What is a pre-listing appraisal?
A pre-listing appraisal is just what it sounds like: an appraisal that happens before you list a house on the market.
Most sellers don’t get a pre-listing appraisal―and they don’t need to. After all, pre-listing appraisals take time and cost money. In most cases, you can stick with a comparative market analysis instead.
But in some cases, a pre-listing appraisal can help you list your home at a more accurate home value. So if your home has unusual features, is located in a rural area, or comes with lots of land, a pre-listing appraisal might help you sell your house for a better price. This guide will help you decide if a pre-listing appraisal is right for you.
Pre-listing appraisal vs. comparative market analysis
A pre-listing appraisal is a paid home valuation conducted by a licensed home appraiser. A comparative market analysis (CMA) is generally prepared by real estate agents, and calculates your home's fair market value based on other comparable homes (or "comps") that have recently sold in your market.
CMAs are accurate enough for most sellers to rely on for pricing their house, plus they're usually free. Professional appraisals are only necessary in a few unique situations.
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How does a pre-listing appraisal work?
If you decide to get a pre-listing appraisal done, first you’ll need to hire a licensed appraiser. Your real estate agent should be able to recommend one.
The appraiser will come to your home and conduct a normal home appraisal. That means they’ll look at your home, take plenty of pictures, and get lots of measurements. Expect your appraiser to spend between 30 minutes and a couple hours on-site, depending on the size of your home.
Your appraiser will then use all that data to calculate your home value. This can take a week or two, since your appraiser will need to do some market data analysis and other calculations. When all those calculations are done, your appraiser will give you a full report that includes your home’s calculated value.
In other words, a pre-listing appraisal works exactly like any other appraisal―it just happens earlier in the home selling process.
» LEARN: How is a home appraisal calculated?
Why would you get a pre-listing appraisal?
Most sellers don’t need to get a pre-listing appraisal, but they do come in handy sometimes.
For example, sometimes it’s hard to conduct a comparative market analysis on your home. Maybe your house sits on lots of land or it’s located in a rural area where few homes sell. In cases like those, a comparative market analysis won’t give you an accurate picture of your home’s value. A pre-listing appraisal will.
Likewise, if your house has unusual features (like additions, luxury features, and so on), a pre-listing appraisal can give you a more accurate value than a CMA.
Or say you disagree with your real estate agent on how much to list your home for. A pre-listing appraisal can give you a clear answer about the home’s value.
And finally, a pre-listing appraisal can help if you’re selling your home yourself. Without an experienced agent, you’ll have a hard time getting an accurate CMA. Thankfully, a pre-listing appraisal can value your home for you.
How much do pre-listing appraisals cost?
A pre-listing appraisal usually costs around $400. Your exact cost will depend on your location, home size, and appraiser of choice.
Pre-listing appraisal pros and cons
Getting a pre-listing appraisal can sometimes be a good idea for home sellers. In most cases, though, you don’t need one when you’re selling your house. So before you hire an appraiser prior to listing your home, consider these pros and cons.
Gets you a specific home value
Costs money (around $400)
Helps you set reasonable expectations
Takes time (several weeks)
Prevents lowball offers
Won’t affect buyer’s appraisal
Gives buyers more confidence
What are the pros of a pre-listing appraisal?
✅ Gets you a specific home value: Most importantly, they give you a clear, specific home value—even if your home is located in a slow market or a rural area or it comes with land or unusual features that would make a CMA less accurate. No matter the situation, you’ll know what your home is worth with a pre-listing appraisal.
✅ Helps you set reasonable expectations: A pre-listing appraisal can also help you have reasonable expectations as the home seller. So whether you’re selling your own home or working with a real estate agent, you’ll have a good idea of how much to list your home for―and what kind of offer you should expect.
✅ Prevents lowball offers: A pre-listing appraisal may help weed out lowball offers. After all, you can tell buyers in the lvalue that the home has been appraised at.
✅Gives buyers more confidence: Likewise, buyers may feel more confident about moving forward with your home if they see a pre-listing appraisal. They won’t have to worry about the house getting appraised for far less than their offer price.
What are the cons of a pre-listing appraisal?
So, why doesn’t every seller get a pre-listing appraisal?
❌ Costs money (around $400): Pre-listing appraisals cost hundreds of dollars. And when you already have to budget for closing costs and real estate agent commission, a pre-listing appraisal can feel like an unnecessary expense. Especially since a CMA can give you a good idea of your home’s value in most cases anyway.
❌ Takes time (several weeks): If you’re in a hurry to sell, you may not want to wait around for an appraisal. You have to schedule with an appraiser, have your appraisal appointment, and then wait for your appraisal report. The process usually takes at least a few weeks.
❌ Won’t affect buyer’s appraisal: Lastly, a pre-listing appraisal won’t keep a home buyer from getting their own appraisal done. (In fact, lenders insist on them getting one.) A pre-listing appraisal might make them less likely to ask for an appraisal contingency in the contract, sure. But you should still expect to go through the whole appraisal process again once you’re under contract.
Should I get a pre-listing appraisal?
You should get a pre-listing appraisal if you disagree with your agent about your home’s value, you’re selling your home yourself, or you have a real reason to worry about the accuracy of your home’s value based solely on a comparative market analysis (CMA).
But in most cases you don’t need to get a pre-listing appraisal. A run-of-the-mill comparative market analysis will give you all the home value information you need.
If you’re still not sure, ask your agent for advice. They can help you figure out if a pre-listing appraisal is a smart investment or a waste of time and money.
Next steps: Ready to sell your house?
Whether or not you decide to get a pre-listing appraisal, you should make sure your home’s value will cover all your payoffs and expenses with a home sale proceeds calculator.
Then find out which closing costs you should expect to pay—and don’t forget to factor 5–6% of your home sale value for realtor commission costs. Learn how you can negotiate realtor commission rates to save money. Or work with Clever Real Estate to find a top local agent with a pre-negotiated listing fee of just 1%.
If you’re selling your current home to buy a new one, consider working with a real estate trade-in service like Homeward. Homeward will buy your new home and rent it to you until you can buy it back after your old house sells.
And if you haven’t already found an agent, compare the best low commission real estate companies to save you money on your home sale while still offering all the expertise you need.
FAQ about pre-listing appraisals
Appraisals sometimes get done before listing to help price a home that’s hard to estimate the value of with a comparative market analysis (CMA).
Unique home features, slow markets, and rural locations can all make a typical CMA less accurate―and a pre-listing appraisal more appealing.
Pre-listing refers to anything that happens before you formally list your house on the MLS (multiple listing service).
Most houses don’t need to be appraised before selling. Appraisals cost around $400 and take weeks. In most cases, you can stick with a comparative market analysis.
You only need a pre-listing appraisal if your agent can’t easily estimate your home’s value, you disagree with your agent on the home’s value, or you’re selling your own home and don’t have an agent to perform a CMA.