Important things to know about solar panels in real estate

Solar is a hot issue right now in real estate. Actually, I should say it’s more of a gray area for many in the real estate community since it’s still an emerging market. This is exactly why I wanted to interview Kevin Nunn since he knows more about solar than most. Kevin is a loan officer with Umpqua Bank, he teaches classes on energy efficiency, and he has even sat down with policy makers in DC on issues relating to solar. In the interview we touch on the difference between leased and owned solar, whether a leased system can transfer to a buyer, and advice for the real estate community. Enjoy the interview, and be sure to pay close attention to the asterisk where Kevin mentions the PACE programs (big point).

Kevin Nunn Umpqua BankMe: Kevin, what is your background with solar?

Kevin: I have been promoting the benefits to buyers of including energy upgrades in home purchases for over 20 years, and many organizations have reached out to me for assistance in this area. I was even asked to go to the White House last year to assist in this area.

Ryan: What is the difference between leased and owned solar in the eyes of a lender?

Kevin: I can’t speak for all lenders as each can set their own policies. It is obviously challenging to value an owned system, but no value can be given on a leased system.

Ryan: Is it a problem to lend on a property with a leased solar system? In other words, can a leased solar system transfer to a new owner?

Kevin: It has been my experience that the companies with a lease are very cooperative with transferring the lease. One challenge with a leased system is that the payment must be included in the buyer’s qualifying ratios.

Ryan: Why do so many people say a leased solar system cannot transfer to a new owner when you say it can?

Kevin: Provided the buyer can qualify with the lease payment included, I haven’t had any issue with this. Each lender sets their own guidelines. Some may impose overlays that exclude this. Many see the UCC filing as a superior lien to the mortgage. I have found the leasing companies to be extremely accommodating about removing their UCC and putting it back after the new mortgage records (see comments on the PACE programs below where a “lease” has to be paid off prior to a property selling).

solar panels aerial view by sacramento appraisal blog

Ryan: What is a “UCC”?

Kevin: UCC stands for “Uniform Commercial Code”. It is effectively a lien against the solar equipment. Lenders have a concern that it could take priority over the mortgage if it was recorded before the deed. That’s why the UCC generally needs to be released and re-instated after the mortgage.

Ryan: Any advice for real estate agents who are marketing properties with solar systems?

Kevin: If it is a lease, contact the leasing company up-front and get their terms for assumption and their acknowledgement they will accommodate the UCC issue. Make sure any lender pre-qualification letters have factored in the lease payment.

* If the system is owned make sure it is not financed through one of the PACE programs that are being promoted right now. Homeowners are led to believe these “assessments” will just transfer over to a new buyer. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been very clear that they will not purchase a loan with these “assessments” in place. It often comes as a very big surprise to owners and Realtors that the PACE must be paid off or they may only be able to sell to a cash buyer.

If the system is owned they should make sure there are local and relevant comparable sales with solar that clearly demonstrate any additional value solar adds in that specific neighborhood.

Ryan: What advice would you give to someone considering purchasing a leased solar system or a house with leased solar?

Kevin: If they are using FHA financing I would suggest they take a look at using the 203(k) and EEM (Energy Efficient Mortgage) to include a new system they could actually own on their house. The 203(k) is ideal for solar because it allows almost 10% in upgrades without value consideration. This is a great opportunity for buyers that is very under promoted. If they are going to purchase the house with the leased system in place they should review the lease terms very carefully and make certain their loan officer has properly factored in the lease payment so they don’t run into issues in underwriting.

solar panels on house - by sacramento appraisal blog

Ryan: What do you think of the exhaustive studies out of Colorado (pdf) and Berkeley (pdf) that give a specific value for solar power? Can we apply these values figures to our local market in Sacramento?

Kevin: I applaud these efforts, but I have found that they often do not appreciate the constraints we operate under or the dynamics of our industry. In reality, lenders have to look at a solar system just like any other feature on a property. That property is the security for the loan that has been extended to a consumer. In the event of a foreclosure, the lender has to know that they will be able to resell the property and recover their loan. In this way a solar system is just like any other feature on the property. The reason it is so crucial to use an appraiser with local market knowledge is they understand the premium a specific feature will add in a specific market. Just like a swimming pool will have a different value impact in one community verses another, solar has the same dynamic. National studies and state-wide studies are useful on some level, but real estate is always local.

Ryan: Lastly, where do you see the solar market going?

Kevin: I think it would be hard to find anyone who doesn’t agree that it is a good thing to make homes for affordable, comfortable, and dependable. Clearly there should be a difference in how energy measures like solar are viewed compared to features like a swimming pool. The challenge for lenders is finding the ways to accommodate this within the constraints they operate in. There are a lot of people who are working very hard to find these solutions. I do expect to see changes coming out soon to allow for this. Also, as more solar systems are installed it is going to get a lot easier to quantify the value differential in individual neighborhoods.

———————————————————————————————————–

Thank you Kevin for doing the interview. I hope it was helpful for everyone.

Closing Appraisal Thoughts:

  • A leased solar system is considered personal property and does not factor into the appraised value. If the system is not owned, it generally is not an asset for the property. This is why I recommend listing agents to be clear in MLS on whether a system is owned or leased.
  • Keep in mind solar panels may not be worth the same amount in every price range or market. For instance, in Sacramento they seem to carry less weight on the lower end of the price spectrum, but more weight on the higher end of the market. This is why we cannot blindly apply value adjustments from the Colorado and Berkeley studies referenced above without researching the local market. What are buyers actually willing to pay for solar panels? One way to know is to compare homes with owned solar vs homes without solar.
  • I recommend being careful to be sure the numbers really work to your advantage for leased solar. If the UCC can be removed so you can sell your property, that is great. But having amazingly low energy bills won’t do anything for you if your lease is actually more expensive than your bills would have been without solar. A lease like this could actually be a liability for your property value, right? In other words, if it is more expensive to own your property, consumers are not likely to pay as much for your house compared to other ones in the neighborhood.

Questions: What has been your experience with solar and real estate? Do you see buyers willing to pay a premium for solar features? Please share any stories or points for consideration.

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A “cheat sheet” of information to give the appraiser during a refinance

What type of information can home owners give appraisers during a refinance? Last month I put together a “cheat sheet” for listing agents to use during a sale, but I had several requests for something to use for a refinance. Loan officers and real estate agents, save this form to your desktop and consider sharing it with your clients as needed. If you can help home owners communicate more effectively about their property and the neighborhood, it can give the appraiser more data to consider, which can sometimes impact the value. Also, you’ll look like a rock star by providing excellent service.

A “cheat sheet” to communicate with appraisers: The document below helps address some of the questions appraisers tend to ask home owners, and it also gives insight into the neighborhood. You can quickly fill it out, and give it to the appraiser in person (or email it). Feel free to edit the document as needed. Download in WORD or a PDF.

information for the appraiser example

EXAMPLE OF INFORMATION SHEET FILLED OUT

information example to the appraiser

This document addresses recent improvements made to the subject property, but it also gives an opportunity for home owners to share any insight about the neighborhood, school district boundaries, coming changes in the city, reasons why people are buying in the area, or insider knowledge about the subject property or street. Hopefully the appraiser is in tune with these things, but I recommend not assuming. Remember, this is potential market data, and it can sometimes make a difference in the appraised value.

Some quick tips:

  1. Save this document to your desktop.
  2. Tell the truth in everything you write.
  3. Feel free to skip, delete, or add any categories.
  4. You don’t need to write a novel, but it’s okay if the document ends up being more than one page (keep it less than two though).
  5. Be specific about upgrades. For instance, instead of saying, “The house was remodeled throughout,” unpack what that means and when any remodeling was done (if you know).
  6. Remember, this information is about sharing facts instead of pressure to hit a certain value. This is exactly why it’s okay to share this type of information. During the inspection, simply say, “Here is some information about my property”, and hand the document to the appraiser.
  7. Use the “other information” section at the very bottom to mention any changes in the neighborhood that might be relevant for the appraiser to know about (parks, streets, land uses, zoning, businesses, etc…).

DOWNLOAD the WORD document or a DOWNLOAD a PDF.

Questions: Do you think this document would be useful? Anything you’d add or take away?

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The slower season of Fall, price reductions, and seeing Sacramento’s market

A few years back my doctor prescribed the drug prednisone. Have you ever taken it? I hope not. It’s a hardcore steroid that I needed at the time to address some stomach issues. While this drug worked like magic, it made me incredibly edgy, and I honestly had a hard time controlling what I said. It was as if the filter from my thoughts and mouth was partially removed. I know that sounds like an excuse, but it was reality. I’m normally a really nice guy, and I absolutely love people, but during those few weeks let’s just say there were some pretty ugly public interactions that definitely didn’t make the Facebook highlight reel.

the big picture in real estate 2 - image purchased by sacramento appraisal blog and used with permissionIn short, if you met me during one of those moments while jacked on prednisone, you might of thought I was a jerk. Yet that’s not who I am at all, which is clear when taking a wider view of my life. Now consider the housing market (you knew a transition was coming). If we only look at one tiny portion of the market, whether it’s median price, data from one zip code, or information from only one county, we might miss some of the big picture of what’s really happening. Two days ago we took a drive through the market in Sacramento County, but today I’d like to expand the trip to the entire region and Placer County. I’d love to hear your take of what is happening out there too. Comment below or send me an 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.

GRAPHS

Note to New Readers: Thank you sincerely for being here. I wanted to give a quick heads-up about how things work. I write 1-2 posts per week. After the 10th of the month I have two big market posts where I discuss local trends. Yes, they are long, but they are full of good stuff. You can scroll quickly by reading the numbered points or really dig in. The first big monthly post talks through Sacramento County, and the second one shares Placer County and regional trends. Otherwise posts are more topical and they tend to appeal to a wide audience.

SACRAMENTO REGIONAL MARKET (Sacramento, Placer,  Yolo, El Dorado)

1) The regional market saw a 1.6% decrease in median price last month:

median price sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

The median price has been very flat throughout the Sacramento Region over these past six months, and last month it finally took a 1.6% dip. The median price has been hovering at $3100,000 in the regional market, but it’s now $305,000. This month the average sales also price declined by 2%, and the average price per sq ft decreased by less than 1%. It’s normal for prices to soften in the Fall market, but it’s also normal when inventory has increased and the market is generally slowing.

2) Sales volume is down by 8% this year compared to 2013: 

SALES volume in sacramento region - by home appraiser blog

There have been about 1800 less sales so far this year compared to 2013, which means sales volume is about 8% lower this year. Why is volume lacking? Let’s look at the graph below.

3) There have been 34% less cash sales this year:

cash sales and volume in sacramento region - by home appraiser blog

Cash investors took their foot off the gas pedal in our market during the second quarter of 2013, and we are still feeling the difference. There have been roughly 2000 less cash sales in MLS this year compared to last year (single family detached sales). Think about it this way: Less cash this year has resulted in higher inventory, less competition to get into contract, softening of prices, and a revelation of what demand is really like in the Sacramento area. The market is trying to normalize and figure out how to cope without the steroid of outside cash investors to boost values.

4) There are 2.65 months worth of houses for sale in the region:

months of housing inventory in region by sacramento appraisal blog

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

number of listings in Placer Sacramento Yolo El Dorado county - Oct 2014 - by home appraiser blog

Housing inventory saw a slight dip last month from 2.72 months to 2.65 months. Before you sound the alarm that inventory is now declining, let’s look closer at the stats. The key here is there are simply less listings right now, which tends to cause housing inventory figures to decline. Remember, monthly inventory is calculated by dividing the number of listings on the 1st of the month by the number of sales for the previous month. There was actually about the same number of sales in October compared to September, but there are about 3.5% less listings (at the beginning of the month), which makes a difference in the numbers.

5) It is taking an average of 49 days to sell a house in the region:

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

It took 36% longer to sell a house last month compared with one year prior in October 2013. In other words, it took 49 days on average to sell a house in October 2014 compared to 36 days in October 2013. This is definitely a sign that we are in a different market, right? For context though, remember it was taking 90 days to sell a home three years ago in the Fall of 2011. As the graph above shows, the higher the price, the longer it takes to sell in the Sacramento Region. This is a constant trend, and something to be very aware of when adopting a marketing strategy to sell. There are very few sales under $100,000, so take that stat with a grain of salt (don’t give it much weight).

The Fall Season Trumping Price Reductions: Over the past 3-4 weeks the market really changed as the Fall season became much more pronounced. Not only are there less listings right now compared with last month, but there are actually less price reductions too. For months the market has been very much overpriced, meaning many properties have not been selling because they were simply priced at unrealistically high levels. Evidence of this was seen when logging in to MLS and seeing about 400 price reductions every day for several months through mid-October (and about 400 sales during the same time period). However, over the past few weeks the number of price reductions and sales have inched down closer to 200. Does this mean sellers are no longer lagging behind the trend of a slower market? Are properties finally priced correctly? Not necessarily. It seems the reality of the slowness of the Fall market has begun to set in, and less new listings and market activity means there will naturally be less price reductions. Some listings are sort of only technically on the market too in that they will simply ride out the duration of their listing without having any more reductions until they are officially withdrawn. Ultimately there are simply fewer new listings hitting the market right now, which means there will be fewer price reductions. Don’t get me wrong though, sellers still need to be very cautious about pricing, and I recommend pricing according to the most competitive listings that are actually getting into contract (as opposed to pricing according to older sales that might not reflect where the market is at right now). When you think about it, a slower Fall season could actually help give sellers some space to get more in tune with the reality of softer prices in the market.

PLACER COUNTY REAL ESTATE TRENDS

1) The median price saw a decline and is now at $375,000:

Placer County median price and inventory - by home appraiser blog

The median price in Placer County declined from about $385,000 to $375,000 from September to October. It’s normal at this time of year to see prices soften during the Fall months, so I don’t recommend freaking out. There are simply less buyers looking in Fall, so prices tend to dip as a part of the normative real estate cycle. Of course the backdrop to this stat is that values in the regional market are definitely slowing down regardless of the Fall season.

2) Housing inventory saw a slight decline and is at 2.75 months:

Placer County housing inventory - by home appraiser blognumber of listings in PLACER COUNTY - by home appraiser blog

Monthly housing inventory took a dip last month from 2.92 months to 2.75 months. Why did it go down? Because there were less listings that hit the market in October compared with September (fairly normal for this time of year), and at the same time there were more sales. Remember, housing inventory tells us how many months of properties are listed on the market. An inventory of 2.75 basically means there are 2.75 months worth of active listings available for buyers.

months of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

The interesting thing about inventory is that it’s not the same at every price level. There might be 2.75 months of housing supply right now in Placer County, but the market is more competitive toward the lower end of values, while there is more selection at higher price levels. This is a very normal trend in real estate, but it reminds us there can be different trends happening at different price ranges.

3) Sales volume is very normal in Placer County right now:

Placer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal blog

When considering October 2014, there were actually more sales compared to the prior two years. In the next 30 days though we can expect volume to see a dip if the market unfolds like it has these past two years. December through February are slower months, which is evidenced by the low points on the graph above.

4) It’s taking an average of 54 days to sell a house in Placer County:

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

It took one week longer to sell a house last month in Placer County compared with the previous month. Most price ranges did see an increase in cumulative days on market, which is normal, but sales above $750,000 were much higher than usual last month. Properties in this price range have normally been taking about 90 or so days to sell. This doesn’t mean the market changed very quickly in just one month though. It simply means the 17 sales that closed above $750,000 in October took much longer to sell for one reason or another.

When we start to get the bigger picture of how the regional market is moving, it can sharpen our understanding of the market and position us to be an incredible resource to clients. I hope this was helpful.

Sharing Trends with your Clients? If you want to share graphs online or in your newsletter, please see my sharing policy. Thank you for sharing.

Questions: How else would you describe the market? What are you seeing out there?

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Quick signs of the Fall real estate market arriving in Sacramento

Fall is here. You wouldn’t know it so much by the weather though since it’s still been hot in the Sacramento area. Seriously, my family has not even used our heater once yet (have you?). But the real estate numbers are a different story because they are showing a very definitive seasonal trend as the Fall market arrived on time over the past 30 or so days. Let’s take a look at 9 quick talking points to help understand and explain how the real estate market is unfolding right now in Sacramento County. I hope this helps.

Quoted in the SacBee: By the way, I was quoted in the Sunday morning edition of The Sacramento Bee in a story, “Sacramento area home could set record with 6.5 million listing“. Check it out if you wish.

photo by reggiewilliams on Instagram

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.

GRAPHS

1)  The median price has been about the same for 6 months:

median price and inventory since 2013 - by sacramento appraisal blog

The median price technically declined from $275,000 to $269,951 last month, but take that with a grain of salt since the 2% boost in median price to $275,000 in September felt like more of a statistical fluke than anything. Overall the median price has been about the same for 6 months in a row.

2)  Prices overall are softening (which is normal for Fall):

price metrics since 2014 in sacramento county

Does the median price being the same for 6 months mean prices are stable? Looking at several metrics helps answer this question. Both the average sales price and average price per sq ft took a dip last month. Overall prices are softening in Sacramento County as well as the entire region (more on that in two days).

cooler price in Fall - by sacramento appraisal blog

Remember, it’s normal for prices to cool off during the Fall. The market as a whole is is slowing down, which is one thing, but let’s not forget the reality of our seasonal real estate cycle.

3) Inventory is at 2.5 months (about the same as last month).

inventory in sacramento county  Since 2011 - by sacramento appraisal blog

inventory during fall - by sacramento appraisal blog

Overall inventory is a hair under 2.5 months of housing supply, which means there are about two-and-a-half months worth of houses for sale right now in Sacramento County. This is about where the peak of inventory was in 2013. If the market unfolds “normally” over the next two months, we should see an increase in inventory.

4) Sales volume is down 8.8% in 2014 (but up 4% from October 2013):

sales volume october to october in sacramento county

sales volume in fall - by sacramento appraisal blog

It’s normal to see sales volume decline during the Fall months, so it was not a surprise to see slightly less sales in October compared to September. It is true that volume is actually 4% higher than it was during October 2013. Whiles this is obviously not a huge percentage, it’s still good to see slightly more volume. If you remember, last year was a very dark time in real estate in light of the looming government shutdown and the market having a very strong reaction as cash investors began leaving in droves. Keep in mind some savvy buyers are trying to scoop up properties right now during November and December since they know they are gaining more power to negotiate, but realistically many potential buyers are not shopping aggressively these days since their focus will soon shift to turkeys and holiday gifts. Likewise, some sellers have pulled their listings from the market since they didn’t sell at their desired prices. In fact, beginning several weeks ago price reductions have gone from about 400 per day in MLS to closer to 200. This is a byproduct of a slower Fall season (this is normal).

5) Cash sales are down 40% in Sacramento County in 2014:

cash sales and volume in sacramento county - by home appraiser blog - Copy Cash sales since 2009 in Sacramento County by sacramento appraisal blog

Cash purchases are down by 40% this year, which is really the X-factor for why sales volume has been more sluggish this year. Over the past couple years cash served as a steroid to increase values, but since investors took their foot off the gas pedal, the market has been attempting to figure out how to be normal. What does it look like for real estate to be more driven by local demand instead of an artificial demand from buyers outside of Sacramento? At the same time, cash purchases still represent about 1 in 3 sales under $200,000 (but it’s normal to have more cash at the lower end of the market).

6) Buyers are still gaining power in the market:

FHA and cash sales since 2009 in Sacramento County by sacramento appraisal blog

Less cash has created more space for both FHA and conventional offers to thrive. This has been great news for buyers. FHA has taken back an additional 4.5% of the market in 2014, which effectively means just over 23% of all sales in 2014 have been FHA (as opposed to 18.9% of all sales last year at this time). Keep in mind almost 33% of all sales used to be FHA a few years ago, so there is definitely room for buyers to absorb even more of the market. Did you catch that stat? As the market unfolds to become more of a buyers’ market in coming time, we can expect to see more FHA, conventional, and VA deals. In short, if you are not familiar with FHA appraisal standards, it’s time to get up to speed.

sellers lagging behind the trend in Sacramento County

Part of buyers gaining power in Sacramento’s housing market is due to overpriced listings from sellers. While price reductions have slowed down a bit over the past 30 days as less listings are hitting the market, there are still many overpriced properties. Sellers, remember that the mind of the buyer has changed drastically over the past six months. Buyers are simply not pulling the trigger unless properties are well-priced for their condition and location. As I’ve been saying, I recommend pricing according to the most recent competitive listings that are actually getting into contract. The image above shows how many sellers are lagging behind the trend of the market and not quite in tune yet with the change that took place. The market has been very flat and has been softening over time, yet some sellers have tried to “test the market” at higher price levels (which hasn’t worked out too well for many).

7) It’s taking an average of 45 days to sell a house in Sacramento:

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

It took 4 more days to sell a home last month compared to the previous month. When it starts taking longer to sell like this, it’s a sign of the market slowing down (as well as a normal seasonal trend). Remember that it was taking 90 days to sell a home just a few years ago. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the longer it is taking to sell. Take the properties under $100K with a grain of salt since there were fewer sales in that price segment.

months of housing inventory by sacramento appraisal blogRemember too that not every price range is experiencing the same trend, which is a powerful point to communicate to your clients. The image above shows how inventory is not the same at every price level. Inventory is still relatively low, and while it’s easier to get into contract than it was in early 2013, it’s still not easy in some price segments.

8) Distressed sales remain very low at around only 6% of the entire market:

REOs and Short Sales in Sacramento County

There were only 85 REO sales last month and 79 short sales in the entire county. So is it a good time to be an REO agent or short sale specialist? Both are still relevant avenues of business to a certain extent, but remember to let trends inform what type of business you pursue. Who might your clients be next year if the market continues to shift to a buyers’ market?

9) Interest rates declined over the past month:

interest rates by sacramento appraisal blog since 2008

Many experts thought interest rates would be hovering around 4.5 to 5.0 by the end of 2014, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen. Of course only The Fed knows how things will unfold, but keep watching this trend since lower interest rates can end up pulling in buyers who are sitting on the fence (and thus lowering inventory and creating more pressure on values to increase). Ultimately at some point the real estate market needs to be more driven by the local job market, but for now it looks like a band-aid (temporary solution) of lower interest rates is bound to help fuel the market a bit more.

10) Other graphs for context:

context for median price since the real estate bubble by sacramento appraisal blog Median price and inventory since 2001 by sacramento appraisal blog Since the bubble burst by sacramento appraisal blogI hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear your take below.

Sharing Trends with your Clients? If you want to share graphs online or in your newsletter, please see my sharing policy. Thank you for sharing.

Questions: How else would you describe the market?

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How much is the largest home in the neighborhood worth?

How do you value a house when it’s significantly larger than anything else in the neighborhood? I’m talking 30-50% bigger than even the largest homes. Four years ago I came across an enormous property in a tract neighborhood, and I ended up shooting a quick 30-second video called, “Which house is overbuilt for the neighborhood?“. Being that this home sold recently, I thought it would be interesting to do a follow-up by asking two questions. Did this beastly house command a price premium because it was so much larger than anything else? Or did it suffer loss because it was simply too big for the neighborhood?

largest home in neighborhood - sacramento appraisal blog

This is what the  house looks like. You can check out the 30-second video below (or here) to see what surrounding homes look like.

square footage of sales in neighborhood 3

As you can see, when looking at all sales in the neighborhood over the past six years, the subject property is significantly larger than anything else. It is basically 1000 sq ft larger than even the largest homes, and it looks like a mansion in the middle of a ranch house development.

overbuilt house for neighborhood - sacramento appraisal blog

Despite its large size, the subject property ended up selling at a level consistent with much smaller-sized homes in the neighborhood. The subject property was listed on MLS for 119 days at $325,000 as an arms-length sale, so we know it was adequately exposed. In cases like this it may not be possible to find other “comps” that have a similar size. We simply have to use smaller sales. The assumption of course would be to start making significant upward adjustments for square footage, but if we did that in this case the property would be overvalued (unless of course we made huge upward adjustments for square footage, but then also made huge downward adjustments for functional obsolescence (being overbuilt)). In cases like this it’s important to find similar overbuilt homes in either the subject neighborhood (older sales) or even a competitive neighborhood. This will create a better context and reinforce how the market has dealt with overbuilt homes over time. It would be golden too if the subject property sold at any point in the past so you could go back to see how the market perceived the property at the time.

The Reality of a Neighborhood Price Ceiling: Every neighborhood has a price ceiling, and it’s important to be aware of where the top of the market is at. In other words, buyers tend to only be willing to pay so much in a particular neighborhood before moving on to a different community they think of as superior. In this tract neighborhood it looks like the price ceiling is around $325,000, and this mammoth home sold fairly close to that level. This is why when dealing with a huge property in a tract neighborhood, one of the first things we can do is to find out where the price ceiling is at. Is it feasible for buyers to pay above this level? That’s the big question. Ultimately in this case, despite the subject property having a much larger size, it ended up suffering economic loss because buyers didn’t expect such a large home in this neighborhood, and they weren’t willing to pay a massive premium for the extra space. This example also underscores how important it is for home owners to be aware of the expectations of buyers in a neighborhood (ask an agent or appraiser for advice on upgrades before doing an extensive remodel). My advice? Don’t overdo it.

REAA classAppraisal Class I’m teaching for 2 hrs of CE: On November 11 in the evening I’ll be teaching a class called “How to tell the story of value in appraisal reports”. The class will talk in depth about how the local real estate market is moving and how appraisers can more effectively tell the story of market trends in appraisal reports. The class is for the Real Estate Appraiser’s Association of Sacramento, and it will be good for two hours of CE (for appraisers). Dinner is included, and anyone is welcome. Registration closes tomorrow-ish I believe. See the image and click here for details.

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

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What do appraisers do when there are no permits on an addition?

Real estate isn’t always black and white. What I mean is it’s rare to have one short standard answer to fully satisfy a question. The truth is an answer can vary depending on the property, location, or who you ask. Enter a lack of permits. How do appraisers handle it when there are no permits for an addition? Is it possible for a non-permitted area to be included as living space in the appraisal?

no permits on addition - by sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission

I get asked this question almost every single week, and I’ve broken down my answer into four major parts. I hope this helps.

  1. Difference among Appraisers: First off, there is a spectrum for how appraisers respond to a lack of permits. Some appraisers take a hard-lined stance to say, “If there is no permit, there will be no value given to the area because it is illegal.” But other appraisers might take a different approach to discover how the market responds to the lack of permits. In the latter scenario, the appraiser is asking: Are buyers willing to pay more or less for the home because of the addition? In this case the best way to support an adjustment for the addition would be to find comps with a lack of permits. Of course there is a fat chance of actually finding comps, so an appraiser has to really exercise caution about counting the area as square footage. Ultimately a lack of permits does tend to carry a stigma for buyers, which causes many buyers to avoid the property. However, at the same time buyers are often still realistically willing to pay something extra for the addition. This is one reason why some appraisers might give a non-permitted area some value in the report (but the area may be considered as storage instead of living space).
  2. no permits on addition 2 - by sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permissionQuality: The quality of the addition is going to be a huge factor in whether buyers pay more or less for an addition without permits. Does it feel like the rest of the house? Does it have a real use? Does it have a permanent heat source? Is it something buyers actually want in the neighborhood market? Is the workmanship decent or shoddy? Buyers may also consider how much it would cost to get the area permitted.
  3. Depends on the Issue: If there is something minor that was added without permits (like a covered patio), it’s probably not cause for appraisers to start waving the red warning flag. But if there is something very significant that was done without permits, that’s a different story because it can deter buyers from wanting the house. For instance, I recently did some consulting for an agent for a property that had a non-permitted addition that increased the size of the house by 60%. After research it was my sense that the market would pay something more for the addition, but I still was not willing to say the area should be counted as square footage. In this case the addition was simply too much of a change, and it was bound to be a major marketability issue for a buyer obtaining a loan (see point #4).
  4. Loan Problems: Some lenders will not loan on non-permitted areas, and they ask appraisers to not include any non-permitted area as square footage. Other lenders will loan when there is a non-permitted addition, but they ask appraisers to consider how a lack of permits impacts value. Usually in the latter case the lender wants the appraiser to say something to the effect that the addition was done in a professional workmanlike manner – despite a lack of permits. An appraiser really isn’t licensed to say something like that, but lenders still try to get a definitive statement out of the appraiser nonetheless.
  5. Other: What else would you add? I’d love to hear any stories, points, and comments below.

Loan Officer James Clark with New Penn Financial says the following:

james clarkUnpermitted Additions are a big grey area when it comes to financing. There are so many different factors and people that come into play that make them difficult. Because of this many lenders will just say no. I have seen unpermitted additions obtain financing, but only if the appraiser is well qualified and writes a good report as to why. The appraiser will have to sell the reason to include it, and most of the time you will never get the full square footage value for the addition. Questions to ask when you have a property with an unpermitted addition: Does it make sense? Does it conform to the area? Does the addition actually add value to the property? Does it look like the rest of the house, or can you tell it was an addition? So be nice to the appraisers. I can say if you want the unpermitted addition to count for value or qualify for financing, it will come down to what they say in the report.

Five things to consider when there are no permits:

  1. Get the area permitted before listing it on the market. Then be sure the appraiser sees a copy of the permit (that has been signed off). A permit ensures the work was done to minimum building standards, and everything was done correctly.
  2. Just because there are permits doesn’t mean the market is going to pay big bucks for the area. For example, a garage conversion could technically add 400 extra square feet to the house, but taking away the garage is often a negative for value. A property with a conversion is not necessarily instantly more comparable to a house with 400 additional square feet. It’s probably better compared with other similar-sized homes that also have conversions.
  3. Just because an addition was added with permits does not make it living space. For example, an enclosed patio might be fully permitted, but it’s probably not going to be counted in the square footage if it doesn’t feel like the rest of the house, have the same quality as the rest of the house, and doesn’t have a permanent heat source.
  4. If you know an area is not permitted, try to provide the best possible information to the appraiser about when the area was added, who built the area, how potential buyers responded to the extra space when the property was listed, and even how much it would cost to permit the area (if you have that research).
  5. If you’re considering doing work without permits, realize you are signing up for some appraisal and loan headaches. A lack of permits is a good way to potentially kill a deal and/or harm your property’s marketability.

As you can see, there is much to consider when a property has a non-permitted addition. Not every appraiser will view the issue the same either.

Question: What else would you add? I’d love to hear your take and any stories.

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How to pull comps like an appraiser

The right comps make all the difference. How do appraisers pull comps? I scraped the surface of this topic a few days ago in a class I taught, and I wanted to unpack it a bit further today. There is sometimes a striking difference between how appraisers and agents approach this topic, so being on the same page a bit more will probably be an advantage. I hope this helps. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

choosing comps like an appraiser - by sacramento appraisal blog

These following steps sound very detailed, but applying them is really a matter of making quick decisions during an MLS search.

7 steps when pulling comps in a neighborhood

  1. Start with Tight Boundaries: Pull sales and listings from the very immediate neighborhood first. It’s better to start out smaller rather than begin with a wide area such as a one-mile radius or an entire MLS area. I recommend using the Polygon tool in Sacramento MLS so you can actually draw exact neighborhood boundaries to be sure you are only getting data from those boundaries. After all, if you search by radius, you’ll inevitably pull in data that doesn’t really reflect the immediate neighborhood. Practically speaking, if you don’t know where to draw boundaries, just start searching as close as possible to the subject street, try not to cross major streets or school district lines, and keep an eye out for big age pulling comps 2 - image bought and used with permission by sacramento appraisal blogdifferences in the neighborhood since values might change for newer homes. Sometimes an aerial view on Google Maps can be helpful because you can see a clear difference where one tract starts and another begins because the roof colors are different.
  2. View all Recent Sales & Listings: Look at all sales over the past 3-6 months as well as current listings. This will help give you a quick understanding of the neighborhood price spectrum and which types of houses have sold at the top and bottom of the market. If there are few recent sales, be sure to go back one year or so for reference just so you are sure about what the market has done over time. For instance, if there are only fives sales over the past 90 days, it’s easy to miss the market if you only look at these sales. What if the these five properties sold too low? Or what if the most recent sales were lower in light of the cyclical real estate market (softer sales in the Fall). Remember that current listings might tell us if the market is different from previous sales. If the listings are higher, maybe the market increased. If the listings are lower, maybe the market has softened. Or if the listings are the same, but they aren’t selling, the market has probably softened. You can also look at expired listings also to get a sense of the temperature of the market.
  3. Use an “Apples to Apples” Approach to Search for Similar Homes: Now it’s time to dig into similar-sized homes. I recommend searching by square footage since that is what tends to guide most buyers. You can add and remove about 10% on each side of the square footage. This means if your house is 1800 sq ft, a good range is probably 1600-2000 sq ft. Of course sometimes data is sparse, so you simply need to work with what you have. But comparing something that is significantly different in size really isn’t a good methodology. In cases like that it’s probably better to use an older similar-sized sale rather than a newer and much different property. The key is to use an “apples to apples” approach, meaning you are trying to find the most similar properties to the subject property. If the subject property was not available, what properties would a buyer realistically consider purchasing? (that’s what a good comp is). If your house has three bathrooms, try to pull some sales with three bathrooms and a similar square footage. If you have a pool or converted garage, find other homes with the same feature. When the comps are very similar to your property, you don’t have to guess at how the market responds to upgrades or certain amenities because the proof is already there in the sales. Of course sometimes there aren’t any recent truly similar sales, so it’s important to go back in time to find something similar, or even search a different size of property in the neighborhood to understand how the market has responded to a certain feature. Once you find other sales of any size in the neighborhood with a pool, converted garage, or whatever you are looking for, you can then compare these sales to other similar-sized sales at the time. How much more or less did the house with the pool or converted garage sell for? This can help you glean some context for how much a particular feature might be worth.
  4. Search Older Similar Sales: Be sure to look back over the past year or so in the neighborhood so you can see what similar-sized sales have sold for. This will only take a minute in MLS, and it will help create a deeper context for you to understand the market. It can sometimes reinforce the strength of your list price or value to be sure your current price/value makes sense in light of historic trends in the neighborhood. If you are dealing with a custom home or unique location, you might need to consider sales over multiple years.
  5. tight and expanded search in tahoe park - sacramento appraisal blogSearch the Expanded Neighborhood: If you started with very tight boundaries in your initial search, you can expand it a bit more. I’m not saying to go outside of what buyers would consider the neighborhood market, but only to maybe include more area if you didn’t already. If a buyer would typically search throughout the entire larger neighborhood, then look for comps in this larger area now. The benefit of starting out small is that you are sure to research value very close to the subject property, which helps you not pull in data from further away that might not reflect the immediate neighborhood.
  6. Pull from Outside the Neighborhood (if needed): If sales are really sparse in the immediate neighborhood, you may need to find comps in competitive areas. Don’t do this step first though because it’s important to understand values in the immediate neighborhood first (even by using older sales, current listings, and expired listings). Of course the problem is it can be easy to “cherry pick” higher sales from other subdivisions. This can happen on purpose or by accident. A different tract might sell for more or less than the subject tract, so exercise caution to study whether the other tract really does have similar prices or not. Would a buyer shopping on the subject street also be shopping in the other tract? Better yet, would a buyer pay the same price in both areas?
  7. Avoid Using the Wrong Price per Sq Ft: There is always a price per sq ft range in a neighborhood, so it’s important to not simply choose one random price per sq ft figure and use it to come up with a value or list price. For instance, imagine a 2500 sq ft house that sold at $500,000, which would make the price per sq ft $200 (500,000 / 2500 = 200). At times it’s easy to see the metric of $200 and begin applying it to other homes right away. Yet what if the other homes aren’t similar in size, upgrades, appeal, condition, or location? The reality is if I was pulling comps for a 2000 sq ft home, I might find out that similar-sized sales really have a price per sq ft range of $210-225K instead of the $200 figure that was only good for the 2500 sq ft home. This is an easy mistake to make, and it underscores how important it is to be aware of price per sq ft ranges in a neighborhood. Rather than impose a price per sq ft on a property, search similar sales to discover what the price per sq ft range is for that size of property.

NOTE: Obviously some appraisers might not pull comps exactly like this. After all, there isn’t a standard set of steps appraisers must follow. Do what works best for you, and if something here resonates with you, that’s great.

Question: Any other tips, insight, or stories to share? I’d love to hear what you do, whether you are an appraiser or real estate agent.

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But Zillow says my house is worth a gazillion dollars

“But Zillow says my house is worth….”. That’s a fairly common statement, and it highlights how much the public trusts Zillow these days. I’ve written other posts comparing 10 actual appraisals with Zestimates, but today I want to show you a property in Sacramento that is over-valued on Zillow by more than 100%. While Zillow is a neat tool, let’s consider some of the important factors that go into making values accurate, and where things went wrong with this property.

zillow details

Case Study: Let’s look at 5309 Broadway in Sacramento located in the Greenfair townhouse complex. You might be thinking, “C’mon, let’s cut Zillow some slack since this is a complex of only 45 units, and sales have been sparse for two years”. But Zillow sits at the adult table, and should have access to data from previous years. Moreover, notice above that Zillow actually shows the subject property sold in 2008 for $138,000, which gives Zillow a context to measure value.

Broadway Sales vs Zillow

The Zestimate: The Zestimate for this property is $321,679. The graph above shows all sales since 1998 in the Greenfair subdivision. As you can see, there have never been any sales above $300,000 in this complex – even during the height of the housing bubble in 2005. In this case Zillow is frankly wildly off since market value looks a whole lot closer to the red trend line.

Where did Zillow go wrong?

  1. nearby so-called similar sales to the subject propertyChoosing the Wrong Comps: The image to the right shows “nearby similar sales”, but these sales are single family detached homes, and NOT attached townhouses. When there are no recent sales in a townhouse subdivision, it doesn’t mean you should borrow from the single family detached market. Either you can use VERY old townhouse sales in the same subdivision, or maybe find a competitive complex somewhere in the market area. Again, it’s easy to cut Zillow some slack here since they might not know the units are attached, but even in that case the TINY lot size and history of sales should be given much stronger weight then.
  2. Data Fail: Zillow clearly didn’t consider even its own data in this situation. Despite an understanding that this property sold in 2008 for $138,000, something in Zillow’s algorithm is obviously not crunching the numbers correctly since the market has not increased from $138K to $322K. Moreover, not considering a listing in the complex that expired at $186,000 this month is also a failure. When there are few recent sales, sometimes much older sales and expired listings can tell us about the market.
  3. Wrong Neighborhood Boundaries: Zillow is considering single family detached homes in Elmhurst and other parts of Tahoe Park as you can see by the addresses in the “similar sales” image. These areas have far higher prices compared to the Greenfair subdivision. If you use the wrong neighborhood boundaries, there’s a good chance the value might be off-base too.
  4. Problems with Less Data: When there is little data to consider, it looks to be a struggle for Zillow. To be fair, it’s relly not easy for humans to crunch numbers either when there are not many numbers to crunch. Yet data is available. It’s just a matter of seeing the numbers in their proper context.

Zillow Values in Sacramento - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

One Buyer’s Reasons for Using Zillow: I asked a current buyer how she is using Zillow as she hunts for a home. I thought her response was interesting and insightful. What do you think?

At first, it helps me get an idea of overall neighborhood values, so it helps me know where to look or not look. Then, when we do look at specific houses, it gives me a general value of the house. I like the low-high range tool better than the “Zestimate” because it helps me get a feel for the overall values of a neighborhood. So, if a house is priced near or less than the low end, I figure it probably needs a lot of work, and if not, it might be a good deal. If it’s priced near or over the high end, I expect it to be in very good condition or have some kind of bonus features. Likewise, if we really like a house and it appears to be a good value according to Zillow, we’ll consider making an offer.

We also use Zillow to see a price and sale history of the house (our realtor can do this too, but it’s easy for us to do with Zillow rather than constantly calling her!). We can see when it first came on the market and various price changes, whether it’s a flip or not, and sometimes even if it was a rental.

One thing I don’t like is that it doesn’t have very accurate listing information. There are many houses on Metrolist and Redfin that aren’t on listed as “for sale” on Zillow. So, I find myself going back and forth between the three resources and our Realtor’s updates! If Zillow and Redfin merged, I’d be happy!

I look at Zillow as a range or estimate. I know that it doesn’t replace a person on the ground, but we can’t bring an appraiser with us to each house! :) Zillow can’t see a smelly smoker’s house or a house full of old wall paper that needs to be torn down, or a crazy neighbor with three boats on the front lawn, or a dog that barks at all hours. It also can’t see a potential great neighbor with kids our kids’ ages, or a shade tree that’s perfect for a tire swing or tree house. It also doesn’t understand that I’m OVER granite countertops! Enough with the granite!

Zillow isn’t usually off by 100%, but cases like this are worth noting because they highlight some of the issues a “machine” can have when valuing a property.

Quick Advice:

  1. Take Zillow with a grain of salt.
  2. Don’t excuse Zillow when it’s wrong. If it’s off-base, call it what it is. You can look at Zillow’s own accuracy rates and be the judge whether this is reliable data or not.
  3. Home owners, realize Zillow doesn’t know neighborhood boundaries, the condition of your home, all the same listings that are in MLS, and it may not even be comparing your house to the right type of property.
  4. Agents, be sure to look up the Zestimate before listing presentations so you can be prepared to answer when your potential client says, “But Zillow says….”. Consider some of the positive reasons why consumers like Zillow (there are some for sure), but then talk about the things you know as an expert – neighborhood boundaries, the mood of the market, sales and listings in the immediate neighborhood, expired listings, how long it it taking to sell in the neighborhood, the direction of values, the condition of the house, and what buyers are willing to pay more for in the neighborhood.

I hope this was helpful.

Question: Any stories to share, or any other points you’d add?

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7 tips to NOT stress out when the real estate market changes

Change can be stressful. That’s obvious. I don’t know about you, but I’ve picked up on a slightly stressed vibe when talking with the real estate community lately. We had such an aggressive market for the last couple of years, but now that things are slowing down, it can feel a bit stressful for some. For what it’s worth, I wanted to share a few thoughts for anyone who is feeling edgy right now about the market.

stressed guy - image purchased by sacramento appraisal blog

7 tips to NOT stress out when the real estate market changes

  1. It’s normal for markets to change: This is what we tell our clients, and this is what we need to tell ourselves. Real estate markets are constantly morphing, so we should expect change and plan for it too.
  2. Sellers will eventually catch up to the market: Right now sellers have been lagging behind the trend, meaning they’ve been wanting to price their properties higher than the market will bear. Sellers will eventually catch up to the market though, which will help put sellers and buyers on the same page. Kevin Cooper and Tom Lichtenberg reminded me of this point last week.
  3. Find some optimism: There are always two sides to stats. Sellers might look at a softening trend as a threat, but on the positive side buyers have more opportunity to afford the market and actually get into contract. I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to stats or perpetuate real estate spin, but simply keep things in perspective.
  4. Think about your marketing strategy: When you consider how the market is moving, who are your clients going to be next year? Now is the time to work hard and diversify your clientele if needed. Also, when a market changes, sometimes that means employing different strategies instead of doing the same thing that worked last year.
  5. Keep connecting with people: Business is about people. When we start to stress about market trends, the focus is removed from the most important thing. People. Yes, watch trends carefully, but be sure to let them serve and guide you instead of stress you out.
  6. Try to keep your emotions grounded: The plight of any self-employed person or sales professional is that our emotions are often contingent on how business is going. If things are booming, we feel great, but if things are slower, we feel down. The key is to find a way to stay grounded and put your confidence in something bigger than work. I’d love to hear what you do. I’ve yet to meet someone who does not struggle with this to a certain extent.
  7. Know the context of your stats: Lastly, when a market changes we can often look at stats with tunnel vision rather than the broader picture. For instance, on one hand it’s taking 40% longer to sell a house in Sacramento compared to last year, but four years ago it was taking twice as long than it is now. Additionally, inventory more than doubled in the past 18 months, but it’s actually at a fairly normal level right now.

Three graphs to provide context for the current market:

CDOM in Sacramento Region

Regional housing inventory in Sacramento

I hope this was helpful.

Questions: Which is your favorite point? Any other points you’d add?

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Removing chain link fences to beautify a neighborhood

photo from SNRIt’s easy to make idols out of athletes and celebrities, but who are the real heroes? I’m not saying sports figures and musicians can’t be worthy of respect and admiration, but in my book the most heroic people I know are normal everyday individuals walking out the grind of life – yet living out a sense of vision to make a difference. This is exactly who Amanda Dodd is, and I wanted to interview her because she is doing amazing work in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento.

Several years ago Amanda started a volunteer effort called Neighbors Without Borders, which removes front yard chain link fences for the sake of beautifying the neighborhood. You might think chain link fences have no effect on real estate, but read The verdict on chain link fences and property value. Moreover, ask yourself when the last time was you saw a builder install chain link fencing in a tract home subdivision. If you really want to go deeper, check out a study of Diggs Town Public Housing to see the power of a focus on traditional neighborhood design. This isn’t about judging anyone who has a certain type of fence, but only highlighting the reality that the way a neighborhood looks tends to say something. Right or wrong, outsiders will judge whether a community is safe or even pleasant by its appearance.

Enjoy the interview and be inspired. What do you think of Amanda’s work?

chain link fences and property value - by sacramento appraisal blog

Ryan: First off, Amanda, why don’t you introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

Amanda: I’m a  resident of Oak Park, Wife, Mom of a 1 year old little boy, and Clinical Social Worker who works part-time in Private Practice.

Ryan: How long have you lived in Oak Park?

Amanda: I’ve lived in Oak Park for 6 years

Ryan: What do you like most about the neighborhood?

Amanda: I love the architecture–the Bungalows, Victorians, and history of the area. I love that I can walk to the post office and mail a letter, or walk through beautiful McClatchy Park on my way to the bank. The diversity here is amazing, and there is a huge sense of community unlike anywhere else. People are so involved and the energy is contagious.

before and after chain link fence removal - sacramento appraisal blog

Ryan: Explain what your project is and how it began.

Amanda: When I moved to Oak Park in 2008, the first thing I noticed was how friendly and open people were. One neighbor was dropping vegetables off on my porch, people were waving hi to each other and stopping to talk…this was in stark contrast where I moved from. In Natomas, the yards were well-manicured and front yards were open, but I never met any neighbors in 4 years of living there. In Oak Park, however, people were so open and friendly, yet my street was covered in chain link and iron fences in front of almost every house. The irony was not lost on me. I noticed that the beautiful architecture of these hundred-old houses was covered up and hidden behind street after street of chain link and metal. It was so sad to me that the true beauty of the neighborhood, besides the people who reside here, would be covered up like that. So, I researched other cities such as Toronto and Boston who have done fence removal projects in certain neighborhoods, and they reported a decrease in crime, and an increase in sense of community. I wanted to do that here too.

Ryan: What is your role in the project, and who else volunteers?

Amanda: I came up with the idea of Neighbors Without Borders five years ago, and didn’t get much support around it. Then this past year, decided to try and resurrect it. I came together with a committee and we talked about how to get the idea out there, and we educated ourselves on how to take down fences. We removed about five this summer. Victor Duron is my co-partner and has been an essential part of this process. I couldn’t have done it without his support.

before and after chain link fence removal - 2 - sacramento appraisal blog

Ryan: Did you ever imagine you’d be doing this?

Amanda: I think I’ve always had a mindset toward change. I’m a social worker by nature, and when I see something that can be better, I want to get my hands dirty and go there.

Ryan: Why is removing chain link fencing a big deal for the neighborhood?

Amanda: There is nothing necessarily wrong with having a chain link fence; many people need fences to keep in dogs or children, and chain link is the most cost-effective fence you can put up. However, when you look down a street and see a solid line of fence metal, the street appears to be almost prison-like, or  a compound. The underlying message that is communicated is,  “Keep Out” or “This is a not a safe neighborhood”. Aesthetically, it can appear cold and unwelcoming. So a first time visitor to Oak Park  would likely  get the opposite idea about the types of people who live here.  Also, I think the biggest misconception is that “Fences keep you safe”. Research shows otherwise, and I have talked to many people who have had their house broken into even though they have a fence. A fence is not going to stop someone who wants to get in. I think fences can definitely bring about a false sense of security. If you look at the safest neighhorhoods in Sacramento, they don’t have any fences in their front yards.

Ryan: It seems kind of touchy to ask someone if a chain link fence can be torn out. How do you pull that off without offending residents or making them feel isolated?

Amanda: This is a good question because having a fence is a personal decision for everyone, and each person has a reason for having a fence. My goal is that people examine their reasons to see if they are no longer applicable. Maybe they put the fence up in the 80’s when the neighborhood was much less safe. Maybe the previous owner had a dog and they have just left it up as a matter of convenience. We don’t force people to remove their fences, or pass judgment on why people leave them up. Basically, our services are an offer for anyone who wants them.

before and after rehab by The Oak Park Team - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Ryan: What would your quick response be if someone said, “My house has always had a chain link fence. It’s not bringing down the neighborhood.”

Amanda: I wouldn’t even argue that. It’s their decision. Maybe their particular fence isn’t bringing down the neighborhood, but collectively, the 14 other fences on the same street might not be sending the most open message.

Ryan: How do you let other people know about your project’s services?

Amanda: We have announced our services at Oak Park meetings, and have mailed letters offering our services. Also, word of mouth. In a community like Oak Park, people know what’s going on and talk to each other.

Ryan: Do you only focus on chain link fences?

Amanda: Right now, yes.

before and after chain link fence - the oak park team

Ryan: Is chain link difficult to remove? What do you do with it once it’s taken down?

Amanda: It’s surprisingly so easy! I bought some bolt cutters and a sawzall, and two people can take it down from start to finish in about half an hour! We have people who pick up the fence to sell as scrap metal to recycling centers.

Ryan: Lastly, in just a few words, how would you sum up what is happening in the Oak Park neighborhood right now?

Amanda: So much energy! People who live here can’t stop talking about all of the change.

—————————————————————————————————————

I hope you enjoyed the interview. Thank you Amanda for your time, and keep up the incredible work. If anyone wishes to connect with Neighbors Without Borders, email oakparkbeautiful@gmail.com. It’s easy to see the need for change, but rare to find individuals willing to help start to make change happen. If you are considering helping your neighborhood connect or grow in the right direction, why not get started? You just might be the right person at the right time to get the ball of change rolling. If not you, then who? Thank you also to The Oak Park team (Micah & Sam) for letting me use some photos.

Questions: What stood out to you most about the interview? What are your thoughts on chain link fences? Oak Park residents, how would you describe the neighborhood right now?

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