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Appraising a split-level home

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Casey OQuinn

Freshman Member
Mar 28, 2002
I have a question regarding a split-level home. I am taking a hard look at selling my home, and I am trying to crunch a few numbers before I make my decision. If it looks like I can get what I want for the home using my rough numbers, I will have it appraised and put it on the market. I have spent several days looking up comps to develop a price per square foot. Now I want to apply that to my home, but I have hit a bit of a bump.

I have a 3,600 square foot split-level ranch, two floors - 1,800 up and 1,800 down. If I understand correctly, bottom floor would be considered a basement because a portion of it is below grade.

After I bought the home, I finished the basement. It is now heated, painted, carpeted, has a ceiling, and has its own full kitchen. I have been renting it out for about two years now.

I understand that from the appraisers perspective, this is not inculded in the GLA because it is below grade. But, I was told by an appraiser that it does have value. My question: I have a rough price per square foot in my area. Now, how do I apply this to my home with a finshed baesment?

Thanks for your input!

Ray Ohler

Sophomore Member
Jan 15, 2002
because different markets treat split-levels (in all their forms, bi-levels, front to back splits, side to side splits, whatever) different. Even in my servicing area, some local markets (where there are not that many splits) penalize the property via a form of functional obsolescence, while some other areas (where split-levels are predominate) shy away from the "traditional" two-story dwellings. NOW, however, you mention that you have been "renting it out"...? Legal use? It depends on a WHOLE LOT of factors. Probably not a do-it-yourself situation. Wish I could be of more help but all I can say is (A) Get some real estate agents in the area to render THEIR opinions and then (B) Hire an appraiser and go into some details before he comes to the property (and accepts the assignment)what to expect. If the appraiser appears "confused", find another one. One thing SHOULD be noted: If the property isn't a legal use, you may have problems with financing. It may be WORTH "X", but obtaining financing is another thing. You don't want to spin your wheels. Good luck.
Jan 13, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser

Unless all properties are very, very similar in all things other than the square footage, the price per square foot could end up VERY misleading! It sounds like you have a property that could constitute a complex appraisal. Way too many people rely on price per square foot when it often does not make any sense until AFTER other differences have been adjusted for according to what is happening in your market and what the statistics call for. My best advise to you would be to pay attention to what Ray Ohler said. Make sure you go over what you have done with your house and that the appraiser you hire is competent/experienced.

Hint: If you have a Realtor relying on price per square foot.... find a different Realtor that knows more about the Real Estate business!

Randy Beigh

Senior Member
Jan 16, 2002

Congratulations on the homework you are doing.

If your area has basements as a common thing, then the appraiser and sales agents will know how to deal with them. I suspect, however, that you have a separate issue and that is the rental.

Is this now a legal duplex with a separate address, separate heating, and separate water meters? Did you get the necessary permits for a duplex and will the market see this as income property? If the answer to these questions are yes, then the basement questions/answers will change significantly. In fact, if it is a legal duplex, then the basement can be counted with the upper level in some situations.

Might be time to call in a professional to help you out.:)

Hope this helps and good luck

Mike Garrett RAA

Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jan 14, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
Are you planning on selling the property yourself or using a REALTOR®? At the risk of sounding rude...hire an appraiser. $300 to $400 could save you time and money.

In my market most homes have some below grade living areas. It all contributes to value, it's just that we account for it on different lines in the grid on the appraisal report. If you think about it..lower level living space doesn't cost the same to construct as above grade, ie. concrete walls, etc.

The fact that you have a duplex does complicate the appraisal process to the extent most lenders will require the appraisal report to be a "small income" form.

I wish you well!
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