Fees, turn-times, & eliminating appraisers

Blah, blah, blah. That’s what people tend to hear when we start talking about issues facing the appraisal industry. But here’s the deal. What happens to appraisers can absolutely impact the public AND the entire real estate industry. Let’s take a minute to consider some current trends. Any thoughts?

27066568 - black hands shadow control a businessman action

Some important appraisal issues going on right now:

  1. Turn-times & 30-day escrows: Many Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) order an appraisal and expect the appraiser to turn around the finished product in seven days or less. It seems like the better AMCs give appraisers more time whereas the worst ones expect reports in only 3 or 4 days. Here’s the thing though. Appraisers in Sacramento and many parts of the country have been turning down an avalanche of work every single day because AMCs are asking for unrealistic turn times for today’s market. Just the other day a colleague told me he literally turned down 19 appraisal orders in one day alone because he couldn’t meet the deadlines. It seems like seven days has been the benchmark of a reasonable turn-time, but that’s not doable right now for many appraisers. Remember, turn-times are not written in stone and they should change according to the market. Moreover, if nobody accepts the appraisal report because the due date is too fast, it will eventually get to someone who may not be an ideal candidate to appraise the property. Thus a quick turn-time rule ends up catering to whoever is going to get it done faster (and maybe cheaper). On a related note, appraisers being so busy can cause escrows to slow down, which means it can be far more difficult to close in only 30 days. Keep in mind though appraisals are often one of the very last things ordered during the loan process, and that’s surely part of the problem in closing escrows more quickly.
  2. True Cost of Low Fees by Ryan Lundquist - Working RE MagazineIncreasing fees: For years many appraisers have dealt with below-market rate fees from lenders because of Appraisal Management Companies skimming off the top. Well, lately fees have been increasing, and you’ve probably noticed that if you work in real estate. The increase is a byproduct of appraisers being very busy, the fee market changing after years of being stale, a shortage of appraisers willing to work for low-paying AMCs, and many appraisers having left the business over the past 10 years. A few years ago AMCs were in control and appraisers were desperate to get approved to be on their panels, but these days AMCs are desperate to get appraisers to work for them. For more thoughts on fees, check out Jonathan Miller’s Housing Notes from a few weeks ago (scroll to the bottom of the post for some really sharp commentary that influenced some of my thoughts above). Also, I wrote an article for Working RE magazine recently called The True Cost of Low Fees, and it helps show just how much of a financial impact there is when fees are below market rate.
  3. Letting trainees inspect: If you didn’t know, before becoming a full-fledged appraiser you have to train under a supervisory appraiser. In California, a trainee actually has to do 2000 hours of work under a supervisor (and have a 4-year degree if the trainee wants to eventually get a certified appraiser’s license). Anyway, many lenders have actually not allowed trainees to sign appraisal reports or inspect properties alone without a supervisor. On top of already lower fees from AMCs, this has created a real lack of incentive for existing appraisers to train the future generation of appraisers. It’s understandable that lenders require a certified appraiser to do the bulk of the report and inspect the property, but if trainees are not allowed into the mix under the supervision of a trainer, there is going to eventually be a big shortage of appraisers. This will only cause longer turn-times and higher fees. Seriously, this is a huge deal and it would be wise for real estate organizations to get behind this point to advocate for appraisers and pressure lenders to relax their short-sighted regulations.
  4. Replacing appraisers: There have been a number of recent articles about lenders eliminating appraisals or even potentially allowing real estate agents to do BPOs in lieu of appraisals. For those who don’t like appraisers, this may sound like welcome news, though the truth is any new valuation system would inherit all the problems we have in today’s system. It’s easy to think the grass would be greener and consumers would save money on expensive appraisals, but we’ll still have issues with turn-times, fees, valuation disputes, pressure to “hit the number”, skill level, interpreting the market, choosing comps, making adjustments, etc…. To me this issue reminds me of people who say we need to just get rid of all politicians. As much as that sounds appealing (particularly for some candidates right now), it wouldn’t solve the problem because we’d still need new leaders to take their place. Maybe that’s not the perfect comparison, but do you catch my drift?

I hope this was interesting or even helpful.

Questions: Which points stand out to you the most? Agents, are you seeing any of these trends in your escrows? Loan officers, what are you experiencing? Appraisers, anything you’d add?

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That awkward moment when the market changes

Have you ever met someone who looked really good on the outside, but the inside was a different story? That’s sort of like the housing market right now. Sales stats look super attractive, but if we really consider listings and other metrics we begin to see a different story. The market is slowing. Since it’s not always easy to explain that, here are a few analogies to help describe how important it is to look beyond just sales to gauge the temperature of the market. Then for those interested, let’s take a deep look at Sacramento trends. Any thoughts?

Examples to explain the market when it begins to slow:

  1. First Date: A first date is all about putting your best foot forward, and that’s exactly why we usually need more than just one good date to make up our mind about someone (gotta be sure the person is not psycho). The same thing happens with real estate. Shining sales stats are like a first date because they lure us in and make us feel good. But we can’t really judge an entire market just by the sales. We need to consider listings and other metrics too.
  2. Taking the Temperature in the Shade: If you take the temperature in the shade in the summer, you’re going to get a much different reading. The same thing happens in real estate where we can get the wrong temperature of the market if we only focus on sales instead of listings and other factors.
  3. Judging by one Tweet: These days it’s easy to judge a person by one tweet instead of looking at their wider body of work (their life). The same thing happens in real estate when we only look at sales instead of listings and other stats. If our vision is too narrow, we might not see what the market is actually doing.
  4. Pregnancy Test: I asked my author wife for an analogy and she said the market is like a pregnancy test (I wouldn’t ever have thought of that). You can technically be pregnant but an over-the-counter test won’t tell you that for a couple of weeks. Similarly, the market may have changed, but we may not see a price difference in sales for a month or two. But the change is definitely there when we look at listings and other metrics.
  5. Pokemon: I’m just kidding. I won’t go there.

In a small way, I hope this was helpful. It’s very powerful to explain the market in different ways. Any other analogies to share?

—————– For those interested, here is my big market update  —————–

Big monthly market update post - sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased from 123rfTwo ways to read the BIG POST:

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

DOWNLOAD 80+ graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file. Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Quick Market Summary: On paper the market has been hot. We’ve seen all the normal stuff like price increases, slightly higher sales volume in 2016, and sparse housing inventory. If you didn’t know, the median price in Sacramento County is 105% higher than it was in 2012 and 16% lower than the peak in 2005. Distressed sales actually reached their lowest level since 2009 last quarter too. Cash sales volume has been hovering at a normal level while FHA sales volume has been declining. Overall the market is still really competitive, but it’s starting to turn. Keep in mind it’s common for real estate to lose some steam around mid-Summer. While the sales stats don’t show it yet, we see a slower market with the sales-to-list price ratio declining last month from the previous month, it took the same amount of average days to sell for the past two months in the region, and there has been a slightly more optimistic tone among real estate professionals about buyers getting into contract. While it felt utterly hopeless to get an offer accepted a few months ago in certain price ranges, it is starting to feel slightly more hopeful based on feedback from agents. Moreover, it seems like there has been growing price resistance lately (particularly at the higher end of the market). The market has been price sensitive all year as buyers are not fooled by absurdly high prices, but the sensitivity seems more heightened right now.

Sacramento County:

  1. FHA volume has been about 24% of the market (it was nearly 27% of the market last year at the same time).
  2. Cash volume is roughly the same as it was last year at the same time (around 16% of the market).
  3. It took an average of 25 days to sell a home last month, which is 2 days less than the previous month (and 5 less days compared to last year).
  4. REOs were only 2.9% of all sales last quarter (lowest level in years).
  5. Sales volume is up very slightly Q2 2016 compared to Q2 2015.
  6. There is only 1.38 months of housing supply in Sacramento County, which is 14% lower than it was last year at the same time.
  7. The median price increased by 3.5% last month.
  8. The median price is 13% higher than the same time last year.
  9. The avg price per sq ft increased by 1.4% last month.
  10. The avg price per sq ft is 9.7% higher than the same time last year.

Some of my Favorite Graphs this Month:

inventory - June 2016 - by home appraiser blog

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Regional Appraisal Blog REOs and Short Sales in Sacramento - 1 inventory in sacramento county Since 2013 - part 2 - by sacramento appraisal blog

Cash & FHA sales in sacramento county

median price context in sacramento county price metrics since 2015 in sacramento county - look at all

june market in sacramento - by sacramento regional appraisal blog 2

layers of the market in sacramento county - by sacramento appraisal blog

Bottom of the Market in Sacramento


  1. It took the same amount of time to sell last month as it did the previous month (though 3 less days to sell this June compared to last June).
  2. Sales volume is up slightly in 2016 compared to 2015.
  3. Cash volume is about the same this year (16% of the market for Q2).
  4. FHA volume is down 7.5% so far this year in the region.
  5. The sales to list price ratio was 98% in the region last month.
  6. There is 1.6 months of housing supply in the region right now, which is 13.5% lower than it was last year at the same time.
  7. The median price increased 3.6% last month from the previous month.
  8. The median price is 11% higher than the same time last year.
  9. The avg price per sq ft increased by nearly 1% last month.
  10. The avg price per sq ft is 8.9% higher than the same time last year.

Some of my Favorite Regional Graphs:

sales volume 2015 vs 2016 in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

sacramento region volume - FHA and conventional - by appraiser blog

days on market in placer sac el dorado yolo county by sacramento appraisal blog interest rates inventory median price in sacramento regional market by sacramento appraisal blog - market median price and inventory in sacramento regional market 2013 median price sacramento placer yolo el dorado county Regional Inventory - by Sacramento regional appraisal blog Regional market median price - by home appraiser blog


  1. It took 4 less days to sell a house last month than the previous month (and 3 less days than last year at the same time).
  2. Sales volume was up about 1% in June 2016 compared to last June and is down slightly for the year (about 2%).
  3. FHA sales were 17% of all sales last month and cash sales were 13% of all sales last month.
  4. There is 1.7 months of housing supply in Placer County right now.
  5. Housing inventory is 8.5% lower than it was last year at the same time.
  6. The median price increased 0.5% from the previous month and is up 7% from last year at the same time.
  7. The average price per sq ft was $212 last month (was $200 last year at the same time).
  8. The average price per sq ft is up 1.4% from the previous month and 6% from last year at the same time.
  9. Bank owned sales were only 1% of all sales last month.
  10. Short sales were 1.9% of sales last month.

Some of my Favorite Placer County Graphs:

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog months of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog number of listings in PLACER county - 2016 Placer County housing inventory - by home appraiser blog Placer County price and inventory - by sacramento appraisal blog Placer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal blog

DOWNLOAD 80+ graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file. Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Question: Any other market insight you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your take.

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What does the market expect? (a critical question to ask in real estate)

What does the market expect? That’s one of the best questions we can ask ourselves in real estate. Why? Because it helps us keep the focus on what buyers actually demand in certain neighborhoods and price ranges. In other words, what are buyers really willing to pay more or less for in a neighborhood? Being in tune with that is definitely one of the key aspects of coming up with a credible value.

Market expectations - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Pool Example: Take a look at the table below to see how some areas and price ranges in Sacramento have far more built-in pools than others.

Market expectations pool example by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Key Point: When built-in pools are more common in some neighborhoods and price ranges we can probably say the market expects a pool, right? This is especially true at the higher end of the price spectrum where over 70% of homes have a pool. In contrast, some areas of town have less than 1% of homes with a built-in pool, and it’s safe to say the market doesn’t expect a built-in pool in those areas. This doesn’t mean the pool is worth nothing in those places, but if anything it’s a reminder to really consider that a pool might be worth far less or more in some areas than others. While it’s tempting to always give a token $10,000 adjustment for a pool, based on the data above alone, that adjustment probably doesn’t make sense for every neighborhood because of differing expectations.

Not Just About Pools: This conversation isn’t just about built-in pools because we have to ask what the market expects for things like upgrades, square footage, condition, lot size, architectural design, bedroom count, garage spaces, landscaping, etc… As much as we’d like instant answers, there really isn’t a quick guide to understand what the market expects without immersing ourselves in comparing sales, talking with buyers and other real estate professionals, and crunching numbers.

Two Mentions: I’m honored to share a couple of recent media mentions. I was quoted in Inman SF Bay Area in “Sacramento housing boosted by Bay Area refugees” and in RealtyTrac’s June Housing News Report (PDF – pg 17-21).

Blackstone: One more thing. A recent article talked about the private equity fund Blackstone (Invitation Homes) selling off some of its homes directly to tenants. As you probably know, Blackstone purchased thousands of homes in the Sacramento market several years ago. They continue to buy today, but their purchase volume is minimal and nowhere near what it used to be. Anyway, the article states they would likely sell about 5% of their inventory this year directly to tenants. Whether that’s true for the Sacramento market or not is to be seen, but it’s worth watching closely. Keep in mind many landlords are selling straight to their tenants right now instead of listing on MLS. In short, this isn’t just a Blackstone thing.

Questions: How do you get a sense of what the market expects in a neighborhood? Any advice you’d give on how to better understand market expectations? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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Why a property’s previous sale can really matter for an appraisal

Paying close attention to a property’s previous sale can be a big deal. I know it’s tempting to say value is all about the current market, but sometimes looking at the past can help us understand the present. Here are some reasons why I pay attention to previous sales. Any thoughts?

previous sales matter to appraisers - sacramento appraisal blog

5 things to consider about a property’s previous sale:

  1. Requirement to Explain: If you didn’t know, appraisers are required by USPAP (our uniform standards) to analyze and report the past 36 months of sales or transfers of the subject property. Thus analyzing a prior sale can be a normal and even mandatory part of the appraisal process.
  2. Context: A previous sale can sometimes give tremendous insight into how the market responded to the subject property. This is especially true if a property is unique or funky. What did the subject property compare to at the time of its previous sale? How did it fit within the market? Digging deeply into neighborhood sales can help us answer these questions and maybe even influence the comps we choose for today’s value.
  3. Clues into Adjustments: A prior sale can give clues into how much we might need to adjust for certain aspects of the property. For instance, if the subject is located on a busy street, a previous sale might help us see if that was a big deal or not compared to other neighborhood sales. Or maybe the subject property has a very large lot for the neighborhood, and prior sales can help us gauge how much of a premium there was if any. Or imagine a house is twice as large as anything else in the neighborhood. Let’s find some current comps of course, but let’s also look to the past too. Can we maybe glean some value context by seeing what buyers were actually willing to pay for this beastly home in the past? Maybe so.
  4. Comp #4: Appraisers can use the subject property as a comparable sale in reports. Not that appraisers need permission, but according to Fannie Mae, “The subject property can be used as a fourth comparable sale or as supporting data if it was previously closed” (B4-1.3-08). I’ve done this on occasion when a property is unique and data is limited. After all, what is more comparable than the subject property itself?
  5. Past vs. Present: If there was a previous sale in the past, we can probably milk it for some perspective, but let’s remember we ultimately have to let the current market speak to us instead of imposing the past on the present. After all, the market might be different today due to a change in zoning, change in buyer demand, gentrification, etc… It’s worth noting too sometimes sales in the past simply sold for way too much or way too little.

Example: Here is a graph I made for an appraisal I did recently that was going to court. The subject sold three times in the past at a mid-range of the competitive market. Does the history of sales help build credibility for why I reconciled the value to the middle range? I think so.

context for value with graphing - by sacramento appraisal blog

Tip for Agents & Owners: If something has changed about the property since the previous sale, be very intentional about talking with the appraiser about the change (please use my Info Sheet for Appraisers). Also, I recommend opening up discussion about the nature of the prior sale so the appraiser can have more information and maybe make a judgment call about the sale (especially if the property sold too high or too low for some reason).

I hope that was helpful.

Questions: How do you use previous sales when you value properties? What is #6? Did I leave something out? I’d love to hear your take.

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