Is it going to be an appraisal problem if there are cracks in a home’s foundation or walls? I saw the crack below in a home in Sacramento, and stuck a pen in the wall to show how big it was. What do you think? No biggie or big deal? I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.
Here are a few things to consider about cracks:
- Cracks are Common: Buyers buy homes all the time with cracks – especially on the exterior when there is stucco. Cracks are a bit like wrinkles in that they are inevitable at some point as a home ages. Yet sometimes we see a crack like the image above and think, “Yikes, what is going on?”
- Cracks are Subjective: Some cracks might be deemed “normal” by an appraiser because nearly every house in the neighborhood has cracks as such. I know it sounds a bit subjective to talk like this, but after seeing thousands of homes in an area, appraisers have to consider what normal looks like. Yet other times cracks might indicate something is clearly not right. So will the appraiser call for repairs? Well, there really isn’t a one size fits all answer because not all cracks are created equally.
- Fannie Mae Structural Integrity: If you didn’t know, Fannie Mae’s appraisal form asks appraisers to state whether there are any adverse conditions or physical deficiencies that impact the livability, soundness, or structural integrity of the property. Side note: Is it just me, or is it a bit odd that Fannie Mae asks appraisers to verify something like this? Anyway, appraisers either select YES or NO to this question in their appraisal reports. This means if an appraiser observes a crack that looks beyond what might be “normal”, the appraiser will describe the issue, include photographs, and possibly call for repairs or further investigation by the client. If an appraiser essentially believes there could be a problem, it’s prudent and professional for the appraiser to bring the issue up rather than ignore it.
- Qualified Professionals: Lenders sometimes ask appraisers to state that cracks are normal or okay, but since appraisers aren’t crack specialists they need to outsource making that call to someone else – a qualified professional. I do this from time to time in lender reports when I see an iffy crack. I don’t know if there’s an issue or not, but if a crack looks suspicious or too big, I’d rather not guess that things are okay. So I make the value subject to further inspection to make sure things are alright. I don’t do this for every single crack I meet because then I’d be asking for an inspection on virtually every single property. It’s really only when something looks out-of-the-ordinary (or there is a clear trip hazard for FHA). What type of professional should look into the situation? As an appraiser I simply say “qualified professional” and let the client decide. Often times a lender will send out a structural engineer or some other individual they deem qualified, and I can then include that person’s written professional opinion in the appraisal if needed. Keep in mind this is important because a lender will want to be sure there are no structural issues before lending on a property. However, during a cash transaction or private appraisal, an appraiser might not have access to a “qualified professional’s” opinion. Thus the appraiser will render a value, but make assumptions and disclaimers about the cracks – and reserve the right to adapt the opinion of value based on new information. Lastly, in other cases an appraiser might have a documented cost-to-cure from a qualified professional. In a case like this an appraiser would entertain what sort of value impact exists for the repairs so the appraiser can render an “as is” value.
I hope that was helpful. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your take.
Class I’m Teaching: By the way, I’m teaching a class called How to Think Like an Appraiser at the Sacramento Association of Realtors on March 10 from 9-12pm. This is my favorite class to teach because we set aside a few hours to really tackle issues and get valuation training. You can register here if interested. Thanks.
Questions: Any stories, insight, or ideas to share? Did I miss anything? What is point #5?