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.

If you liked this post, subscribe by email (or RSS). Thanks for being here.

4 temptations to avoid when it comes to cost vs value in real estate

If you spent $50,000 on a 15 ft statue of Yoda in your front yard, do you think you’d get $50,000 back in value? A Star Wars fan might wet his pants and quickly offer a premium for the house, yet what would everyone else pay? That is the bigger question. We all know there is a difference between cost and value. Cost is the price of something, while value is what it is actually worth. We understand this logically, yet there often seems to be a disconnect between cost and value in the actual real estate market, which is why this conversation is important. Let’s look at some temptations to avoid as well as tips to get the most value out of improvements. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

cost vs value in real estate - by sacramento appraisal blog

Temptations to avoid when it comes to cost vs value:

  1. Treating Cost & Value the Same: Value can be much different from cost, right? This means a $47,000 home remodel might not lead to $47,000 in value. Or $75,000 in extensive landscaping might not command a $75,000 price premium. Or a $150,000 accessory dwelling built in the backyard may not automatically boost value by $150,000. Or a built-in pool that cost $35,000 to install may not lead to…. you get the point. We can always consider the cost and quality of something when we are trying to come up with a value, but at the end of the day we have to answer this question: How much are buyers actually wiling to pay for it? An owner might say, “I spent $136,000 on this rehab, and the appraisal came in low”, but if the appraiser used solid comps and made proper adjustments, the real issue could be the full cost of the rehab is not showing up dollar for dollar in the resale market (it’s actually not as easy as you’d think to get dollar for dollar).
  2. Letting Emotion Trump Data: What are homes actually selling for in the neighborhood? We have to look at sales to inform us about the resale market since sales help tell the story of what the market has been willing to pay. This is especially true when considering the ARV (after repair value) of a house that is going to be flipped (or even remodeled). It’s far too easy to get trapped into a formula like this: cost of acquisition + cost of remodeling + profit = value. But the truth is we need to look at the resale market first. What are remodeled properties actually selling for in the neighborhood? Once we have a good sense of the numbers we can then take steps back to determine if the acquisition cost and/or a rehab costs make sense or not. Thus an investor might pass on a house because the deal doesn’t make financial sense, or an owner might decide to scale back that extensive remodel.
  3. image bought and used with permission by 123rf dot com smDistracted by Shiny Objects: It’s easy to feel so excited about putting in the latest upgrades, that we actually miss value. In other words, we can get distracted by the glow of the new shiny features that we fail to ask whether buyers are going to pay for those features or not. For instance, someone might install $70,000 worth of energy-efficient features, but will buyers pay for that in the resale market?
  4. Projecting Other Neighborhoods on Yours:  What works well in one neighborhood may not work in a different area, so it’s important to not project one neighborhood on another. For instance, I appraised a house in a first-time buyer neighborhood that had VERY extensive upgrades. The owner had it listed over 25% higher than even the highest competitive sale so he could recoup his costs (it was way overpriced). The unfortunate reality here was instead of letting other remodeled homes in the neighborhood guide the owner on what type of upgrades to select, the owner instead put the best stuff from the region into this one house.

Tips for getting the most value out of upgrading your home:

  1. Buyer Expectations: Be in tune with what buyers expect in the neighborhood for upgrades. What are they actually willing to pay for? One way to know this is to visit open houses and talk with neighbors so you can see what others have done (and then see if their homes are commanding higher prices).
  2. Let Neighbors Overbuild: Don’t do more than others have done in the neighborhood. It’s far better to benefit from upgraded homes around you rather than be that one over-the-top property.
  3. Know your Location: Be realistic about your neighborhood so you are doing the right upgrades for the location.
  4. Consult a Professional: Talk with a reputable real estate agent or consult with an appraiser before you remodel so you get a better idea of where your dollars might be best spent to maximize value and appeal. This step is often not considered, but if you’re spending tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, why not reach out to the real estate community before you break ground?

NOTE: Homes are not just about resale value. Owners should do what they want to their homes and enjoy them. But if you do plan on selling, maybe keep these things in mind.

I hope this was helpful.

Questions: Would you pay more for a Yoda statue in your front yard? What is Temptation #5 or Tip #5?

If you liked this post, subscribe by email (or RSS). Thanks for being here.

How can a 40K remodel only increase value by 20K?

Imagine you just finished up a sweet $40,000 kitchen remodel. The old cabinets from the 70s are gone, your green vinyl flooring has been replaced, and a thick granite slab and stainless steel appliances have trumped formica counters and crusty outdated appliances. You’re extremely happy, and also satisfied to have improved your property value by $40,000. That’s what you did, right? Not necessarily.

kitchen remodel - photo by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Why do appraisers not recognize the full cost? It can feel maddening to property owners when appraisers don’t include the full cost of a remodel in an appraisal report. But there is a reason why the total cost might now show up in the final value (assuming the appraiser did a good job of course). The key issue in the mind of an appraiser is how much buyers are willing to pay for the remodel. Or in appraiser lingo, what is the reaction in the market for the kitchen remodel? Through research and comparison to other properties in the neighborhood or market, appraisers find out how much a kitchen remodel is worth. For instance, if homes with an outdated kitchen are selling at $250,000, but homes with a similar kitchen remodel are selling at $270,000, then it’s clear the market is willing to pay $20,000 for the kitchen – despite the cost at $40,000. By the way, there is no universal figure or percentage for what buyers will pay for a kitchen remodel. The $20,000 I used is only an example.

Cost vs. Value: This scenario highlights that there can be a huge difference between cost and value. Cost is what we pay for something and value is what it’s worth. As much as we’d like to think these two are the same, that’s not always the case. It’s easy to see differences between cost and value when we consider things like extra square footage, built-in swimming pools or a very expensive remodel that definitely won’t see the cost recovered in the market because the house is now overbuilt. Experienced inventors know this phenomenon well too because they have to be very cautious about their numbers. They know an $80,000 remodel doesn’t necessarily add $80,000 in value to the acquisition price – especially if the initial purchase really wasn’t that good of a deal. That’s why the goal is to buy low enough to fit in the cost of improvements and profit. Ultimately no investor wants to make the wrong type of improvements or outspend the resale value.

If you’re concerned about resale value, it might be worth it to talk with an experienced Realtor or appraiser about your plans (before you remodel).

Questions: What do you think adds the most value to a home? What type of improvements would you recommend for home owners? Any stories to share if you’ve had your property recently appraised?

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook

Why do appraisers give such little value for square footage?

Why do appraisers sometimes give such little value to something as important as square footage? It’s crazy that an appraiser gave $10,000 in value for 300 square feet, right? Maybe you’ve felt this way about an appraisal on your home or for one of your listings. Give me a minute to help clear up some of the confusion by explaining how appraisers are supposed to come up with value adjustments for house size.

Example 1: A Typical Size Scenario

Real estate appraisers should be giving value to square footage according to how the market sees the square footage. What does that mean? While it may cost $40,000 for a 400 square foot addition, based on an analysis of comps in a neighborhood, the appraiser might determine properties with an extra 400 square feet sell for $20,000 more than houses without that space. This means the market in this particular neighborhood really only rewards $20,000 in value for the size difference. This example of course assumes there are no other factors to consider such as lot size, location, upgrades, room count, financing etc….

Example 2:  The McMansion Mega House

Imagine your house is 6,000 square feet in a neighborhood where the largest model is 4,000 square feet. Do you think the market is willing to pay 50% more for you house because it is 50% larger than the 4,000 square foot model? Probably not. There are situations where the market is actually willing to pay very little or nothing for the extra square footage because it’s considered an overimprovement (or “superadequacy” for the fancy term). This can be very upsetting for home owners and agents, but the appraiser is not being mean or ruthless, but only interpreting the market properly (hopefully).

This is important to understand for the following reasons:

  1. Cost vs. Value:  Appraisers do not give value to square footage based on construction costs, but rather the reaction in the marketplace to extra size. Think of it in terms of a kitchen remodel or pool. Just because a kitchen costs $75,000 to remodel does not automatically mean you’ll see $75,000 in value in the resale market. Or while a pool may cost $35,000, resale value will very unlikely include the total cost of the pool. Cost does not always equal value.
  2. Additions & Conversions:  An addition or garage conversion may not always put your house on par with other larger houses. There are many factors to consider when it comes to valuing an addition. It’s important also to know the neighborhood before planning a huge addition because you don’t want to overbuild for the neighborhood.
  3. The Largest House:  Larger houses tend to have an overall lower price per square foot than medium-sized houses, so applying a straight cost-per-sqare-foot for the neighborhood may not yield credible results for the largest house.
  4. Big New Construction Premiums:  If you buy a newly constructed mega-house like in Example 2, you will likely pay a big premium for the extra square footage during the sale, but you may not see this premium again when reselling.
  5. Real Estate Agents:  Agents who know the local market and how appraisers should look at square footage will be able to coach and resource home owners about the process and what to generally expect.
  6. Unique Neighborhoods:  Each market is different. There is no standard price adjustment for appraisers to make because buyers in one area may be willing to pay more or less for size compared to another neighborhood.

All things considered, it’s not always easy to swallow that a big difference in square footage does not always translate into big value. Let me make it clear too that just because I explained how an appraiser is supposed to give value for square footage does not mean that the appraiser actually did that.

Any insight, questions or commentary? In appraisal reports you’ve read, how much value do you see appraisers give for square footage? I’d love to hear your comments.

If you have any questions, or real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs in the Greater Sacramento Region, contact Lundquist Appraisal by phone 916-595-3735, email, Facebook or subscribe to posts by email.