A home purchase is the largest, single investment most people will ever make. Whether it's a primary residence, a second or vacation home, or an investment property, the purchase of real property is a complex financial transaction that involves multiple parties working together.  Countless people in the United States buy, sell or refinance their homes every day. Most, if not all of these transactions will require an independent appraisal by a Licensed or Certified Real Estate Appraiser.
Purchasing or Selling of a Home:
One of the most important issues involved in purchasing or listing a property for sale is developing an opinion of what it's worth so that you can make an informed decision in making a purchase offer, or in determining a list price if placing it on the market. A professional appraisal report performed by a qualified, state licensed or certified appraiser can provide you with an objective, third party opinion of a property's current Market Value.  This small, but important step, will give you   "peace of mind" that you are getting a fair and unbiased opinion of value.
Refinance or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC):
Mortgage rates are constantly changing.  Taking advantage of a lower interest rate can save you thousands over the life of your loan.  Changing the loan terms from a 30 year to 20 or 15 year loan will also help you save and pay off your loan sooner.  Any if you have equity in your home, the bank will want to know the fair market value before they let you use your home as collateral for such things as consolidating bills, buying that new car, or college tuition.  In almost all of these situations you will be required to have an appraisal.
PMI Removal:
Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, is the required  supplemental insurance that many lenders have home buyers pay on top of their mortgage payment  when the amount being loaned is more than 80% of the value of the home. In most cased, this additional payment is combined with the monthly mortgage payment and is quickly forgotten.  This is unfortunate because PMI becomes unnecessary when the remaining balance of the loan - whether through market appreciation or principal pay down - dips below this 80% level. In fact, the United States Congress passed a law in 1998 (the Homeowners Protection Act of 1998) that requires lenders to remove the PMI payments when the loan-to-value ratio conditions have been met.  Call your lender if you think you might be eligible to remove your PMI payment.   An appraisal to determine Fair Market Value of your home will be required.
A divorce can be a particularly traumatic experience for both parties and is often further complicated by the difficult decision of "Who gets the house?"  In most divorce cases, the Court won't usually force the parties involved to "buyout" the other party's interest, but it may however order the sale of the home so each party gets an equal share of the equity.  Regardless of the situation, it's a good idea to order an appraisal so both parties are fully aware of what the true market value is.  If the parties want to sell the home, they'll have a better idea of what price to set.  And if a "buyout" is the chosen option, both parties will feel like they've gotten a fair assessment.
Estate & Trust Planning:
The loss of a loved one is a difficult time in life and settling an estate from a death, or probate, often requires an appraisal to establish Fair Market Value for the residential property involved.  The ethics provision within the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) binds us with confidentiality, ensuring the fullest degree of discretion.
The majority of Americans do not have dedicated estate planners or executors to handle these issues.  In most cases, a home or other real property makes up a disproportionate share of the total estate value.  Getting an appraisal is often the first step in settling an estate is to understand its true value.  Where property is involved, the appraiser can help determine the current Market Value, or a past value such as what the home was worth at a specific point in time.  At this point, equitable arrangements can more easily be arrived at among disputing parties. Everyone walks away knowing they've received a fair deal.