What makes a home valuable — or not?

Real Estate sales person Patience Stevenson (left) works with realtor Ed Tuccio on an appraisal of a house on Roanoke Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbarellen Koch)

Real Estate sales person Patience Stevenson (left) works with realtor Ed Tuccio on an appraisal of a house on Roanoke Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbarellen Koch)

Say you’re thinking of purchasing a Victorian farmhouse on two acres on Sound Avenue. The home inspection went well and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. There’s just one thing left to do, said Riverhead certified general appraiser Edwin Tuccio: Determine the property’s value through an appraisal.

There are a “million things” to consider when appraising a home, said Mr. Tuccio, who’d been in the business roughly 30 years and is also a real estate broker. But he and Richard Abatelli, a residential real estate appraiser in Cutchogue, agree that location is everything.

“It’s like Real Estate 101,” said Mr. Abatelli, who has been an appraiser since 1975 and is also a real estate broker. “The location is important, the size of the improvements is important. The amenities, the condition.”

Depending on a property’s size, a typical appraisal costs anywhere from $300 to $1,000, said Chris Ranallo, senior vice president of residential mortgage lending at Suffolk County National Bank in Riverhead. Banks usually won’t give prospective homeowners a loan without an appraisal from a licensed third party, he said.

“It’s the appraisal that really tells us what [the property] is worth,” Mr. Ranallo said.

When Mr. Abatelli is assigned an appraisal, he begins by visiting the Southold Town assessor’s office and pulling all the public information he can about a property, including any improvements that have been made to it. He then visits the home and physically examines it, checking for cracks in the foundation and anything else that could potentially decrease its value.

A roof that is visibly in need of repair will no doubt negatively impact a home’s value, but so can its view, or lack thereof. Mr. Abatelli said properties located across the street from a fire station or even a cemetery might be appraised for less. Even homes situated on streets with double yellow lines may not be worth as much because they indicate a road has “more traffic,” he said.

On the other hand, a property’s proximity to the water can be a double-edged sword. Being within walking distance of a beach will generally make a home more valuable, Mr. Tuccio said, but the inherent risk of hurricane damage can also work against it.

“You go to a property on a nice, sunny day and say, ‘Oh, this is a beautiful house,’ ” he said. “But you have no idea that when we had [superstorm] Sandy it was under five feet of water.”

In addition to physically examining a home, appraisers investigate the prices paid for comparable properties in a similar area.

This is the most challenging aspect of his job, said Mr. Abatelli, because comparable properties sometimes don’t exist. These include homes that come with features that make them unique, such as various outbuildings or even a vineyard.

“If the comparables aren’t there then it’s very difficult and that’s when the appraiser has to have knowledge of the market,” Mr. Abatelli said.

Ultimately, this is one of the reasons an appraisal is subjective.

“It is a professional opinion of value,” he said.

“Every appraiser has their own feelings and it can change the value,” Mr. Tuccio added. “It’s all based on experience.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

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