Five questions to ask yourself before giving “comps” to an appraiser

Sometimes I get a stack of “comps” from real estate agents during my appraisal inspections when meeting the agent at the property. Are they good ones? Sometimes they are, but since many times they aren’t, I wanted to highlight some important questions that might be useful to Sacramento area agents (and anyone) when selecting sales to share with the appraiser. I hope this is helpful.

Here are five questions to ask yourself before giving comps to an appraiser:

  1. questionsIs the “comp” a replacement? Would buyers in the neighborhood market consider purchasing the “comps” instead of the subject property if the comps were still on the market? That’s really what “comparable” means. The sale should be similar enough that the buyer would have theoretically considered it as a replacement instead of the subject property. If the subject is a fixer, are the comps fixers? Do the comps have standard updates also or are they all remodeled?
  2. Are your comps located in the same neighborhood? Keep the neighborhood boundaries in mind when selecting comps by asking yourself where else a buyer would shop for a similar property. It’s fine if there is a reason to use comps outside of the immediate neighborhood, but just make sure the neighborhood is really competitive to the subject neighborhood (not superior). Otherwise the sales really aren’t all that similar.
  3. Are the sales of a somewhat similar size? It seems like I get “comps” from agents quite a bit that are incredibly different from the subject property in size. For example, if the subject is 1700 square feet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see sales around 2300 square feet show up in the stack of comps. This is fine of course if the market views these properties in a similar way or there is an extreme shortage of sales, but usually there’s a price premium for the extra living area. Does a buyer looking for a 1700 square foot house typically shop for a 2300 square foot house at the same time? Probably not in most cases.
  4. Are the sales recent? If the appraisal is for a loan, most lenders want to see recent sales over the past 90 days. However, if there is a good reason to use older sales, the appraiser certainly isn’t bound to use sales only from the past quarter if they are indeed the best sales. Sometimes real estate agents will give “comps” that are 6-12 months old while ignoring more recent sales though, and that’s suspicious if there are solid recent sales.
  5. What are your motives? I think it’s fine for real estate agents to share data for the sake of giving the appraiser insight into how they marketed the property. It’s great if the comps and commentary help answer the question as to which properties the agent used to market the listing. Ultimately agents want to advocate for the sales price, which is fine in the eyes of their clients, but at the same time agents can often say and do things that pressure the appraiser to “hit the number” – which is not fine. When advocacy for a client becomes coercion for the appraiser to meet a certain value, that’s not a good thing. That’s why it’s important to check motives and use language in a way that does not pressure for a higher value. Check out a previous post on talking to appraisers (things to say and not say) for helpful tips.

Sacramento area Realtor Steve Ostrom and I discussed this issue of giving comps to appraisers in a video below (or click here).

How do you communicate with appraisers? What things do you say and not say? Do you have any frustrations, tips or questions?

If you have any questions or Sacramento area real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs, contact me by phone 916-595-3735, email, Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to posts by email.


  1. says

    I love that video for you and Steve and so great to see you both hear the perspective of the other, plus facial expressions and then hear the rational of why it’s correct and why we do these things both as an appraiser and/or an agent.

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