Is it okay to share a previous appraisal with the appraiser?

I was asked a great question recently. Is it okay to share a previous appraisal with the appraiser? I would say YES and NO. Here are a few thoughts. Anything to add?

Sacramento Appraisal Blog- sharing a previous appraisal

1) Data: It can be valuable at times for an appraiser to see what a previous appraiser did, especially if the property is complex. After looking at a colleague’s work, an appraiser might pick up on some insight or glean ideas for how to approach valuing the property. This happened to me a few years ago as I found out about an important easement and an illegal structure after an attorney gave me a copy of a previous appraisal. I still had to make sure the appraiser was correct, but it was nice to get a heads-up by someone who did a great job a couple of years prior.

2) The only appraisal that matters: We have to realize the only appraisal that really matters is the one the current client is going to rely on. A previous appraisal might not cut the mustard so to speak, so sharing something that isn’t any good doesn’t mean much for the current appraiser. For example, I was asked to appraise something for a private loan and the owner shared a previous appraisal with me at $1.2M. Yet this appraisal done during a conventional refinance was definitely inflated by a good 20% unfortunately. Keep in mind a previous appraiser might have included a detached structure’s square footage within the square footage of the main house, but just because it played out that way before does not mean it should happen now (I have a blog post on that here). Also, just because it appraised at a certain level before does not mean a new appraiser is going to think that is anywhere near acceptable. 

3) Sharing a specific number: I was recently hired to appraise a property for a cash buyer and there was an appraisal done already from a prior buyer’s loan. The Listing Agent told me, “We had an appraisal done at $425,000 two weeks ago”, though I was not provided the appraisal. This to me seemed like more than anything the agent was trying to influence my value. I’m not saying the agent was slimy or unethical at all. I’m just saying had the agent said, “We had a previous appraisal done. You are welcome to see it if you want,” it would have felt much more like the agent was making data available rather than subtly suggesting the contract price was a reachable target for value. This might sound like I’m playing semantics or being anal about words, but the words we choose matter, and how we say things can be interpreted as influencing an appraiser or not.

4) Difference among appraisers: Some appraisers will not accept a previous appraisal because they feel like it might impact their objectivity, but others will. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here as everyone needs to walk out their own sense of morality. Personally I tend to accept previous appraisals in most cases because I like to see how a colleague handled a valuation and I like to double-check my sketch measurements. Moreover, sometimes it helps me prepare my report because the client might be expecting a wildly different value than what is able to be supported. Yet if an appraisal was presented to me in such a way as to influence my value or pressure me to “hit the number”, I would definitely decline and simply say “No thanks. I don’t want to see it.”

Recommendation: In short, in my opinion it’s okay to share a previous appraisal with an appraiser, but it really matters how it is done. If you have a previous appraisal, I might suggest you use my Appraiser Info Sheet to share information appraisers tend to ask about, and then say nothing more than, “I have a previous appraisal if you want to see it.” If the appraiser doesn’t want it, that’s fine. If the appraiser does, that’s fine too.

Questions: What is #5? Which point stands out to you most? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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Why comparing the right numbers matters so much in real estate

You can make numbers say whatever you want in real estate. Sometimes this happens on purpose, but other times it’s an accident. That’s why it’s so important to know how to make the right comparisons. Below I will show you an example of how you can look at the numbers and end up saying two completely different things about the market. Both might be technically true, yet one of the statements really doesn’t reflect the real trend. In an era of big data in real estate, knowing how to communicate these things to clients is key. Enjoy.

Looking at the numbers - image purchased and used with permission by sacramento appraiser blog

THE WRONG COMPARISON: (Volume is down by 30%)

December to January

When we compare January with December, it’s easy to get an inaccurate picture of the market (but it happens all the time in media outlets). In the case above, we see a 30% decline, and this sounds very alarming. Yet volume from December to January almost always decreases by 20-25% easily in any given year in Sacramento, so 30% in not something to freak out about.

Truth: Comparing the previous month to the current month can sometimes give us the wrong picture about the market – especially in the midst of a strong seasonal trend. Volume is ALWAYS lower in January (see this quick graph as proof).

THE RIGHT COMPARISON: (Volume is down by 4.5%)

Month to Month

When we compare January 2015 with January 2014, we see sales volume was down by only 4.5% this year. That’s a far cry from sounding the alarm that “VOLUME IS DOWN BY 30%”. In this case the most accurate thing we can say about the market is that volume was 4.5% lower this January.

Truth: Comparing the current month to the same month last year tends to give us important insight because we are using the same context for comparison. I’m not saying to not compare back-to-back months, but only to get in the habit of looking at the same month last year too. This is especially important when dealing with January and February data since they are typically slower months in terms of closed escrows. Remember too that last month’s sales tell us what the market used to be like when these properties went into contract 30-60+ days ago, but current listings and pendings tell us about the market right now.

Questions: Any thoughts or insight? I’d love to hear your take.

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