Behind the scenes of how appraisals are ordered

How are appraisals ordered? How much time are appraisers actually given to finish the report? What is it like on the appraisers’ side of things? Let’s take a look at what happen before, during, and after an appraisal is ordered for a loan. Knowing how things work can foster informed conversations and help everyone plan for an effective escrow too. I hope this helps.

how appraisals are ordered - by sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission from 123rf

My Interview on CBS: By the way, last week I was interviewed by CBS to talk about housing trends. Click here to see the video or scroll to the bottom of this post.

NOTE: The info below is relevant only for how appraisals are ordered in the lending world. Private appraisals do not require use of an AMC.

Before the Appraisal Order:

  • Appraisers typically have to be on an approved list for an Appraisal Management Company (AMC) to be sent appraisal orders. Appraisers apply to be on such a list, submit a resume, a few work samples, etc… In case you don’t know what an AMC is, according to NAR, an Appraisal Management Company (AMC) works with lenders and appraisers to facilitate the ordering, tracking, quality control and delivery of appraisal reports.
  • The AMC puts together a list of what they expect from appraisers. Sometimes the list is just one paragraph, but other times it might literally be three pages long of what they expect on the inspection, or how the appraiser should handle certain situations if they arise. When the order is sent to the appraiser, this list is attached along with the order.

Image purchased at 123rf dot com and used with permission - 14688774_s - smallerThe Appraisal Order:

  • When an appraisal is needed, an AMC will order one from one of their approved appraisers. If there is not an available appraiser on their list, the AMC will try to find an appraiser to add to their list.
  • Some AMCs will send out a blast order to a large group of appraisers. Typically the fee is very low and the turn-time is very quick. The first appraiser to click on the order is the one who gets it.
  • Other AMCs or appraisal departments will send out an order to a specific appraiser, and give the appraiser anywhere from several to 24 hours to accept the order.
  • Appraisers are regularly given about 7 days to finish an appraisal, though some AMCs may require 3-5 days.
  • If the appraiser doesn’t like the fee or turn-time that is offered, the appraiser can negotiate for a different fee and deadline. Some AMCs listen to appraisers and approve higher fees as needed, whereas other AMCs are bottom feeders only searching for the cheapest and fastest service.
  • An appraisal is usually due no later than a specific time such as 12pm, 1pm, or by midnight of the given due date.
  • A rush fee might result for an appraisal that is due several days prior to the normal turn-time or even just one day.

appraisal value - image purchased by Sacramento Appraisal Blog from 123rt dot com 4During the Appraisal Order:

  • AMCs usually want the appraiser to call to set the inspection within the first 24 hours of accepting the order.
  • Once the inspection is set, the appraiser has to update the AMC’s online appraisal platform with the inspection time.
  • The appraiser is usually required to give status updates every 24 or 48 hours.
  • The ordering platform can actually track how well an appraiser communicates and whether deadlines are met, which can result in more or less work for the appraiser.
  • The appraisal might be due in 7 days, but if nobody can give the appraiser access until day 6, the appraiser is likely going to ask for several more days to complete the assignment.
  • If the property ends up being more complex, the appraiser may need additional time or even a fee increase.
  • The appraiser can access the purchase contract and other provided documents in the AMC’s online portal. Keep in mind the appraiser only has access to whatever documents are there though (usually the purchase contract, but rarely the pest report, TDS, or title report).
  • INVOICE: Many AMCs require the appraiser to NOT include the invoice with the appraisal. There can be a big difference between what the Borrower is paying for the appraisal and what the appraiser is actually getting (this point was added thanks to an appraiser who emailed me).

After the Appraisal Order:

  • The appraiser is thanked profusely and lauded with praise by everyone involved in the transaction (kidding).
  • An AMC’s review department will look over the appraisal and ask the appraiser for any clarification or additional comps if needed. Appraisers typically are asked to complete revisions in 1-2 days.
  • If deemed necessary, the lender may hire a second appraiser to do a second appraisal when a house is complex, the value is suspicious, or the house has been flipped recently.
  • Most lenders have a rebuttal process, and the appraiser will typically be given 2 days to look at any new information or data that is submitted for the appraiser to consider.
  • Appraisers are usually given a 2-3 day turn-time for a re-inspection.
  • Appraisers are often paid between 30-60 days of doing the appraisal. It depends on the client.

Three Important Considerations:

  1. Backed-up AMC Communication: Appraisers are often blamed for a slow escrow, but in reality an appraiser might hit all deadlines that were given without being tardy. The problem is that a loan officer might submit an order to the appraisal department, but the appraiser might not actually see the order for a few days if the ordering department is backed up. Moreover, if the appraiser is dealing with a complex issue and reaches out to the AMC for conversation or direction, but it takes the AMC four days to respond to the appraiser, it can certainly delay things. The same thing happens when appraisers request documents that should be easy to get, but they end up taking many days.
  2. Remembering the Past: I remember working in an appraisal office in 2002 and at the peak of the busy season we had a 4-week turn-time, and we would do 2 or 3-week “rushes”. The turn-time was simply longer because that was the market at the time. It seems right now we are locked into a much faster turn, which is nice, but when the market gets hot, that may need to change.
  3. Picky Appraisers: When appraisers are overloaded with work, many appraisers might say NO to appraising a complex property. This means an AMC might have to reach out to many appraisers before finding someone willing to take on the assignment (hint: pay the appraiser for the additional complexity as money tends to talk). For instance, a 7-day turn time in the beginning of the year was actually not enough time for many appraisers because they were backed-up with so many other appraisals. Thus when both an easy order and a very challenging order would come into the appraiser’s pipeline, the obvious choice was to take the easier route because the hourly rate would be far better than how much more time it would take to complete the complex appraisal (that makes sense, right?).

My Interview on CBS:

Questions: Any thoughts, stories, or points to share? Agents, does anything surprise you here? Appraisers, did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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5 reasons why appraisers call for repairs to be made

Repairs are required. Those can be scary words during an escrow, yet they’re fairly common. Why do appraisers call out some repairs? Is there some sort of list or manual that tells appraisers what to do? Why do some appraisers mandate repairs, but others won’t? Let’s kick around these questions a bit.

reasons why appraisers call for repairs to be made

Five main reasons why appraisers call for repairs:

  1. The End-User: If an appraisal report is geared toward Fannie Mae or FHA, the appraiser ultimately is consulting Fannie Mae’s Seller’s Guide or FHA’s housing handbook to be sure the property is appraised according to their specific standards. If something is not up to par, the appraiser needs to call for repairs to be made so the property is acceptable to Fannie Mae or HUD.
  2. Health & Safety: If there is something blatantly unsafe about a home, an appraiser can call for that item to be fixed. Sometimes we like to think “heath and safety” is only an FHA issue, but if something is unsafe even in a conventional loan, the appraiser can call for it to be repaired.
  3. Lender Overlays: Some lenders have requirements above and beyond what Fannie Mae or FHA would require. These requirements are referred to as overlays. An example might be requiring smoke detectors in each bedroom even though they might not be required by local code. Another example would be requiring the appraiser to verify there was no fracking on site (no, I’m not kidding).
  4. Unknown Issues: Appraisers specialize in value, so when they see something like potential mold or huge cracks, the appraiser doesn’t have to try to be a mold or crack expert or guess if there is a real issue at hand or not. The appraiser is not trying to kill the deal, but might need to call in someone who specializes in those areas to offer insight. The appraiser might say in the report: “The appraised value is subject to further inspection of the cracks on the eastern side of the house by a qualified professional to determine there are no issues with structural integrity. The value is based on there being no issues. The appraiser reserves the right to adapt the opinion of value in this report based on new information.”
  5. Different Appraisers: This is where we get more subjective. Some appraisers might call for certain repairs to be made that other appraisers aren’t calling out. This might be due to the way the appraiser was trained (whether good or bad), or simply the reality that some appraisers do a better job than others. For instance, a friend just bought a house with FHA financing, and there was very clear chipping paint and severe wood decay all over the covered patio (this will be a weekend project that we’ll fix together eventually). The appraiser absolutely should have called for repairs, but that didn’t happen for whatever reason. Ten years ago everyone said, “Hey, can you just ignore that one issue in the appraisal report? Just don’t mention it because it will kill the deal, okay.” Well, appraisers are supposed to describe the property and point out any physical deficiencies. The appraiser is supposed to be the eyes of the lender so to speak (which is what the lender says they want…..theoretically).

appraisal repairs verbiage - example from sacramento appraisal blog

cracks example by sacramento appraisal blog

NOTE on Private Appraisals: These points are relevant for appraisals for loans, but appraisers may or may not make the same call for repairs when appraising something for a divorce, estate settlement, litigation, a pre-list appraisal or some other private matter. The vast bulk of my work is for private appraisals, and I don’t remember the last time I called for repairs to be made during a private appraisal. I do still have to use what’s called an extraordinary assumption or hypothetical condition though sometimes.

Fun Class: By the way, here are a few images of my class last week at the Sacramento Association of Realtors. Thank you everyone for coming.

How to think like an appraiser class at SAR

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

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Packing a market punch in Sacramento

It’s easy to say things like, “The market is on fire” or “Buyers are hungry out there”. Yet I find vague statements don’t pack much of a punch. It’s far more powerful when we get specific. For instance, did you know sales volume is up almost 10% this year so far? Or FHA buyers were 28% of all sales this past quarter in Sacramento County? Those stats carry some weight and bring me pause.

sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission from 123rf dot com

Goal of the Big Monthly Post: The goal of this big market update is to help highlight what the market is doing and help us describe it a bit better. If you’re local, absorb what is here and share some of the talking points below with your contacts. If you’re out of town, I’d love to hear about your market also. Email subscribers, I recommend reading this post on the blog instead of email.

Two ways to read this post:

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

One Paragraph to Describe the Sacramento Market: The first half of 2015 is now over, and all year buyers have expressed a huge appetite for the market. Sales volume is up about 10% in the region, and pendings have routinely been 20%+ higher each month this whole year. Sales volume in June was actually higher than it’s been in about three years. More sales has led to inventory declining, though it’s important to note more listings have definitely been hitting the market (and there have been more price reductions too). While many properties are generating multiple offers and selling very quickly, buyers are also finicky about pulling the trigger on anything that is not well-priced or with an adverse location or condition. Some sellers are severely overpricing their homes too. The median price stayed about the same last month compared to the previous month. One of the biggest factors shaping this market is the power of FHA buyers who now represent 23% of all sales in 2015 in the Sacramento region (and 27.5% of all sales last month in Sacramento County). The byproduct of more FHA buyers is stiff competition at the lower end and higher offers too (this makes overall 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 64 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 County Market Trends for June 2015:

  1. The median price at $290,500 is 7.5% higher than one year ago (June 2014).
  2. It took an average of 30 days to sell a house last month (35 in May).
  3. Cash sales were 16% of all sales during Q2 2015 (31% in 2013).
  4. Short sales were only 5.1% of all sales in Q2 2015.
  5. REOs were only 5.3% of all sales in Q2 2015.
  6. FHA sales were 27.9% of all sales in Sacramento County in Q2 2015.
  7. Sales volume is 17.5% higher this June compared to last June.
  8. There is 1.6 months of housing inventory (2.1 months last June).
  9. The average price per sq ft is 186 (8% higher than last June).
  10. The average sales price is $323,082 (9.8% higher than last year).

price metrics since 2014 in sacramento county

inventory - June 2015 - by home appraiser blog

REOs and short sales in sacramento county - by sacramento appraisal blog

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

cash sales - sacramento appraisal blog

cash and fha under since 2009 - sacramento appraisal blog

sales volume in Sacramento County

Median price and inventory since 2011 by sacramento appraisal blog

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

  1. Sales volume was up 17% in June 2015 compared to June 2014.
  2. Sales volume for the year is up 9.6% compared with 2014.
  3. The median price at $332,250 is 7.1% higher than one year ago (June 2014).
  4. FHA sales are up 31% this year so far.
  5. Cash sales were roughly 16% of all sales last month.
  6. It took an average of 33 days to sell a house last month (37 days in May).
  7. FHA sales were 23.7% of all sales in the region last month.
  8. There is 1.85 months of housing inventory (1.92 months in May 2015).
  9. The average sales price is $370,013 (7.9% higher than last year).
  10. It took 4 less days to sell a house this June compared to June 2014.

median price and inventory 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

median price and inventory in sacramento regional market

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

Placer County Market Trends for June 2015:

  1. The median price in Placer County is $401,000.
  2. The median price is 5.5% higher than one year ago (June 2014).
  3. It took 36 days on average to sell a house last month.
  4. Cash sales were 14% of all sales last month.
  5. FHA sales were 17.8% of all sales in Placer County last month.
  6. Sales volume was 31% higher this May compared to last May.
  7. Sales volume is up 18% in 2015 compared to last year.
  8. There is 1.88 months of housing inventory (2.76 months last June).
  9. The average price per sq ft is is 200 (up from 184 last June).
  10. The average sales price is $454,643 (8% higher than June 2014).

Placer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal blog

months of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal bloginterest rates inventory median price in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

Placer County median price since 2012 - by home appraiser blog

Placer County median price and inventory - by home appraiser blog

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

DOWNLOAD 64 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.

Home Office Progress: I’ve been sharing some progress on my new home office. It’s been so much fun to build and now customize. Last week I finished some cork boards and hung crown moulding. Yes, I know I need to upgrade my chair (coming soon) and have multiple monitors (coming soon).

my home office

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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Does a $20,000 solar system really add $20,000 in value?

Would you pay $20,000 for a solar system if you knew it added $20,000 of instant home value? That’s exactly what a solar salesman told the client of a real estate friend. Is that legit though? What advice would you give someone talking to this salesman? This is a timely scenario, so I wanted to share my friend’s question and my response. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

solar panels in real estate - sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission from 123rf - 2

Real Estate Friend: I have a client that wants to add solar to his 1989 house and was quoted a price of $20,000. The solar guy told my client that it would add value dollar for dollar…doubt that. Let me know your thoughts.

My Thoughts: Where is this SALESMAN getting “dollar for dollar” from? Is he a real estate value expert? Could he prove the value actually? Would the system add $20,000 in value regardless of the neighborhood, state, or price range? What if the system cost $40,000 or $80,000? Would that add $40,000 and $80,000 respectively? It’s a great sales claim, but achieving dollar for dollar is not something that happens in real estate in every case. For example, a kitchen remodel might cost $50K, but that doesn’t automatically mean buyers are going to line up to pay $50,000 more for the house. Or a built-in pool could run $35,000, but we all know buyers don’t expect to pay full price in the resale market (sometimes they’ll go for $10-15K or so, right). Thus the cost of something doesn’t necessarily translate dollar for dollar to the value. When it comes to solar, it’s more of a marathon of value so to speak because there will be value recognized over time as savings happen (as opposed to an instant rush of full value at the present time). I am not saying the house could not be worth $20,000 more, but my BS alarm is beeping I am skeptical. Appraisers and the real estate community have to consider what buyers are actually presently willing to pay for the system. Granted, we have limited data, and solar is still an emerging field, but we have to study homes with and without solar. What sort of price difference is there? Also, how much money will the system actually save the owner each month? Moreover, when considering monthly energy savings, how much more home could a buyer effectively afford because of the savings? If I were your contact, I would read this solar Q&A I did, but I would also do the math. Will the savings from solar far outweigh the cost of the system? If not, what energy conservation steps might your client’s household make instead? Lastly, if the solar system is leased, it won’t actually add anything to the value because it’s more or less considered personal property.

Questions: What do you think of the solar salesman’s claim? How would you respond? Any thoughts, stories, or further insight? I’d love to hear your take as an agent, appraiser, or home owner.

Home Office Update: By the way, I’ve been building a new home office these past few weeks, and it’s been fun to make progress. Shoutout to Keith Klassen for helping me with the framing. If all goes well, crown moulding will be up this weekend.

home office

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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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