Inside-Out or Outside-In Appraisal Inspections?

Every appraiser has their own way of doing things.  That is one of the great things about our profession; we are still our own bosses and can still call (most of) the shots.  I have been on field inspections with many appraisers.  One thing that I can say is that there is consistency in diversity.  Just when I think there are no new ways to do an appraisal inspection, someone shows me that I am wrong.

My experience shows that most appraisers work from the outside in.  A few still do it from the inside out.  I guess there are benefits to Appraisal Inspectionboth.  Allow me to share a few:

Inside Out

  • No need to make the homeowner come to the door twice
  • Can interview the homeowner first so you can look for items on the outside that they have already informed you about (i.e. the sprinkler system, well, septic)
  • The time you interact with the homeowner (and thus take their precious time from something else) is likely less

Outside In

  • Get the shell drawn so you can fill in the rooms and details inside the sketch once you go inside
  • Can ask the homeowner about anything unusual you might have seen on the outside without having to knock on the door again after you have already said goodbye
  • Can double check your measurements (adding 6 inches for each exterior wall) from the inside
  • It’s just the cool way to do an appraisal inspection.  Period!

Personally, I am an Outside-In kind of a guy (if you couldn’t tell).  I have done it both ways and I just like having the outside walls drawn first so I can work on the room placement later.  What about you?  How do you do an appraisal inspection?

Now, go create some value!


Dustin Harris is a super-successful, self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He also owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.   He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.

29 thoughts on “Inside-Out or Outside-In Appraisal Inspections?”

  1. My vote is for outside in. There are rare times when the homeowner asked that I do it in reverse and it is difficult to cut away garage or other measurements from a sketch that I haven’t drawn. However, if you do it all the time, it is probably easy. I have a video that I’m posting on my YouTube channel tomorrow showing how I do it: If you like my channel, please subscribe.

  2. I do inside first. Because I started my career in Fla and if you do the outside first when you go in to the AC inside you start sweating like your in a shower.

    1. Beth Damkoehler

      Ditto what Nancy says. Here in FL, all appraisers that I know do inside first. I take a county records sketch to get the basic footprint, then fill in the rooms, get info from the homeowner and tell them that I will let them know when I am finished measuring the outside. I don’t re-knock on the door, just walk back in the door I went out. If there are any discrepencies, I can re-visit that area before leaving. If none, then I just stick my head in to say goodbye, so I don’t rack in dirt, etc. Never had a complaint in 25 years. Most people are happy that I am always on-time, don’t talk too much, am friendly to kids and pets, and most importantly…get out of their hair quickly! Don’t know about these folks taking 45 minutes to an hour to inspect… Maybe if you had the county footprint, it wouldn’t take so long? Seems like a giant waste of time for both appraiser and homeowner! I am out of there in 15 minutes…unless it is a mansion or a multi-unit (or if I really hit it off with the homeowner and get to chatting, if neither of us is in a hurry). The more you say, the more that can possibly be held against you later! I tell them that the lender will have the report in approx. 2 days, and that is IT! Any additional information should be obtained from their LO.
      P.S., I sometimes speak at realtor pitch sessions, and the biggest complaint about appraisers (other than value, of course) is that they take too long and/or talk too much!

  3. When possible I go to the inspection with a copy of the tax card sketch from the county. I know, I know, don’t rely on tax records
    and I don’t but that sketch gives me at least the rough outline of the exterior. Then as I take exterior measurements I can just
    confirm or correct what the county provided. Most of the time it avoids my having to draw my own sketch free hand on a clip board.
    I can do it later sitting at a desk. It also gives me a good clue if there have been uninspected/permitted improvements to the property.
    Even if you are using a digital measurement and sketching device you might benefit from having that county sketch at hand.

  4. Dustin, I have been appraising for 20+ years and have tried both. Early on I chose inside out. Partially because you don’t have to bother the person meeting you twice, but mostly because I worry less about tracking matter from their yard into the house. I happen to have a background in architectural drafting so I am comfortable with sketching the floor plan as I walk through. When inside I ask if there are any things of interest on the exterior. Then as I am leaving mention what I will do on the exterior and that I may return to the door with questions. Another reason that I prefer doing inside first is so that the person that is meeting me there can leave sooner if they need to. Many times people schedule me for before they leave for work or an appointment and they are very appreciative of not having to wait while I measure and do the exterior inspection first.

  5. Ditto with Jerry except for the background. I can always adjust the exterior walls when i meausre the outside and most homes in my area require the second floor to be measured from the inside.

  6. I use to do the exterior first with my clip board and tape. Now that I am using a Disto and I-pad I do the inside first (adding for exterior walls of course) as the Disto laser isn’t easily visible on sunny days and I find it challenging “beaming” to small targets that are far away. I am also in an area with sloping yards and lots of hilly grading for walk out basements etc. making exterior measuring more difficult with a laser. If a contemporary or unit with more complex architecture I will switch it up and do the exterior first.

  7. Thad Hensleigh

    Inside out for me. Lets the home owner leave sooner if they want. Also working in the Pacific Northwest it is cleaner to start on the inside, not to mention drier. Nobody wants a soaking wet appraiser tromping through their house. My beef with your article is your sign off. Appraisers do not create value, that is the job of the market place. Appraiser reflect value.

  8. How about both – if it is an empty house- REO or lockbox – outside in – no need to worry about mud on the carpets, but if the homeowner is in – inside out – I ask all the pertinent question about HOA, septic, etc. before I forget.

  9. Outside In. When I make an appointment I tell the homeowner the inspection will take about 45 minutes to an hour so they may plan to be home for that amount of time. Besides, I would feel strange walking around the property after they have left. Of course, I would do inside out if the weather were bad.

  10. I always do the outside first unless it is a special circumstance like owner late for work. I only take 10-15 minutes to do an exterior at the most using my laser, that includes me doing a rough estimate of the second floor that I can verify when inside. I don’t think we are wasting their time. They want a loan and we are there to help facilitate that. I am amazed at people who say they cannot be available for an inspection “because I got to work”. I usually say (in a nice way) “My work is inspecting your house, when can I meet you there?”

  11. I do outside-inside-outside. When I pull up to a house I take my street pics and then walk around the house snapping front and rear pics from both corners as well as side pics. This gives me a chance to do a quick perimeter check and fill in the exterior portion of the form, plus I’m already outside. Then I do all of my inside photos and I fill in the report sitting at their dining room table or breakfast bar using my tablet. Finally I go back outside to take the exterior measurements and draw the sketch on my tablet, while paying close attention to the foundation and looking for any areas that are in need of repair as I’m walking around. I know it seems like a lot of back and forth but I forget things if I don’t follow my routine.

  12. I vote for outside in. Sometimes circumstances force us to do it inside pot, but it is almost always much harder that way. Disagree? Try doing a well articulated 10,000 SF luxury estate from the inside out; or a moderately sized older apartment with various unit shapes inside. Accuracy can really suffer from an inside out approach. Bottom line? I think we need to be able to both, using whichever circumstances dictate to be most appropriate.

    1. The Appraiser Coach

      I am glad you clarified that, Mike. I thought you were advocating a new way to inspect. “Under the influence…” 🙂

  13. Definitely outside in. The obvious reasons aside, one of the things I am doing in my inspection giving the property owner confidence that I know what I am doing. As a part of that process I am trying to gather all the information I possibly can about the property before having an extensive conversation with the owner. That way I can speak more intelligently about the property which gives the property owner the sense that I am a professional and I know what I am doing. That tends to reduce complaints and service after the sale which probably takes more time than talking to a property owner twice.

  14. Inside out and also basement last inside. Speaking of tracking stuff through the house. I always go the basement last when doing the interior as it is not unlike many basements to be pretty dirty and I don’t want to track all of it through the rest of the inspection. Also agree with the point of the homeowner needing to leave as soon as possible. inspected a house this morning where homeowner had to leavea asap and so he appreciated that he could do that as soon as I finished inside.

  15. I fell into a routine of taking all of my photos first, inside and out, then measuring the exterior before going inside again. This allows me to “see” the interior and exterior twice within a short time and not forget to take any photos. Before leaving, I ask the homeowner about any problems or updating, homeowners dues, etc…

  16. Outside in. I am amazed some appraisers do it the other way “so the people can leave earlier”. I don’t hurry my inspection and I don’t ecpect the homeowner to “hurry” away either. I explain upfront when scheduling the appt. over the phone my inspection will take (typically on a small sqaure house)) 45 minutes+/- so the borrower knows what time to allocate to them being home and available to answer questions and provide details about their property. This is a professional service, not them just letting the yard boy into the backyard to mow the lawn.

  17. Inside, then outside. It keeps mud off their floors. It also seems better for the homeowner because they’ve had a chance to talk with me before I go outside to measure. Otherwise, you meet them at the front door for a short amount of time and they then wonder when that ‘stranger’ is going to finish. Also, it allows the homeowner to leave if they have their own appointment somewhere else. I can finish up inside and they can leave.

  18. Outside first with the county tax sketch to speed things up. I use a disto and move fast with a trainee assisting. Inside I usually do the pics and interview the owner while my trainee handles the interior floor plan. I test mechanical, plumbing, etc. also. If the owner has to leave early, I call them later to complete the interview. I always photograph the crawl space and attic in case the lender has to flip the loan to FHA or USDA.

  19. I have always done the interior first, then finished up outside. When I set the appointment I let the borrower know exactly what to expect in the way of how much time I will spend at their property and also take the opportunity to request any documents that would be helpful (list of recent improvements, survey, etc). At the property I interview the homeowner and explain that I will walk through, take photos and measurements, and follow up with any questions. I complete the exterior dimensions and photos at the end. This way allows the homeowner to get to their own appointments or works after I finish inside. I also mention that I will get back in touch by phone if I have any other questions, and invite them to contact me if they think of anything later that we didn’t talk about. This might seem “talky” to some, but I have found over the years that the one thing homeowners complain about is that the appraiser didn’t spend enough time, and wasn’t interest in their improvements. Even if their interior paint job and new dishwasher are minimal to overall value, I make sure they know that I am interested in hearing about it. A real advantage to doing the outside last is that I know where the dogs are before I head into the backyard!

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