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The fear of over-paying for a piece of property is eliminated by having a professional appraisal performed. If the buyer of real estate is mortgaging the property (not paying cash) the bank that mortgages the property will automatically order an appraisal from one of the lender's list of approved appraisers. The bank is interested in protecting their investment and want to guarantee that in the event of a default by the purchaser, the property's worth must equal or exceed the mortgage.
If you are purchasing real estate for cash, appraisers can be referred to you from real estate agents, lenders or a yellow page directory. Standards for appraising are universal and most appraisers will estimate a property's value within a small percentage difference, if any, from eachother.
If you are selling a home, you can usually get away with avoiding the appraisal fee by having a market analysis performed by 1-3 real estate agents. Once the home is on the market, the only time a seller might consult an appraiser is if the home is not selling and market conditions are unstable.