How much does a previous purchase matter? Do appraisers give strong weight to the purchase price? Or do they completely ignore it? This is an important conversation, especially in the midst of so much talk about the market changing.
1) Meaningless: Sometimes a previous purchase is meaningless. That’s not always happy news, but if a property sold for too little or too much, it just might not mean much to us today. As an example, it doesn’t make sense to give any real value weight to a short sale that closed way too low or an inflated purchase that was clearly disconnected from the market and not supported by data.
2) Strong weight: If a property sold recently and it was a reasonable price, appraisers might actually give strong weight to the sale. If you didn’t know, appraisers are actually allowed to use a previous sale of the subject property as a “comp” in an appraisal report too (usually Comp #4). That might seem strange to do, but then again what is more comparable than the subject property itself? Of course let’s be careful about understanding exactly how the market and property have changed since the sale though.
3) Someone overpaid: One thing we have to consider before giving too much weight to a previous sale is whether it was a reasonable representation of value or not at the time. It can be dangerous to blindly accept a sale without understanding the full story of why it sold at the level it did. On that note, my observation is at times cash buyers fall prey to overpaying on the higher end of the market where comps are a little more sparse and it’s not always easy to see value. Here’s an example I just tweeted about this morning:
4) Seeing the context: Sometimes a previous purchase is an incredible way to understand how a property fits into the market. In the graph below I have three previous sales in the Stollwood area of Carmichael, and each time the subject property competed at about the same price position. That’s powerful, right? So in this case I would likely give strong weight to the previous sales because they help me understand value.
FYI: Here is a tutorial if you want to learn how to make a graph like this.
Quick closing thoughts:
1) The temptation: It’s easy to get stuck on a previous purchase price and not see the current market because we think, “It has to be worth at least X amount because it sold for Y amount in the past.” Be careful of that. We have to be objective by giving the most weight to the current market.
BIG POINT: As some wonder if the market will make a big turn at some point, this conversation could be very relevant if that did happen.
2) Ch-ch-ch-change: The market could have changed since the subject sold previously. Values could have increased or softened. The subject could have been in better or worse condition too.
3) Different trends: Sometimes I hear things like, “It sold in 2016 and the market has increased 15% since then, so it must be worth 15% more now.” The problem is market trends aren’t the same at every price level. Maybe the lowest prices in town have seen increases like that, but price changes could be more subtle at higher levels. So let’s be cautious not to project a more aggressive trend from a lower range on a higher one.
4) Distressed: I find looking to older sales from the foreclosure days isn’t all that helpful because the market was not normal then and properties were selling all over the place. I usually recommend researching previous sales, but when they’re from the distressed days we often have to take them with a grain of salt. The same thing is true for stuff that sold in 2005 at inflated prices.
5) Boldness: Appraisers and agents sometimes have to tell clients why value is actually lower than a prior purchase. That’s not always easy to hear, but we have to be bold and let the numbers speak rather than putting weight on a previous sale that might not reflect the market today.
I hope this was interesting or helpful.
Questions: Which point stands out to you the most? Any stories to share or other points? I’d love to hear your take