Is there a cheaper type of appraisal that sellers can use as a guide when pricing their homes?

Q: Dottie talks about appraisals on her radio show, but she never mentions summary or restricted use appraisals, which are supposedly cheaper than regular appraisals and can be used as a guide for sellers when pricing their homes. Is this true? 

A: The answer, in short, is “not really.” Dottie doesn’t mention these types of appraisals because your assumption is a fairly common misperception among consumers. To clarify the point, there are generally 3 types of report formats used by appraisers: self-contained, summary, and restricted use.

  • Self-contained appraisals are usually presented in a narrative format and include all the raw information that is viewed during the preparation and research for the assignment. The report can be the size of a phone book and is rarely ever used.
  • Summary appraisals are what most consumers are familiar with. They tend to be presented on a form and contain the information you generally need to understand how the appraiser came to their value conclusion. Most single-family bank appraisals are summary reports. Incidentally, the appraisal process is the same as with the self-contained report, but without the volumes of data and materials attached to the report.
  • Restricted use appraisals contain the least amount of material of the 3 report options, but use the same research and process that the other 2 versions require. The name refers to limiting the readership of the report to one party already familiar with the appraisal so that clerical shortcuts would not theoretically be confusing to the reader. This format is more commonly used with financial institutions who may be updating a mortgage portfolio and want a simpler presentation when updating hundreds of appraisals already completed for the file – the same analysis is done as that in a “summary,” but it is not formally presented to the client. Usually when a consumer sees “restricted use” label on the cover of an appraisal, it’s because the appraiser mistakenly thinks it limits their liability for the results of the report, but it does not.


So the time it takes to perform any one of these 3 single-family home appraisals is fairly consistent across the board; the primary cost difference among them is instead due to the amount of time spent on the clerical presentations themselves.

With computers and appraisal software packages, the clerical aspect of an appraisal assignment has become a nominal cost. As with most things today, you can probably find someone who can perform one at a bit of a cheaper rate; however, it’s vital that you check their credentials to ensure that they have the necessary local market knowledge to provide you with a reliable appraisal that you can confidently reference and base your informed decision on. Saving $50 on an appraisal report may cost you a lot more in the long run. As Dottie constantly advises on her WOR radio show: “You get what you pay for.”


Filed Under: Appraisal, Selling