraiser may define how the appraisal can be used; for PMI removal, or estate planning or tax challenges, for example. If not noted otherwise, the home owner can use the appraisal for any purpose.


How can I get the most ROI out of home improvements?   (See list of FAQ's)

The answer to this is different depending upon the location of the home. For example, while quality appliances are attractive, a $7000 built-in refrigerator won't pay off in a neighborhood of moderately priced homes

No matter where you go, however, renovating a kitchen is almost always a safe investment. According to one national survey, kitchen remodels returned an average of 88% of the investment. In other words, a $10,000 kitchen remodeling project would add approximately $8,800 to the value of the home. Bathrooms were second, yielding 85%. Adding bedrooms and baths can also boost the value of your home as long as your home doesn't then become an oddball for your neighborhood in terms of size.