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Drive-By Appraisals

Drive-By Appraisals vs Interior Appraisals

Choosing the Best Appraisal Option

Saving money is always a priority, but when it comes to obtaining a loan based on the equity in your home, opting for a drive-by appraisal may not yield the desired outcome. While a drive-by appraisal is generally more cost-effective than a full interior appraisal, it does have limitations. Let's explore the differences between these two types of appraisals.

Exterior Drive-By Appraisal:

In a drive-by appraisal, the property is inspected from the road without entering the premises. This type of observation has its shortcomings, such as:

  • Limited Property Information: Without an interior inspection, crucial details about the size, quality of construction, and condition of the improvements cannot be directly assessed.

  • Gathering Information from Other Sources: To compensate for the lack of an interior inspection, the appraiser relies on alternative sources, including conversations with the homeowner, county records, previous appraisals, local multiple listing services, or other local data services. However, the reliability of these sources can vary.

Top Considerations - Hiring a Professional Appraiser:

To ensure accurate data, it is preferable to rely on a previous appraisal or a source with high accuracy, such as A.G.D.A., where professional appraisers with strong observation skills provide precise square foot measurements. County records and multiple listing services can also provide reliable information, although their accuracy may vary.


However, if inaccurate square footage data or incomplete information about upgrades and improvements is obtained from these sources, the drive-by appraisal may undervalue the property, potentially impacting the loan amount.

Interior Appraisal:

Unlike a drive-by appraisal, an interior appraisal involves a first-hand observation of the property. The appraiser personally measures the home and assesses its quality and condition. Key aspects of an interior appraisal include:

  • Accurate Measurement: Measuring the property directly ensures consistency in square footage calculations. Although the ANSI standard is not obligatory, most appraisers voluntarily adhere to it for precise measurement and calculation of square footage.

  • Consideration of Property Features: An interior observation allows the appraiser to evaluate features like hardwood floors, crown molding, and high-end finishes, which can influence the appraiser's opinion of value. Relying on outdated multiple listing information or questionable county records can be avoided.

  • Owner Input: An interior inspection enables direct communication with the owner, allowing the appraiser to gather information about recent improvements to the property, enhancing the appraisal's accuracy.

Beyond the Appraisal Inspection:

While the appraisal inspection differentiates drive-by and interior appraisals, the process of completing the assignment remains the same for both types. The appraiser utilizes the gathered property information to select the most suitable recent sales comparables. It is essential to have accurate information about the property being appraised to ensure the appropriate selection of comparable sales.

In summary, choosing between a drive-by appraisal and an interior appraisal involves considering the trade-offs between cost and accuracy. For the most precise valuation, an interior appraisal provides firsthand property observations, accurate measurements, and consideration of essential features. Trusting the expertise of a professional appraiser is crucial in obtaining the most reliable information about the property. Contact us today to benefit from our comprehensive appraisal services and make informed decisions.

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Jeff is great to work with! His appraisal was very thorough, timely, really well done. We learned a lot from him about appraisals, and also home safety and home ownership considerations. He knows what he's doing. We happily recommend him!

Maria L. in San Anselmo, CA

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