What’s your housing shtick?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying one thing about the housing market. Just as a comedian has a shtick, or regular performance, we can get into the routine of talking about real estate based on one big idea about what the market is doing or will do. Let’s consider some examples. Which one(s) are you? Any thoughts?

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Doom & Gloom:  The market is going to crash like it did 10 years ago.

Corrector:  Values will correct but not implode.  

One-Metric Wonder: The market will turn as soon as this one thing happens.

Normal: The market is normal and not in a “bubble”.

Mr. Buzzword: The market is headed toward a “shift” in the future.

Polly Pollyanna: It’s always a good time to buy and sell. Everything is always good.

Specific Year Guy: This year is going to be the one where values turn.

Mrs. Cyclepants: The market has a 7 year cycle and it’s about up.

Foreclosure Prophet: Another foreclosure wave is coming. Just wait.

Headline Regurgitator: This person says whatever the latest headlines say.

Spinster: Any negative aspect of housing is spun into something positive.

The Feeler: I feel like the market is strong and will be in the future.

Crystal Ball: This is exactly what the market is going to do.

Broken Crystal Ball: Nobody knows the future including me.

If we’re honest we might identify with several shticks above. That’s okay. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with that, but let’s be challenged to consider what we say and not get locked into conveying only one thing about the complex housing market. Moreover, let’s be cautious about imposing clichés and ideas on the market because it’s easy to miss trends that way. At the same time let’s not be naive by refusing to consider the future. My advice? Pay attention to the numbers and know them well enough to quote, know what is normal and not for the time of year, remember that values might be moving differently in various price ranges and neighborhoods, and find ways to talk about current values in specific terms while keeping an eye on the future (instead of focusing entirely on the future).

My knee & market update post: Some of you may know I hurt my knee in a snow tubing accident 10 days ago. I have an MRI next week, but for now the doctor thinks I may have torn my meniscus. Anyway, I normally do my big market update between the 10th and 15th of the month, but I can’t swing it this week since I took last week off and I’m basically playing catch-up with all my reports this week. I’m just grateful to be at my desk again. Anyway, I will be 100% up and running (not literally) next week, and I’ll get to my big update then. Thanks for your understanding.

Questions: Which shtick stands out to you most? Any others to add? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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5 things to keep in mind about rising rates and values

Rising interest rates is one of the big topics right now in real estate. I don’t know about you, but I find myself having rate conversations all the time, so I thought we could maybe kick around some thoughts. Anything to add?

rates and value - sacramento appraisal group

5 things to consider about rising rates and values:

1) Duh, values will soften: Rising interest rates can affect the ability of buyers to afford higher prices because mortgages become more expensive (thanks Captain Obvious). Unless there is another factor to help prop values up, rising rates can naturally lead to softer values. To be fair though, let’s remember rates are not the only driving factor to make value go up or down in real estate.

2) Demand is strong enough: Rising rates can certainly impact affordability, but the interesting part to consider is we have a shortage of housing inventory. This means there is actually room for some buyers to completely leave the market (or be priced out) because there would still be enough buyers left to afford higher prices. On one hand I am very skeptical of articles that say rising rates will not impact buyers at all because that sounds like spin. Yet we do have to entertain the reality of demand being strong enough to a certain extent to deal with some rate increases without much value change (assuming modest increases of course).

3) The squeeze on lower-end buyers: In a market with rising rates, it’s buyers with less money that will be impacted the most because some buyers are on the brink of struggling to afford the market already. Thus an increase in interest rates that makes a $100 or $200 difference in a mortgage payment can be a very big deal for someone on a tight budget. Moreover, buyers with larger down payments simply have more power when making offers, negotiating, paying beyond appraised value, etc…. But before we start saying buyers putting less money down cannot play the real estate game, let’s look at actual stats. If you didn’t know, 25% of all sales last month in Sacramento County were FHA (very low down payment required) and nearly 29% of all sales under $400,000 went FHA. It’s easy to say things like, “Buyers without real money down are not winning in this market,” but the stats say otherwise.

4) Lenders getting creative: When rates rise it can put pressure on lenders to get more “creative” in their financing so more buyers can keep playing the market. In other words, lenders can help buyers artificially afford higher prices with newer and looser loan programs that compensate for higher rates. Part of me hopes lenders put movies like The Big Short and Inside Job in their Netflix queue just to remember how much power they truly have when it comes to making markets move. On a realistic level though, the lending market probably could loosen up a bit in a healthy sense since the regulation pendulum swung very far after the “bubble” burst. For anyone who has tried to get a loan recently, you know how rigorous and stressful it is. Simply put, getting a loan is not as easy as pushing a “rocket” button on a smart phone app.

5) Pressure to buy “before it’s too late”: Many buyers feel pressure to get into the market before rates get too much higher, and that’s a dynamic likely to persist throughout this year as discussions about rate increases ensue. It’s as if buyers feel like they have a small window of time to act before they are forever doomed and shut out of the housing market. What do you think of that? What advice or wisdom would you share with buyers feeling this way?

Questions: What is #6? How do you think rising rates will impact the market? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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The ugly truth about appraisal fees

I had a bad experience with an AMC recently and I want to share it. This is not because I’m wanting to rant or be negative, but only to highlight some of the ugliness that happens behind closed doors when it comes to appraisal fees during loans. This is especially worth knowing about for any home owners and real estate agents for the sake of their clients. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your take. 

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The Issue: I was asked to appraise something challenging, so I quoted a fee that was higher than a standard fee in Sacramento but still reasonable for the job because the house was funky. Anyway, I was comfortable with the fee and it was accepted by the AMC (Appraisal Management Company) that the lender hired to manage the appraisal ordering process. But then things got interesting because through the course of the transaction someone showed me an email from the loan officer where I learned the AMC was actually charging the buyer $345 higher than the fee I quoted. What the? That seemed excessive, but the real clincher for me was the email showed a chain of conversation with the AMC where they said I was the one who quoted the much higher fee. Not only was the AMC gouging the buyer in my opinion, but there was a blatant lie that I was the one dictating this fee that was 43% higher than the one I quoted.

Look, I’m not a complainer and I am a total optimist, but this is not okay on so many levels.

Why this matters:

1) Anger & The Real Fee: Let’s remember the appraisal fee charged to the buyer might be far different from what the appraiser actually gets. Thus before becoming angry at the appraiser for charging so much, try to find out what the appraiser is being paid (and what a market rate is for your area too). Is the appraiser actually getting that rush fee your buyer paid too? Keep in mind many AMCs tell appraisers not to discuss fees, so unfortunately it’s not likely you’re going to get an answer from the appraiser (maybe ask the loan officer to dig around). To complicate matters, it’s common for AMCs to tell appraisers NOT to attach an invoice to the appraisal report, so it’s not easy for anyone to find out how much the appraiser made from the fee the buyer paid unless there are disclosure rules from the state.

2) Appraisal Quality: In many cases AMCs are scraping so much off the top that the appraiser really isn’t making a reasonable market fee. It’s easy to gloss over this as insignificant, but it matters because over time if appraisers do not earn market rate fees it is going to weed out more experienced appraisers from doing loan work. Could this impact quality? I think so. By the way, if you didn’t know, an Appraisal Management Company is NOT used during a private valuation such as a divorce, pre-listing appraisal, estate planning, litigation, hard money loan, bankruptcy, etc… By the way, let me make it clear that not all AMCs are bad either.

3) Longer Turn-Times: At times it’s difficult for an AMC to find an appraiser because a property is so unique or it’s in a rural area. This can be frustrating for everyone else in the real estate transaction because it hands-down makes an escrow longer. Yet sometimes the problem isn’t the lack of an available appraiser, but rather the AMC broadcasting an absurdly low fee to countless appraisers for weeks. If the AMC would have simply started the process with a market rate fee and a realistic turn-time, maybe the order would actually be finished by now.

4) Lack of Transparency: California does not require disclosure on the HUD-1 of the fee paid to the appraiser vs the fee paid to the AMC. Since these fees are not separated, there isn’t any transparency as to what the appraiser and AMC are getting. I would think some buyers would be shocked to learn the appraiser didn’t get the full fee in the first place – not to mention a $345 AMC fee. Why would we not disclose these fees? Can’t we do better at being transparent?

I hope this was helpful or interesting. Any thoughts?

New Video: I made a video called “The market isn’t doing the same thing in every neighborhood.” It’s a quick look at three neighborhoods. Watch below (or here).

Questions: What stands out to you most about what I mentioned above? Anything else to add? Did I miss something? What is the best way to avoid working with bad AMCs?

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How much value does a huge backyard shop add?

A friend asked me a great question this week. How much value does that huge shop in the backyard add? He wasn’t sure how to pull comps, so I scratched out a few thoughts. Anything to add?

large workshop or garage value - sacramento appraisal blog

1) The market: Can buyers use whatever the structure is? Will they pay for it? These are good questions to ask. At times home owners build things that are so specific to their own needs that the market really might not even want it (or maybe buyers will simply use it for something else). I think of Michael Jackson’s Ferris Wheel at Neverland Ranch or a $125,000 recording studio in the backyard of an area of Sacramento where values are about $225,000. There might be one buyer out there willing to pay a premium, but does that one buyer really represent the market? Remember, lenders are going to lend based on the market.

2) Find something similar: The best way to uncover value for a large workshop is to find a few examples that have sold. Keep in mind we might not find something exactly the same, but we have to do our best to find something we might think of as competitive. In a rural market there are likely many examples, but in a residential market we might have to pour through years worth of sales to find a large workshop, detached garage, or some other competitive structure. We can then compare these sales to others in the neighborhood at the time. How much of a price premium was there if any? For example, I did a search in the Tahoe Park neighborhood and found some large detached structures by looking in MLS under Garage (I selected 3 and 4 detached), # of Garage Spaces (I selected more than 3 spaces to see what structures I could find), and Other Structures (you can select things like “Workshop Building” or “Outbuilding” under this category). It can be tedious to search in MLS, but sometimes it’s surprising how quickly something will come up.

Tahoe Park search

3) Cost: Let’s consider the cost of the structure so we are in tune with quality. This doesn’t mean the market is going to pay more just because it was expensive, but the market will likely recognize quality and pay more for something that is nice (and usable). Home owners often want the market to pay the full cost of whatever was built, but there’s a fat chance of that happening because when people buy something used they tend to expect a discount.

4) Make Something Up: I’m kidding on this one, but I will say at times in real estate we have to use professional judgement when data is extremely limited. This sounds so wishy washy, but there is something to knowing a market and coming up with a range for what we think a group of buyers might realistically pay. In this case we might not give a specific value adjustment for the structure, but we can always consider the value of it in our final number. What I mean is we might see a range of value in a neighborhood for similar properties and end up reconciling the final appraised value for the subject property toward the higher end of the range because the subject has more assets. Be careful on this point though (and don’t spend two minutes on research and simply go straight to #4).

Questions: What is #5? Did I miss anything? How would you figure out the value? I’d love to hear your take.

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