Why do appraisers take interior photos? What do they do with the photos? Are they required? An upset home owner recently grilled me on this issue after talking with his spouse about me taking photos at the property. Of course I asked to snap images of each room during the inspection, I was given permission, and I was nothing but professional, but it still ended up being an issue that had to be smoothed out with some explanation. Thus I figured it would be helpful to explain why appraisers take photos, and include some tips for agents, owners, and appraisers too. I hope this is helpful. Anything you’d add?
Four Reasons Why Appraisers Take Photos:
- Client Requirement: The truth is some clients require interior photos. In fact, lender clients usually require at least one photo of EVERY single room. It’s not uncommon for some lender clients to even require photos of smoke detectors, water heaters, and carbon monoxide detectors. I once had a lender client that wanted photos of all ceilings (I’m guessing they wanted to be sure there were no stains or spots because they probably had some bad experiences in the past). On the other side of the coin, interior photos might not be required at all by a client for a private appraisal (though the appraiser might need them. See #2, #3, and #4).
- Remember the House: When an appraiser takes photos, it’s helpful to have these photos when going back to the office. The photos can of course help the appraiser when choosing comps and making adjustments, but they can also help the appraiser remember what the house was like. For instance, there have been times when I labeled the bathroom floor as vinyl during my inspection, but the photos clearly showed the floor was tile. Or maybe my sketch showed only four bedrooms, but there were actually five based on my photos. Everyone makes mistakes, and that includes appraisers. Thus at times the photos can serve as a back-up to the appraiser’s memory.
- Documentation: If an appraiser is called into court to take the stand to talk about the condition of a property at the time of the inspection, photos can be a tremendous tool to assist the appraiser’s description. In fact, a few months ago some of my photos were shared in court while I talked through the house with the judge and jury.
- Reporting: Appraisers use photos in appraisal reports to help tell the story of the house to the client. Photos can highlight condition, layout, quality, recent updates, etc…, so they are an important part of the appraisal process. As they say, a picture can be worth a thousand words, so an appraiser can help a client see the house by including a dozen or so photos of the house in the report.
- Let your client know the appraiser will be taking photos.
- Be sure the appraiser is going to have access to each room (including the garage), and that your client knows each room will be photographed.
- If you are doing a refinance, expect the appraiser to take photos. If you do not want interior photos because you feel it is an invasion of privacy, be sure to tell the lender before the appraiser comes so you are sure the lender will do the loan without interior photos. In today’s strict lending environment, I’m guessing the lender is going to require interior photos no matter what. If you’ve hired an appraiser for a private assignment, and you feel uncomfortable about interior photos, the appraiser might be okay with not taking photos (just ask).
- If you feel concerned about photos, talk with the appraiser before the inspection begins. The appraiser will likely let you know why photos are taken and how they will be used. While I don’t advocate hovering over the appraiser during the inspection, if you do feel really concerned, you can walk behind the appraiser to keep an eye on how photos are taken. It’s your house.
- Appraisers are bound to client confidentiality, so appraisal reports with photos are not made public or posted online by the appraiser.
- If you have personal property you do not want photographed, you may want to conceal or remove whatever that is before the inspection (if possible).
- Expect the appraiser is going to want to see every room, and if an appraiser is not allowed to inspect and photograph certain rooms, a lender client may want the appraiser to do a second inspection at some point to take photos (this will cost you more money unfortunately).
- If you are concerned about sensitive clothing articles being photographed, just make sure there are no sensitive items within view. Appraisers should not be opening dresser drawers.
- Ask before you take photos. I tend to say, “I’ll need to take at least one photo of each room. Is that okay?” This way I have permission. I know this is basic, but after a concerned owner questioned me recently about photos, I am definitely in tune with how important it is to ask this question.
- Be careful to not have any people or photos of people in the photos where possible. This is often what owners and tenants are most concerned about. Obviously lenders want photos, but if something looks too personal for a non-lender assignment, I simply take good notes and don’t photograph that room. I once inspected a house where the owners had poster-sized risqué photos of themselves. That’s fine if that’s what works for them, but I definitely made sure my camera didn’t snap any of those poses.
- Be cautious about including guns, art work, or safes in photos as owners can be sensitive about those items.
- Be careful about photos in a home office as it can be easy to include private information.
I hope this was helpful. Thank you for reading.
Investor Interview: By the way, I had an hour-long conversation recently with an investor named Janice Bell. She does a weekly interview, and I was her target a few weeks back. You can listen in the background below (or watch here).
Questions: Any thoughts? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take as an owner, agent, appraiser, or tenant.