5 reasons why an appraiser CAN appraise a property above the highest sale

Can a property be appraised above the highest sale in the neighborhood? A real estate agent friend was told recently by an appraiser that the house could not be appraised above the highest sale because that is what Fannie Mae says. Is that true or not? Let’s consider some of the following points.

Curtis Park neighborhood in Sacramento - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

5 reasons why a house CAN be appraised above the highest sale:

  1. The Horse’s Mouth: Fannie Mae does not say appraisers cannot appraise a property above the highest sale. I’m not sure if the appraised value in this case was on point or not, but the appraiser was simply not correct regarding the supposed rule by Fannie Mae. Whenever someone states, “Fannie Mae says….”, I recommend asking the person what page of the Seller’s Guide he/she is referring to.  :)
  2. Increasing Market: If a market is increasing in value, there is going to be a legitimate time where buyers are simply willing to pay more than most recent sales or even the highest sale. This is especially true when inventory is sparse and interest rates are low. This reminds us too that appraisers don’t make values increase, but rather measure when the market changes.
  3. Lower Sales: Recent sales may have closed at lower levels, but there is no rule that says appraisers have to use the newest sales. In fact, even Fannie Mae states the appraiser may need to use older sales rather than newer ones. Sometimes lenders tell appraisers to use sales within the past 90 days, but that type of rule is not consistent with Fannie Mae, and it might stand in the way of a good appraisal too. For instance, if two distressed short sale models closed last month, but there are ample model match sales from prior months (and current model match listings at higher levels too), it’s probably best to ignore the two recent lowball sales since they don’t represent the market. Remember also that one or two sales do not make or break a market.
  4. Zero Sales: The appraiser in this case said Fannie Mae prohibited the appraised value from being above the highest sale. But what if there were zero sales over the past year? Would that mean current value is bound to where sales were at last year? Nope. It can be tricky to see the market when there are no recent sales, but it can be done with time and skill.
  5. The Best: The house being appraised might be the best on the block or have a feature that pushes it over the top of recent prices. Thus it can make reasonable sense to see a home appraise for more than the others. Of course just because someone thinks a home is the best thing ever does not mean the market is willing to pay the highest price ever. Also, keep in mind every neighborhood has a price ceiling, which means buyers will inevitably only pay so much in that neighborhood before moving on to a different area.

BRACKETING: Please know I’m not trying to give the appraiser a hard time or throw any appraiser under the bus (I love my fellow appraisers), but I did want to offer the above points because there is space for some conversation. While the appraiser was incorrect about Fannie Mae’s rule, I do appreciate the appraiser being aware of the concept of bracketing. Bracketing is basically when appraisers will use some superior sales and some inferior sales to help establish value for a property. This can be a good practice when choosing potential comps because it helps us see the higher and lower ends of a competitive market. Bracketing is not always possible (see points 2-5), but it can help support a value or adjustments. For instance, if valuing a fixer property, we would want to use at least one fixer comp so we know what the market was actually willing to pay for a fixer. Otherwise if we only use remodeled homes for comparison, we are left sort of guessing what the downward adjustment should be for condition. Is it $20,000, $30,000, $50,000, $100,000, etc….? The best way to know what the adjustment should be is to find actual fixers in the market. How much of a discount for condition is there between remodeled homes and fixers? The same holds true for figuring out the value of a built-in pool. Rather than guessing at the value (say $10,000), if we look at competitive home sales with and without pools, we can begin to extract a price buyers have been willing to pay. In other words, if we bracket sales with and without pools, it helps us begin to see the market.

how to think like an appraiser biggerHOW TO THINK LIKE AN APPRAISER (class I’m teaching): Locals, if you are around on July 16th, I’d love to have you come by the Sacramento Association of Realtors for a class I’m teaching called “How to Think Like an Appraiser”. This will be three hours of relevant conversation (and we’re going to have some fun). This is perfect for new agents as well as veterans. My goal is to leave you with insights to apply to your listings and tips for working with appraisers. Register here.

Question: Any thoughts, stories, or points to share? I’d love to hear your take.

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The frog and kettle of real estate financing

Do you remember how easy it used to be to get a loan a decade ago? It was actually ridiculous how simple it was. Nowadays things are MUCH more stringent, yet at times it seems like we are gradually starting to head back to some more risky and creative loan products. It’s sort of like the frog and kettle, but with financing.

financing changes in real estate - by sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission

Financing Moves Value: There are many reasons why home values go up or down in real estate, and financing happens to be one of the bigger layers in the market to make value move. This means when financing begins to change, we can ask why it changed, and also consider any future impact on values. A decade ago there were many options to finance 100% of a purchase, but those options disappeared from the scene for a few years. Yet as prices have skyrocketed in recent years, lenders have begun to equip buyers with more products to “afford” the higher market without putting any “skin in the game” so to speak (By the way, 29% of all sales last month in Sacramento County were FHA). There is certainly a time and place for diverse loan products, but new products can also help values continue to rise when it might be okay for values to cool.

I asked a group of loan officers what more risky products they are beginning to see or hear about coming back into existence. Here is what they said:

adrian petersen - loan officerAdrian Petersen – Loan Officer: It’s been a very interesting roller coaster ride in the lending world over the past decade. Some of the old products are beginning to surface again. Specifically the Fannie Mae My Community 97% for first time home buyers (no ownership in last 3 years) which only requires 3% down payment and can be gifted from family or employer. Also, the 85% Jumbo with no MI has also just re-entered the market. Although we have some very exciting products out there, it’s a good time to remember where we just came from…

stanfordSandy Donaldson – Loan Officer / Branch Manager: There are not a lot of risky products on the market per se due to many of the recent regulations. However, we have seen the conforming 3% down loan reappear. This is a conforming 30 year fixed rate product that requires only 3% down and that 3% can be gifted from a relative. We have also seen conforming loosen their standards on gift funds. It used to be that buyers needed 5% of their own money but now the entire down payment can be gifted on a standard conventional loan. We have seen FHA MIP premium go down substantially and mortgage insurance factors for conventional loans have also declined.

Matt the Mortgage GuyMatt Gougé – Loan Officer: Not only have I seen the increased advertising of ‘Stated Income’ loans in my social media news feed, but I have also heard discussions among some industry folks that there are Venture Capitalists pooling BILLIONS of dollars with the intention of buying up these alternative mortgage products. While these loans do carry extra risk and don’t have the same terms as conventional financing, there is a subsection of the market that will be well served by these products. In my humble opinion the area where people really get into trouble is when they start using loan products that adjust (either the rate or the fact that a certain term is ‘interest only’- or both) and/or have balloon payments. Signing up for a mortgage payment you can afford today that can increase 50%+ in 5 years is a recipe for disaster.

Brad YzermansBrad Yzermans – Mortgage Loan Originator: I think the reemergence of homebuyer assistance programs that require $0 out of pocket and allow a person to borrow up to 105% of the home’s value, along with higher qualifying income limits, is helping sustain home values and keep home ownership more affordable. Many people would consider these programs to be risky…..but they work!  In fact, 75% of all my buyers are eligible for one of the many different home buyer assistance programs we offer.

Dara Delgado Loan OfficerDara Delgado – Loan Officer / Mortgage Broker: In the last year, there have been several “niche” or non-QM loan products that have rolled out, that I have originated and closed. 1) 2 years seasoning from foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcies –allows a max up to 55% Loan-To-Value. 2) Self-employed borrowers allowed alternative documents (12 month bank statements) – adding all deposits, then dividing by 12 months = qualifying income –allows a max up to 65% Loan-To-Value. 3)  Asset Depletion loans (using substantial assets, to qualify, opposed to income). I have also seen various private money lenders roll out more aggressive product such as: Stated income for self-employed or wage earner borrowers – allowing a maximum of 75% Loan-To-Value. Private money lenders loan terms and costs, however are much higher than traditional or niche product loans.

People of Sacramento: By the way, I was featured in a series called “People of Sacramento Commenting on the News“. Nathaniel Miller of the Sacramento Bee is the brains behind this effort. Read more here. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.

People of Sacramento - Ryan Lundquist - Photo by Kevin Fiscus Photographer

Questions: What risky products do you hope won’t make it back? Any other insight or stories to share?

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Big demand and the force of FHA in Sacramento’s housing market

Big demand. Big FHA. Let’s talk the latest housing trends in Sacramento. If you’re local, my goal is to give you 10 quick talking points to share with clients. If you’re not local, what are you seeing in your area?

Two ways to read my big monthly market post:

  1. Scan the talking points and graphs quickly.
  2. Grab a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes digesting what is here.

star-wars-real-estate-photo-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog-530

One Paragraph to Describe the Sacramento Market: This year the market feels much stronger than it did last year at the same time. Values have not skyrocketed like they did a few years ago, but there has been somewhat of a desperation among buyers to get into contract before interest rates and/or values rise much more. This has made for an environment where multiple offers have been commonplace (at least for properties that are priced correctly and in average condition). Housing inventory did increase slightly last month, and we are starting to see slightly more price reductions, but demand is still “off the charts” in that pendings are a good 20% higher than one year ago. Regional prices have seen an uptick these past few months, and sales volume is 7% higher so far this year compared to last year. We all know low interest rates and sparse inventory have been driving the market, but having such a huge percentage of escrows going FHA has also boosted sales figures. Remember that many FHA buyers are not putting much “skin in the game” so to speak, and at times they tend to offer more than anyone else to get a contract accepted. Being that 25% of all sales in the Sacramento region were FHA last month (and 29% in Sacramento County), this definitely creates more competition at certain price ranges and makes housing stats look more impressive. As housing inventory presumably begins to increase over the next few months (as it did last year), watch out for price reductions, unrealistic expectations from sellers, and buyers gaining more power.

DOWNLOAD 51 graphs HERE (zip file): Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share.

Sacramento Regional Trends for May 2015 (Sac, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado):

  1. The median price in the Sacramento Region is $333,250.
  2. The median price is 7.5% higher than one year ago (May 2014).
  3. Sales volume is up 7.3% so far in 2015 compared to the beginning of 2014 (January through May).
  4. It took an average of 38 days to sell a house last month (44 days in April).
  5. Cash sales were 15.6% of all sales last month.
  6. FHA sales were 25.4% of all sales in the region last month.
  7. Sales volume was 7% higher this May compared to last May.
  8. There is 1.9 months of housing inventory (2.2 months in May 2014).
  9. The average sales price is $368,525 (7.5% higher than last year).
  10. It took 14 less days to sell a house this May compared to May 2014.

median price and inventory in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

fha and other sales in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

volume cash and conventional in region by sacramento appraisal blog

months of housing inventory in region by sacramento appraisal blog

days on market in placer sac el dorado yolo county by sacramento appraisal blog

Sacramento County Market Trends for May 2015:

  1. The median price in Sacramento County is $289,950.
  2. The median price is 7% higher than one year ago (May 2014).
  3. It took an average of 35 days to sell a house last month (42 in April).
  4. Cash sales were only 15% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 29% of all sales in Sacramento County last month.
  6. Sales volume is 5.7% higher this May compared to last May.
  7. There is 1.7 months of housing inventory (2.0 months last May).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 183 (13% higher than last May).
  9. The average sales price is $317,000 (7.5% higher than last year).
  10. It took 12 days shorter to sell a house this May compared to May 2014.

Median price and inventory since 2011 by sacramento appraisal blog - with median figures

price metrics since 2014 in sacramento county

months of housing inventory by sacramento appraisal blog

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

sales volume in May in Sacramento County since 2008 Interest Rates Since 2008

Placer County Market Trends for May 2015:

  1. The median price in Placer County is $400,000.
  2. The median price is 5.3% higher than one year ago (May 2014).
  3. It took 38 days on average to sell a house last month.
  4. Cash sales were 15.8% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 21.5% of all sales in Placer County last month.
  6. Sales volume was 9.8% higher this May compared to last May.
  7. There is 2.1 months of housing inventory (2.5 months last May).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 201.
  9. The average sales price is $445,218 (5.7% higher than May 2014).
  10. It took 16 days shorter to sell a house this May compared to last.

Placer County median price since 2012 - by home appraiser blog

months of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

number of listings in PLACER county - May 2015 - by home appraiser blog

Placer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal blog

interest rates inventory median price in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

I hope this was helpful. Thank you so much for being here.

DOWNLOAD 51 graphs HERE (zip file): Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share.

My New Office & the Desk I Built: By the way, I wanted to share some exciting news. I’m in the process of building a new home office since I recently moved to Carmichael. By this time next week my office should theoretically be finished, but for now here is a desk I built out of reclaimed wood last week. It’s a beastly 12′ long, and it’s designed for two work stations.

The desk I built

Questions: How do you think sellers and buyers are feeling about the market right now? What are you seeing out there?

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How do appraisers account for a difference in age between comps?

There are so many factors to consider when valuing a property. Anyone who works in real estate knows this. So how do we account for a difference in age between comps? Does age matter? Should we make any value adjustments? Someone asked me this recently, so I figured it was worth kicking around the issue together. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

difference in year built in the appraisal report - sacramento appraisal blog

Question: How do appraisers account for a difference in year built? Do appraisers give an adjustment when to comps there is an age difference?

Answer: Here’s my take. Most of the time buyers tend to buy based on condition instead of age. Thus if there is a difference of a few years or so within a subdivision, it might not have any impact on value as long as the condition is similar. For instance, in some tracts we see an age range of 1977 to 1983. If one house was built in 1977 and another in 1983, and they are in the same condition, it’s unlikely to see the 1983 home command a value premium unless for some reason it has a higher quality or if it is located on a stronger street. Sometimes buyers are actually not even aware of the age of the home. They’re really just looking at the neighborhood and buying what is there. Do you agree?

My $500 Adjustment: I’ll admit when I first began appraising I used to adjust $500 per year on all comps in every appraisal because that’s what I was taught to do. In very technical terms, this valuation methodology is…. bogus. After all, a $500 adjustment per year certainly doesn’t apply to every neighborhood, every market, or every property type. These days though I rarely make any adjustment for year built since most of the time I’m looking at condition instead. However, if the age gap is too large, there may be a difference in value, and we we have to begin asking if we should even be comparing the homes in the first place. For instance, is 1977 vs. 1990 a good comparison? What about 1990 vs. 2003? Maybe not because we might be dealing with a different quality of construction, different tracts, or different markets. But at the same time, we might see homes in one area were built in 1955 and another nearby area has homes built in 1972. If there is no price difference observed between both areas, then the homes may easily be competitive despite their age gap. The thing we need to do though when valuing a 1955 home is to be sure to find 1955 sales instead of just 1972 sales (this helps prove the market really does pay the same amount for both ages).

Subjective Mush: I know this begins to sound very subjective, but there is no rule out there when an adjustment is needed other than when buyers at large have clearly paid more or less because of a feature. In reality it can be tempting to make value adjustments for every single distinction, but sometimes it’s best to not force adjustments by remembering the market isn’t so sensitive as to warrant a price reaction for every single difference. However, a good rule of thumb when searching for comps is to take an “apples to apples” approach. This means we start by searching for similar-sized homes with a similar age rather than choosing newer or older sales that really might not be competitive. I know this sounds basic, but when we keep the fundamentals in mind, it keeps us sharp (right?).

Brand New Homes: As I mentioned recently, we do need to be careful about comparing brand new homes with ones that are even a year or two old because brand new homes tend to sell at a price premium. This means despite only 1-2 years difference in age, we might see a pretty big difference in value.

I hope this was helpful.

Questions: Anything else you’d add? When do you think age does matter to buyers? Any stories or examples?

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How can 3 appraisers give 3 different values for the same property?

Imagine 3 appraisals on one property, and all of them have a different value. How can appraisers have any credibility when there is so much difference? I hear this question all the time, so I wanted to pitch in some thoughts to hopefully strike a balanced conversation for home owners, agents, and appraisers. Here are three points to consider for perspective. Any thoughts?

why are appraisals so different in value - by sacramento appraisal blog

  1. Range of Values: We like to think value is incredibly precise, but one of the best things we can do is realize there is a range of value in real estate. This means realistically buyers might be willing to pay anywhere between $330,000 to $340,000 for a particular property instead of such an exact figure of $334,568. The same is true when we buy a new car or even buy something on Craigslist. Rather than being tied down to one exact figure, we often recognize there is a price range we’d be comfortable paying. We might think of a Camry as having a value anywhere from $21,500 to $23,000 or a used bookcase being a deal between $55 to $65. Real estate works very similarly, though since appraisers have to put an exact number in an appraisal report for lending purposes, we are stuck with that exact figure.
  2. If I asked 3 Agents: Since appraisers give a written value for a property, it’s easy to criticize the value (rightly so). But if I asked three real estate agents to give a precise written and supported value for a property, chances are I would get three different values, right? This would be especially true for a custom home or something that is unique or lacking decent comps. I bring this up because it takes real skill and time to nail a value, and there is going to be a difference in opinion even among qualified and respected professionals throughout the real estate community – whether appraisers or agents. When speaking in real estate offices and this point arises, I often ask, “If I asked 10 different agents for a value on a property, what do you think the result be?” While it sounds like a cop out to gloss over bad appraisals, there is a valid point here.
  3. Quality Spectrum of Appraisers: Lastly, it’s worth noting there is sometimes a difference in values because some appraisers simply do a better job. Remember, an appraisal is about two things: 1) Comps; and 2) Adjustments. When comps or adjustments are out of sync with the market, it’s easy for value to be out of line. This is the part where the appraisal industry has a black eye, and it certainly deserves criticism when an appraisal is not what it should be (whether too high or too low).

The Pain of 2 Appraisals: While it’s perfectly reasonable to see a minor difference in value among appraisers (or any real estate professional), the reality is lenders sometimes require two appraisals when a property has been flipped or even when a property is very unique. We all know this can lead to turmoil for a transaction if one value is at or above the contract price and the other is below. This is why it’s best for a transaction to have just one appraisal, and better yet, to have a lender who understands the above issues and can be reasonable when there are two different values on one property (hopefully the values are somewhat close).

I hope these points are helpful for framing the conversation next time this issue comes up. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

Question: Any thoughts or stories to share? What other points would you put in here?

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How to avoid one of the biggest value mistakes made with square footage

Let’s look at one of the most common value mistakes made with square footage in real estate. This error is extremely easy to make if we’re not careful, and it’s something that happens quite a bit in the real estate community. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I hope this is helpful.

big value mistakes made with square footage - by sacramento appraisal blog

Here’s how the error works:

  • A property sold for $205,000.
  • The house is 1164 sq ft.
  • $205,000 / 1164 = $176 price per sq ft
  • Now apply $176 to any difference in square footage with other properties. For instance, if a house is 100 sq ft smaller, the value difference between the two houses is $176 x 100 = $17,610.

The Big Error: When we apply $176 for the square footage adjustment, we make a huge mistake. Why? Because $176 represents everything about the property from the structure, lot size, upgrades, driveway, layout, landscaping, sewer connection, bedrooms, garage, etc…. So when we apply a figure that encompasses the entire property to only one little part of the property (square footage), it’s very easy to get an off-base value adjustment.

what is the extra square footage worth - sacramento appraisal blog

A market-based methodology: If you want to know how much square footage is worth, it all comes down to comparing homes in the neighborhood. In this case we need to find other similar-sized homes to the 1164 sq ft model. What type of price difference is there? Why is there a price difference? Is it the square footage? Condition? Upgrades? Location?

In this case I found a property that sold for $197,000, but it had 100 less sq ft and one less bathroom. Assuming there are other sales out there like this too (we need more than just one example), we now see the combined value difference for the extra 100 sq ft and one bathroom is only $8,000. In other words, buyers were really only willing to pay about $8,000 for the extra square footage and bathroom. That’s a far cry from the $17,610 figure we came up with above, right? We could take more time to figure out how much the bathroom contributes to the $8,000 and how much the square footage contributes to the $8,000, but let’s not make this post too long.

The Point: Be very careful about making a square footage adjustment by using the entire price per sq ft of a property. This is applicable for any price range too – not just the lower end of the market. How much are buyers actually willing to pay for the extra square footage? The best way to know is to start finding some sales that are a bit larger and others that are a bit smaller. Assuming all else is fairly similar, what is the price difference? For more information, check out how appraisers make square footage adjustments and choosing comps like an appraiser.

Questions: Do you have anything else to add? Any stories or points to share?

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Aggressive demand but modest value appreciation in Sacramento

Is it just me, or has the market felt a bit funky? On one hand demand has felt very aggressive, but actual value appreciation has been fairly modest overall. Let’s take a look at the latest trends in the Sacramento housing market below. If you’re local, I hope the 10 quick trends help give you some talking points with clients. If you’re not local, what are you seeing in your area?

the big picture in real estate

One Paragraph on the Market: More listings came on the market last month, but buyers readily absorbed them. Pendings are still a good 20%+ higher than last year in the Sacramento area, and clean and well-priced properties are getting into contract very quickly. As aggressive as demand has felt though, we haven’t seen the rapid appreciation this Spring that we saw in 2013. Values more or less have experienced a normal seasonal increase, though when compared to sales during the Fall of 2014, prices are clearly MUCH higher since there was a lull in the market last Fall. Overall price levels now generally seem to have recovered back to the height of last Summer (or even a bit higher depending on the area). Well-priced listings are getting into contract VERY quickly, and there have been multiple offers. But at the same time buyers are tending to overlook properties that are overpriced and anything with an adverse location or a lack of upgrades. As housing inventory presumably begins to increase over the next few months, keep an eye out for more price reductions, unrealistic expectations from sellers, and buyers gaining more power from sellers. Remember too the market does not behave the same at every price level or in every neighborhood.

Two ways to read my big monthly market post:

  1. Scan the talking points and graphs quickly.
  2. Grab a cup of coffee and spend a few minutes digesting what is here.

DOWNLOAD 52 graphs HERE for free (zip file): Please download all 52 graphs here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or even some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share.

Sacramento County Market Trends for April 2015:

  1. The median price in Sacramento County is $280,000.
  2. The median price is 5.6% higher than one year ago (April 2014).
  3. It took 42 days to sell a house last month.
  4. Cash sales were only 16.5% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 27% of all sales in Sacramento County last month.
  6. Sales volume was 9.2% higher this April compared to last April.
  7. There is 1.5 months of housing inventory (1.8 months last April).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 182 (7% higher than last April).
  9. The average sales price is $310,000 (5.7% higher than last year).
  10. It took 3 days longer to sell a house this April compared to last.

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog months of housing inventory by sacramento appraisal blogprice metrics since 2014 in sacramento countyinventory during fall and winter 2 - by sacramento appraisal blog

median price and inventory since 2013 - by sacramento appraisal blog

layers of the market in sacramento county - by sacramento appraisal blogPlacer County Market Trends for April 2015:

  1. The median price in Placer County is $391,500.
  2. The median price is 6.9% higher than one year ago (April 2014).
  3. It took 41 days to sell a house last month.
  4. Cash sales were 17% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 20% of all sales in Sacramento County last month.
  6. Sales volume was 27.5% higher this April compared to last April.
  7. There is 1.9 months of housing inventory (2.5 months last April).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 200 (3% higher than last April).
  9. The average sales price is $441,163 (3.8% higher than last year).
  10. It took 10 days shorter to sell a house this April compared to last.

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal blogmonths of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blogPlacer County median price and inventory - by home appraiser blogPlacer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal bloginterest rates inventory median price in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

Regional Market Trends for April 2015 (Sac, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado):

  1. The median price in the Sacramento Region is $325,000.
  2. The median price is 9.4% higher than one year ago (April 2014).
  3. It took 44 days to sell a house last month.
  4. Cash sales were 16.9% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 23.7% of all sales in Sacramento County last month.
  6. Sales volume was 10.5% higher this April compared to last April.
  7. There is 1.7 months of housing inventory (2.1 months last April).
  8. The average price per sq ft is 192 (7.2% higher than last April).
  9. The average sales price is $360,351 (6.9% higher than last year).
  10. It took the same amount of time to sell in April 2015 and April 2014.

days on market in placer sac el dorado yolo county by sacramento appraisal blog

months of housing inventory in region by sacramento appraisal blog

median price and inventory in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

number of listings in Placer Sacramento Yolo El Dorado county - by home appraiser blog

interest rates inventory median price in sacramento regional market by sacramento appraisal blog

Questions: How do you think sellers and buyers are feeling about the market right now? What are you seeing out there?

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Why no value adjustment is sometimes the best adjustment

It has to add value, right? It’s tempting in real estate to make upward adjustments in our valuations whenever we see a feature that is remotely positive. Our thinking is that buyers have to be willing to pay something for that special feature, so we should give it a little value boost. But sometimes making no adjustment is the best thing to do. Let’s look at three quick examples.

no value adjustment given - sacramento appraisal blog

Three examples where no adjustment could be the best move:

  1. Duplex with Large Lot Size: We get used to giving value premiums for larger lot sizes for single family homes, but a larger lot size for a duplex is often not a positive gain for the property. Assuming the lot cannot be built on or divided, the extra space really costs more for the owner to manage, and that can actually diminish cash flow for the property. Imagine a duplex on 0.75 acres, while every other similar duplex is on a postage stamp lot. If there is no difference in the rent between all the duplexes, and the larger lot is not useful for building, there probably isn’t a value premium for that extra lot size. In fact, the larger lot may be a nuisance because of the cost of extra landscaping maintenance or even illegal dumping.
  2. Location Across from a Park: It’s always worth more to be located across from a park, right? Not necessarily. While a park location might feel like an asset, if it’s also located on a busy street, the negative of the busy location might balance out any positive gain for the park location. Or if a park is known for loitering or criminal activity, it might not be desirable at all to live across the street from it. This is why it is telling to hear home owners talk about their park location. At times they love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world, but other times it’s a clear negative. Of course market value is not just about one owner’s perception, but the entire market. How would most buyers respond to the location? This is where we have to look at neighborhood sales over time to see if there is any price difference between park sales and non-park sales.
  3. Condo with a View of a Lake: Imagine a condo with a view of a lake. We would all assume the lake view is worth more than a non-lake view, but what do the neighborhood sales and listings tell us? Is there any price difference at all? If the vast bulk of properties in the condo development are all rentals, and there is no difference in the rental value for the lake view vs. the non-lake view, then the lake view is not an asset. This real life scenario came from a conversation with a mentor recently.

The Point: Sometimes it’s tempting to give a positive value adjustment because we feel there simply has to be one. But there actually might not be one. Maybe the market doesn’t behave the way we think it should, or maybe the market in one subdivision trends differently than a nearby subdivision. This underscores the need to watch neighborhood sales and listings closely to try to let the data speak to us rather than let our assumptions trump the data.

Marketing to Millennials Event: Locals, I wanted to invite you to an event I’m moderating at the Sacramento Association of Realtors on May 6 at 12pm. It’s called Marketing to Millennials, and it’s all about how to connect with Millennials in your real estate business. This generation too often gets a bad wrap from so many sources, but how can you connect with them and serve them best in business? There will be a guest speaker and four panelists. Make sure to say “hi” if you can make it. Read more here (pdf) or sign up here.

Question: What other examples can you think of where a positive value adjustment wasn’t needed (even though it seemed like one should be given)?

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5 reasons why median price increases don’t translate dollar for dollar to actual value

If the median price goes up by 2% in one month in a zip code, does that mean you have 2% more value for your property? Should you add that 2% to a new listing or appraisal? Or since the median price rose by 75% from early 2012 in Sacramento County, does that mean you have 75% more value? Not necessarily.

NOTE: Understanding how the median price works is important for valuing properties and communicating with clients.

Image purchased and used with permission by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

What is the median price? If you lined up all sales in a county or zip code from lowest to highest price, the median price would be the sale in the middle. Over time this figure can help us see how a market is moving, but applying median price increases from a zip code to a particular home can get us into quick trouble.

5 reasons why median price increases don’t translate to actual dollar for dollar increases:

  1. what-is-the-median-price-by-Sacramento-Appraisal-BlogSales Volume: The monthly median price is based on how many sales there were in a given month. If there are few sales in a market, the median price could see a huge swing, which means it can go up and down very quickly (which means we should be very careful about applying the increase or decrease to our property’s valuation).
  2. Less junk sales at the bottom: In 2012 and 2013 cash investors gutted the distressed market (low-priced short sales and foreclosures), and then flipped many of these low sales at higher levels. This essentially means the bottom of the market was removed. Now imagine the median price again, which is the sale in the middle of all sales if you lined them up by price. All of the sudden the sale in the middle got much higher because the bottom distressed part of the market was removed in a short period of time. Thus the market on paper shows very significant median price increases, but that’s really because of the bottom disappearing, right?
  3. Seasonal Moods: The median price tends to see a huge uptick during the early Spring.. For instance, imagine the median price increased by $25,000 from January to March. Does this mean values increased by $25,000? Not necessarily. It’s just the stale sales from Fall were much lower in price, and now current values are in high gear for the Spring (which is normal for Spring). Sometimes values in the beginning of the Spring are aggressive and they seem incredibly high, but in reality they might be picking up where the market left off at the end of Summer (or maybe slightly above). This is why we need to look at sales well beyond just the past 90 days.
  4. Larger Homes: Imagine there were larger-sized homes that sold last month compared to the previous month. We might look at the median price and say, “Wow, look how much the market increased last month”, but in reality there were simply bigger homes that sold at higher levels that made the median price increase.
  5. Zip Code vs Neighborhood: Not every neighborhood is experiencing the same trends as the entire zip code, and not every price range behaves the same way either. The zip code might show a 2% monthly increase in median price, but are neighborhood listings being priced higher or lower than recent sales? Are listings spending longer or shorter times on the market? Are sellers getting what they ask for? We have to be sure to take a hyper-local look at sales and listings in the immediate neighborhood before blindly applying zip code trends. The zip code might show a 2% median price increase, but maybe after looking at the numbers in the neighborhood itself, values in the neighborhood increased very modestly by maybe 0.50 to 1.0% in actual value over the month.

I hope this was helpful. As always, thank you sincerely for reading.

Question: Anything else you’d add? I’d love to hear your take.

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How do appraisers come up with value adjustments for a busy street?

We all know most buyers are going to pay less for a home on a busy street. But how much less? Is it really only something minimal like $5,000 or $10,000, or is it much more substantial? Knowing how to come up with adjustments is critical for anyone working in real estate, so let’s walk through a two-step example below to shed some light on how appraisers might approach a busy location.

busy street in real estate appraisal

The Temptation: It’s easy to use the same adjustments in every neighborhood and in every market, but there is no one-size-fits-all adjustment that will work in every case. This is why we need to know how to research the market.

Here are a couple key points and steps:

1) The best comps don’t need adjustments:

Freeport Blvd Sales in Sacramento

The first thing we want to do is look for sales and listings on the same street. When we have similar sales with roughly the same location, these properties tell us exactly what the market is willing to pay. There is no guessing and no need to use many other sales because we essentially have the best examples of properties that have already been vetted by the market. If we pull sales or listings from a superior street, it’s easy to minimize the adverse location. But if all the sales on the busy street are coming in substantially lower than surrounding sales, the market has spoken. If you don’t have recent sales, you can look at much older sales on the same street, and study other nearby sales at the time to see how much of a value impact there was. If there are zero sales on the subject street, find a competitive busy street in the market area (or maybe even a commercial location or something quasi-similar). There has to be something out there. Also be sure to look at actives, pendings, expired listings and withdrawn listings since they can sometimes give clues on value.

2) Comparing busy vs. not busy:

freeport 2

This is where we take a good look at any potential price difference between sales and listings on busy and not busy streets. We have to make sure we are comparing “apples to apples” so to speak, so pay close attention to size, condition, upgrades, lot size, layout, garage space, etc… The goal is to match up several sales instead of just one example because this helps us have a better context of support. In truth we might end up coming up with a range of value for what we think the adjustment should be too. That’s okay. Just ask yourself where your property realistically fits on the range of value spectrum.

freeport 2b

The Verdict: There haven’t been many recent sales in the immediate area lately, which makes it a more involved process to establish value. But even with these older sales, the value difference is fairly large, right? When looking at sales on Freeport Blvd vs competitive sales on typical streets, it looks like the value range is easily anywhere from 25-50K+. If we spent more time on this, we could hone in on a tighter range, but you get the point, right?

NOTE: I am not saying this is the adjustment to give. This is simply a quick snapshot of the market right now for the sake of illustrating a methodology. Remember that these properties on Freeport Blvd also back to public transportation too.

I hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

Questions: Any further insight or stories to share? How have you seen an adverse location impact the value of a property?

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