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A professional appraisal can help you determine an appropriate asking price if you want to sell your home. If you're a buyer, getting an independent appraisal can help to assure you that you're not spending too much for your house. If you're getting a mortgage for a new or existing home, the mortgage company will want an appraisal in order to determine how much of a loan you will qualify for.
When obtaining an appraisal for mortgage purposes, federal law requires that the lender or mortgage broker hires/selects the appraiser. An owner can suggest an appraiser, but by law it must be the lender who contacts and initiates the appraisal process for lending purposes. Also, coming from an appraiser who does not have a professional designation, designations can be important because it speaks to the quality of education that the appraiser has received. IFA, CIFA, MAI and SRA all say that at least the appraiser has been in reputable courses and there is a higher level of probability that she will know her stuff. Finally, if you are needing an appraisal for a legal matter, using a designated appraiser is likely a better bet because in the real world of who is a good appraiser the creditials might not matter, but in the court room, the appraiser has to prove herself, her qualfications and expertise quickly, and a designation can do that.