Why is an appraisal necessary?

Most appraisals are completed as part of the mortgage lending process, with the lender being the entity to request the appraisal. If you think of it this way, a bank has most of the money on the line. Before lending it to a borrower, they want to know whether that the property is worth the amount of money being borrowed to purchase it. The banks want to be sure that if for some reason the borrower stops making payments on the mortgage and stop paying off the loan, the bank can repossess the house and sell it in order to recoup the money lent in the first place. If an appraisal comes back to lender for far under the contract price, that would raise some concerns that the borrower is attempting to borrow more than the property is actually worth. Along with checking a borrower's credit score, debt-to-income ratio, etc., the appraisal helps the lender assess risk. This is known as the loan-to-value ratio. If a borrower is fronting 50% of the cost of the home for example, that means less risk for the bank. But if the borrower has a very small down payment and is borrowing 90% to 100% of the cost of the property then that is much more risky for the bank.

Other common reasons for an appraisal:

    • Estate Appraisal (Also known as a “Date of Death Appraisal”): When an estate transfers ownership because of a death or inheritance, in most cases a real estate appraisal is needed for tax purposes and often to determine a listing price for the home. (click here to read more)
    • Divorce Appraisal: For many couples, the marital residence is the largest asset obtained during the marriage and an accurate appraisal is extremely important (click here to read more)
    • Financial and Estate Planning: Financial and Estate Planners are often relied upon by their clients to provide sound, well-informed advice and the value of the real estate assets are often needed to develop the best and most effective strategies for their clients (click here to read more)
    • PMI Removal: If you purchased your home with conventional financing and put less than 20% down, it’s likely you’re paying PMI. If your property value has appreciated, providing your lender with an appraisal can help remove this additional cost (click to read more).
    • Tax Assessment Appeals: Most real estate and property taxes are based upon the value of the property. When the taxing agency values your property at a higher rate than the actual value, you are paying too much in taxes (click here to read more).
    • Pre-listing, Pre-Purchase, FSBO’s: When trying to establish a fair list price is often difficult to sift through all of the market data to determine a true value for your home. Itt’s common for homeowners and realtors to rely on appraisers for assistance when establishing a list price for the sale of their home (click here to read more).

A few words from our clients

Paul Rowe is a consummate professional. In appraisal work there are hard facts and there is nuance. Paul does not ignore factors that are outside of the facts that could influence the value of a piece of property - such as litigation regarding the property, conditions of the immediate neighborhood that might not be affecting other similar properties a few blocks away. Paul digs in, does his due diligence and is able to come up with a number that not only can be relied upon but can stand up in court (and has). Absolutely one the top appraisers in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Erica Minchella
Attorney

Use Rowe Appraisal if you are looking for a knowledgeable and helpful company.

Jamie Bernhardt
Real Estate Agent

Call us today for a free consultation.

What is an appraisal?

I recently came across this great graphic by Title Source that goes through the home appraisal process and the appraisal basics. It briefly discusses what an appraisal is, why it is necessary, what appraisals are based on, what homebuyers need to know, appraisal myths and truths, etc. In the coming months, I will be unpacking each of these topics and going into more detail about each of the items shown in the “flowchart” to “pull back the curtain” in an effort to educate the consumer on the appraisal process and what they need to be aware of.

"An unbiased, professional opinion of value"

In the graphic they define the word "appraisal" as: "An unbiased professional opinion of value." For this first post in the series, let’s take a closer look at what those first three words really mean.

The word "unbiased" is pretty straightforward but what does it mean in relation to being a real estate appraiser? Essentially, it means that an appraiser is charged with being an independent party that cannot advocate for either side of the transaction. Appraisers should never advocate for a client's objective. Often a homeowner is hoping for a certain outcome. For example, if they are applying for a mortgage refinance or Home Equity Loan, they are wanting a higher appraised value. But if they are appealing their property taxes or settling an estate and planning on buying out the others in the estate, they most likely want a lower value. Another good example of this is when the intended use is for a divorce appraisal and we are asked to determine market value for a property that is owned by two people going through a divorce. Just because one spouse hires an appraiser doesn't mean that the appraiser is an advocate for their client. No, an appraiser's role is to provide an unbiased, well-supported opinion of value. This one word alone is an important one that separates us as appraisers from every other person involved in the transaction

The word "professional" could have easily been omitted from their definition of appraisal but it's telling that it was included. One reason is that all appraisers must be licensed and adhere to a professional set of Standards and Ethics as detailed by USPAP. We must take extensive amounts of appraisal coursework and also acquire a significant number of hours working on appraisal reports before becoming a licensed and certified appraiser. In order to maintain our license, we must also take a minimum number of hours of continuing education every 2 years. All of this means that appraisers are continually engaging with other appraisers and keeping abreast of the latest trends and changes in the appraisal profession. These experience and education requirements in combination with USPAP holding appraisers to a uniform standards and ethics, gives appraisers the tools and expertise in valuation methods and best practices. It is for these reasons that I believe the word “professional” is an important one.

Finally, we get to the word "opinion". While there is a lot of science involved and standard accepted methodology, there is also an art to appraising and the results are often subjective. Two appraiser can be hired to appraise the same property and may come to different value conclusions. Now, if they are both good appraisers with a strong knowledge of the market area and have well-researched and supported opinions of value, then the two opinions of value should be fairly close (typically within 5%). Real estate markets are imperfect due to many factors including different buyer/seller motivations and we cannot always account for some of these unknowns. However, we are trained to analyze all market data including interviewing market participants and use this information to provide an opinion of value that is indicative of the most probable sales price of a property.

So to summarize, you can reach out to any number of people to get an opinion of what your home might be worth. Each person is going to have an opinion based on, at the very least, their own experience and possibly their own best interest. But an appraiser follows a standardized set of best practices, analysis, and methodology that leads to a professional opinion of value that is above-all unbiased and well supported.

THE HOME APPRAISAL PROCESS - What you need to know as the buyer

To see the full graphic to see other topics I will be covering click the button below.  For Real Estate Agents, this may be a useful tool to provide your buyers/sellers with as a brief overview of the process.

Real Estate Agent Property Questionnaire

I love when I have the opportunity to meet the listing agent at the property, but as you know, that’s not always possible. This fillable/interactive form allows you to make sure the appraiser has all of the information they need to complete a thorough appraisal of your listing. I’ve broken this form up into two sections with the first covering the recent updates to the property and the second related more to the market area and ways in which your listing shines. Each section/question is designed to help you communicate pertinent information to the appraiser that will be helpful is the appraiser determining the most accurate opinion of value.


Section 1 (Improvement/Updates)

By completing this section, you can make sure the appraiser knows about updates and improvements made to the property as well as their approximate cost. Obtaining the approximate cost of the improvements can be helpful in supporting a significant increase in value if the home had recently sold prior to these updates. While cost does not always equal value, knowing the cost of improvements assists the appraiser when analyzing the contributory value of each improvement. These updates are broken up into 5 year increments as this is how appraisers are now required to report the updates to the kitchen and baths in the appraisal report.

Section 2 (Market Information)

Here is your opportunity to provide the sales/listings you used to determine the list price -- essentially potential comps for the appraiser to consider. You can also address in the 2nd question major selling points. A good appraiser should already know certain benefits of a property’s location but you, as Realtors, often have more detailed or nuanced information about what prospective buyers are looking for. Think of what is most discussed or brought up by potential buyers when you are showing the house. Was it the large master bedroom suite, walking distance to the Metra or Blue line, proximity to downtown’s shops and restaurants, the best school district in the area? All of this is great information for an appraiser to have.

Multiple Offers and Additional Info

More specific questions, such as the one about multiple offers, may ultimately help the appraiser support an opinion of value that takes into account current market demand that may not be reflected yet in recent sales prices (possibly an indicator that values are increasing). Lastly, there is an area for anything else you want the appraiser to know.


Property Questionnaire

for Real Estate Agents


Questionnaire for Homeowners

We also do a ton of “non-lender” work, so I also created a modified version of this form to give to homeowners who call me directly for appraisals for divorce, pre-listings, estates, etc. Click below for a copy of this modified version to help you ascertain the recent improvements when putting the MLS listing together and pricing the property.

Market Value: Probable Vs. Possible

Market Value DefinitionThe CU (Collateral Underwriter) is obviously a hot topic right now and there are many excellent blog posts written by fellow appraisers that point of many of its flaws (see the bottom of the page for links to those posts).  On a recent positive note, Fannie Mae recently sent a letter to its lender clients that included the statement, “Before asking the appraiser to consider any alternative sales, it is imperative that the lender analyze the relevance of the sale and determine if the use of such a sale would result in any material change to the appraisal report.  If the lender determines that there would be no material change, then they should not ask the appraiser to make revisions.”

But what I want to touch on in this post is that the existence of the CU will more than likely change the approach of many appraisers (in a good way).  Why would this change an appraiser’s approach?  One of the answers lies in the definition of market value as defined by Fannie Mae.  Sometimes as appraisers, we may need to be reminded of one of the most important parts of this definition.  Fannie Mae’s definition is as follows:

Market value is the most probable price that a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:

  • buyer and seller are typically motivated;
  • both parties are well informed or well advised, and each acting in what he or she considers his/her own best interest;
  • a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market;
  • payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and
  • the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.
The key part of this definition that I am focusing on is “the most probable price”.  Not the highest possible price, the most probable.

As was recently pointed out on the Voice of Appraisal with Phil Crawford recently, “Possibilities and probabilities are two totally different things”.  Prior to the HVCC, it was not uncommon for appraisers to be asked by loan officers, “What is the highest value you can appraise this property for?”.  The HVCC eliminated much of that by adding a layer of protection (and in-consequently taking a chainsaw to our standard fees).  However, there were still appraisers that would search the neighborhood and cherry pick a few of the highest sales in an effort to support the purchase price.  However with the CU, if only the 3 comparable sales with the highest sales prices are used, the CU will most likely bring that to the attention of the lender, who could in turn bring it to the attention of the appraiser.  If you are appraising a home that has 10 similar sales in the neighborhood and you use the three highest, the appraiser better have support and be prepared to explain why their value is at the upper end of the range.  That is not to say that in certain circumstances it should not be at the upper end of the range (superior condition, superior quality of construction, larger lot size, superior view, larger GLA, etc).  But if the subject is in the middle of the range when compared to the comparable sales in terms of many of the factors that affect value (GLA, condition, quality of construction, bed and bath count, view, location, basement area and finished basement area, lot size, etc), then the final opinion of value should not be at the extreme high or low end of the range.  Again, our job is to determine the most PROBABLE price the property would sell for, not the highest POSSIBLE price.  This should also help keep artificially inflated appraisals out of the refinance and home equity markets.

How this plays out over the long term remains to be seen.  I know most appraisers have much bigger concerns with CU and how it will impact our profession in the short and long term, as do I.  It’s just that these issues have have all been written about by other appraisers.  I just thought I would suggest a revisiting of the definition of market value.  The “most probable and not highest possible” portion of the definition is also something that appraisers can point out to educate your clients and even real estate agents when your opinion of value is below a contract price.

Links to additional articles on the CU:

 

Rowe Appraisal Group specializes in real estate appraisals for divorce, estates, pre-listings and more throughout the Chicagoland area.  If you have any real estate appraisal questions, please feel free to call us at (847) 863-5776 or email paul@roweappraisalgroup.com.

Paired Sales in the Chicago Condo Real Estate Market

Chicago Condo Garden

With all of the discussion regarding the CU (Collateral Underwriter) and using regression analysis to support adjustments, I thought I would share a recent, good old fashioned Paired Sales Analysis (Matched Pairs) to determine an adjustment for a Garden unit vs. a high first floor unit.  The idea behind paired sales is to find 2 or more sales that sold around the same time, in the same location, that are the same with the exception of one feature.  The difference between to the two sales price should give you a supportable adjustment.  The best thing about condo conversions in Chicago, is that when they are converted from apartments, the building and units are often rehabbed and resold around the same time.  Even better, they are often rehabbed by the developer with similar finishes in each of the units.  When the garden unit has the same floor plan as the units above it, it creates a perfect data set to extract a matched paired sales adjustment.  You have similar location (same address), they typically sell with a few months of each other, and are similar in bed and bath count, GLA, etc.

I was appraising a garden unit in on the northwest side of Chicago.  While I was able to find other recent sales of garden units for comparable sales, I needed to use a non garden unit to bracket a particular feature.  After pulling 3 recent garden unit sales, I found out when the buildings were converted and look up the sales prices of each of the units at that time.  Here is the data below:


Chicago real estate apprasier

As you can see above, I have four different paired sales to analyze.  One building actually provided two sets as the two units both sold again recently within 2 months of each other.  The percentage difference ranged from 9.2% – 15.3%.  After average all four percentages, I was able to come up with a 12.5% adjustment for the difference between a garden unit and the unit above it.  When the CU comes back and I am asked why I gave such a large (or small, who knows with CU) adjustment for floor level, I can cut and paste this into the addendum.  Or better yet, just put in into the report in the first place and hopefully avoid the hassle.

While this ended up working out really nice and neat for this appraisal, my fellow appraisers will attest to the fact that finding good paired sales in all circumstances in just a pipe dream.  I just thought I would share one example in which it worked out really well.  I have been testing many of the recent regression tools available for appraisers and have found a couple to be really promising.  Once I learn all of the nuances and techniques, I believe they will be extremely helpful in many situations.  But those of you who have tested them know, they often give some crazy results and other methods will still be necessary.  My favorite so far is PAIRS, by Gandysoft.  Please leave a comment and let me know which software you are finding to be the most useful so far.

Rowe Appraisal Group specializes in real estate appraisals for divorce, estates (date of death), pre-listings and more throughout the Chicagoland area.  If you have any home appraisal related questions, please call us at (847) 863-5776 or email paul@roweappraisalgroup.com.