Some random things I’ve seen in real estate lately

One of the great things about being an appraiser is coming across so many random things while inspecting houses. Here are a few gems I’ve seen recently. Enjoy

NFL on the wall - RG3 - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

NFL Decor: If you’re looking for some ideas for Fall decorating, stop looking at Pinterest and start checking out NFL decals you can put in your Living Room. I saw this gem recently. I’m not too sure this would fly in my house.

built-in trampoline in ground - by sacramento appraisal blog

Built-in Trampoline: I don’t see many of these – especially when they are surrounded by concrete. On one hand I think it’s great, but on the other hand it could end badly for kids when they’re projected to the concrete. An alternative use in my mind could be a giant fire pit. Can you think of any other uses if the trampoline was not there?

american flag painted in neighborhood on wall - by sacramento appraisal blog

Neighborhood Patriotism: I saw this the other day at the end of a tract that separates two neighborhoods. It’s nice to see some patriotism on display. On another note, the shutdown has ended. What a relief!

Kitchen that was remodeled that needs to be remodeled again - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

It’s a “Newer” Kitchen: This is not a very exciting photo, but I think it says something about real estate. This is a standard kitchen that was updated in the late 1980s. This house is located in a classic area of Sacramento where most homes were built in the 1940s or so. Does this kitchen get an extra value boost for being newer in age? Well, the kitchen is larger in size than other original ones in the neighborhood and it does have some nice vaulted ceilings too. But the reality is this “newer” kitchen needs modernization again. Most buyers would walk in the house and think, “I need to redo this kitchen”, so it is not really much of an asset.

View into bathroom window from next door - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Meet the Neighbors: I’m always surprised that builders put houses right next to each other with a direct view into the bathroom. Yikes, I didn’t need to see that!! This doesn’t usually show up in older style neighborhoods, but part of the issue with newer houses is the lots are smaller and the houses are so much bigger, which makes this an unfortunate byproduct (I still think builders can plan better though). I saw this recently in a house undergoing construction in Elk Grove.

external obsolescence - sacramento appraisal blog

A Train in the Backyard: I posted this on my Facebook page recently. Would it bother you to live near train tracks? Would the potential positive of backing to open space be negated by the sound of trains passing by? Whenever I appraise homes with external obsolescence like this, I snap a photo of the tracks or the trains passing by if possible.

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your take on one of the photos above.

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The influence of external factors on property value

There are so many ways to increase property value, but at the same time there are certain things outside a homeowner’s control that will plain and simply be a negative for value.

What is external obsolescence and why does it matter for property value? External obsolescence is a factor that reduces the value of an improvement because of something external to the property itself. It’s not about whether the house is outdated or not, but rather something outside of the home that is causing a lower value. It’s usually something that cannot be cured.

View of freeway: photo by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Five Examples of External Obsolescence

  1. Busy Road:  This is a very common example of external obsolescence because we can see it in virtually every community to some extent. Homes on busy corners, on main streets or near freeways suffer from extra noise and traffic, both of which are not friendly to higher values.
  2. Commercial buildings:  Residential and commercial uses tend to not mix well in suburban areas. It’s usually a negative factor when houses are located next to restaurants, retail, gas stations, etc…
  3. Construction of a landfill next to a neighborhood: This can impact the entire neighborhood (not just one house) due to the smell or even the noise of large garbage trucks moving in and out.
  4. Apartments: Being located next to an apartment building is almost always less desirable for buyers. Or construction of low-income apartments can be a touchy subject for a higher-income neighborhood, and something that can impact property value too.
  5. High-Voltage Towers: A view of nearby power towers usually results in a hit to property value. Check out some pictures in a previous post, “High voltage towers and property value.”

I shot this 30-second clip about two years ago on an appraisal inspection. Do you hear any external obsolescence? Watch here or below.

External obsolescence reminds us when we buy a home, we buy the neighborhood too. Owning property is not just about what is inside a set of parcel lines because so many factors outside of a property can impact value (and quality of life).

Questions: Can you think of any other examples of external obsolescence? How has external obsolescence impacted your real estate decisions? What other factors outside of property can influence value? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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

The impact of barking dogs on property value

Have you ever lived next door to a house with barking dogs? I’m not talking about a little “yap” or “ruff” here and there, but continual incessant barking during the day or night. If so, you know how too much barking can destroy peace in a community, divide neighbors and ultimately impact the qualify of life in a neighborhood. I asked nearly a dozen experienced Sacramento area Realtors for their thoughts on how barking effects the process of buying and selling. Here is what they said.

Shau-hei - my brother's dog

NOTE: This is not an anti-dog or anti-animal post. I love animals and they should never be mistreated – even in situations where there has been constant barking.

Brian McMartin - RealtorBrian McMartin – Realtor: Clients react differently depending on the dog and the bark. If it is a dog that yips once in a while, most clients are ok with this. If the dogs barks incessantly while showing the home/yard, clients become concerned about their privacy and it can be a big turn-off. If the dog appears aggressive, most clients will ask to leave. From a listing agent perspective and having dogs in the listing you are trying to market, this needs to be addressed with the sellers. Animals (especially dogs) need to be addressed since dogs impact the showing of a home. Despite the size of the dog, clients become very nervous around dogs and it impacts their overall impression of the home. Additionally, if the home smells at all like any animal, this is a huge turn-off for prospective buyers and will affect the desirability of the home. Best case scenario – I ask the sellers to kennel the dogs or put the dogs with a friend and get them out of the home. Even if you have to mention in the MLS “need to get dogs out of home”,  some agents will not show or go to the trouble of this and will ultimately affect the amount your home will be shown.

Angela Jones - RealtorAngela Jones – Realtor: I can tell you from years of selling homes, anytime there is a barking dog my heart just sinks (especially if this is “the perfect” house for my client!). It is definitely a negative from the initial “bark” as you know this will impact your client’s backyard quality time even if they are dog lovers. If the house is one they want to make an offer on I will make sure they will be ok with the dog next door. If they decide to go forward I will make sure I note that there is a dog next door and it barked when I was doing my inspection on my AVID (Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure). All parties to the transaction sign my AVID including the listing agent, so there should be no surprises or lawsuits.  🙂

I definitely think barking dogs can impact property value and depending on the market (right now it is a seller’s market) there may or may not be an opportunity to place a “true value” of this negative impact. The flip side of this is what if the house next door doesn’t have a dog until after a week or a month or a year after you buy? There is no guarantee of the issue of the barking dog at that point. You can’t control this from happening, but if you develop a good relationship with your surrounding neighbors, you might be able to address it with your neighbor without a huge problem!

Kellie Swayne RealtorKellie Swayne – Realtor: I can’t say that I’ve worked with a buyer who has offered less on a property because of noisy neighborhood dogs. However, barking dogs in the neighborhood have certainly deterred some of my buyer clients from submitting offers on a house. Many buyers I work with have pets that are considered an important part of their family. And, as such, are taken into consideration when purchasing a home. When a neighbor has a barking dog or one that does not take kindly to people (or pets) in the adjoining backyard, many times my clients will shy away from the house altogether. On the other hand, friendly neighbors and their pets are often a welcome attribute to a new neighborhood for potential buyers. While I’m not sure that barking dogs will have a direct impact on the value of a home (though, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have some statistics somewhere to the contrary!), they do, in my opinion, influence a prospective homebuyer’s view of the house and of the neighborhood.

Heather Ostrom - Realtor and Marketing GalHeather Ostrom – Realtor: When a prospective buyer hears the barking, it’s not always a matter of reducing price, it’s often losing a buyer altogether. Nobody wants to walk into that noise or feel like a prisoner to how they can or would enjoy their outdoor living space. Plus who wants to be the person that approaches and has to confront someone about the noise or anonymously report someone’s furry friend and fight that battle for possibly years and years if you’re a home owner (or even renter)? It’s often a sore subject with said “dog owner” and I have to believe, some folks become numb to the noise until it’s brought to their attention – based on experience. When confronting a dog owner with a barker, you either 1. run into someone who wants to help fix the noise, 2. come to compromise or 3. you are met with full on aggression for the perceived personal attack.

Doug Reynolds - RealtorDoug Reynolds – Realtor: I recently showed a vacant house that was for sale. My buyer clients were saying many positive things about the floor plan, the condition of the home and the location as we were walking through the house. As is normal when looking at a home, we went into the backyard last. As soon as we opened the sliding glass door, two dogs from the neighboring house behind started barking uncontrollably and jumping up against the fence. The buyers, who were discussing an offer inside the house a few moments before, turned to me and said “Ok, onto the next house. This will never work for us.” I kept an eye on the house for a few weeks after that. It eventually ended up selling but for a little less than I would have expected, and it took a little longer than is normal in this current market. I think the barking dogs caused the sellers to have a more difficult sale and eventually take a little bit less money than the comparable homes in the neighborhood.

Erin Stumpf AttardiErin Stumpf Attardi – Realtor: I think barking dogs of any shape or size at a neighboring property can definitely impact the desirability of a house. Most homeowners would like to be able to enjoy activities like entertain guests in the backyard, relax and read, garden, swim, or barbecue without the constant disruption and annoyance of a loud dog. Most of my buyer clients think of this immediately if we are touring the yard of a property and are greeted with a yappy or snarling dog. Some buyers will find this behavior forgivable if the dog stops barking after a minute or two, however if the noise persists during most of the showing…many buyers will generally pass on purchasing the property, especially if they have pets of their own that potentially will aggravate the neighboring ones. Does this have a negative effect on value? In a balanced market with normal inventory levels, I think yes – since the seller will likely have to reduce the price of the house to entice a buyer to purchase it. In today’s market, I think more buyers will be willing to overlook a barking dog just for the sake of getting into a house, and perhaps turn to alternative methods of quieting the dog — perhaps it’s a good opportunity to introduce yourself to the new neighbors.

Lynn Vockrodt - RealtorLynn Vockrodt – Realtor: A barking dog usually doesn’t interfere with our buyers choice if they love the home. Buyers know that they can complain to the county if the dog barks continuously or at night. I have never had a buyer come back to me with this complaint. After making these comments I will probably have an issue next week which may make me eat my words.  🙂

Gena Riede RealtorGena Riede – Realtor: Being an animal lover, I must say that most of the time what I say to potential buyers when there are dogs barking in a neighborhood, is that first off their reaction to not buy a house based on that fact alone should be carefully weighed by a few factors. 1) How long will the dog live & remain an issue? 2) Will that neighbor move away resolving the problem? 3) Ability to report the nuisance to proper authorities for resolution. 4) The old fashion way of communicating directly with the neighbor to correct the issue.

So far in my real estate practice this has not had a negative impact on the purchase of a property. Barking dogs while selling a house also has not been an issue. If it ever was an issue, I would have no problem in approaching the homeowner or renter requesting their cooperation. I did have an incident where a past client bought a house & the property next door was sold to an investor who rented the house. The renters had a pit bull who charged the good neighbor fence, in need of repair, scaring my past client & making him feel uncomfortable in his own backyard. When contacting the police department my client was told that unless the dog was physically in his backyard, there was nothing the police could do. This issue was resolved by contacting the landlord who was unaware of the tenant’s dog & saw the liability this posed.

Jeff Grenz - RealtorJeff Grenz – Realtor: I was a part of a short sale “team” in 2010. We had a listing in a very affordable section of Granite Bay by Greenhills Elementary. Great home,  great location, under $200,000 and we accepted a contract in a few weeks. Then summer came and the warmer temperatures raised an issue that wasn’t an obvious AVID (Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure) problem in the cooler weather. The next door neighbor’s dogs did not have a barking problem, but a “parking” problem. The subject home used an RV sized side yard as its main entertainment patio, as the kitchen and dining area opened onto a large concrete patio. It was perfect except in the heat of summer, the dogs “parking” history next door could be easily detected via nose. Short sale approvals took awhile to process in 2010, so this one bounced in and out of ASC (active short sale contingent) status a few more times and into the summer of 2011, where again, the problem, um, reheated. Ultimately, the lender didn’t want to recognize a discount associated with the problem and decided the owner might stay if their payments were less.

Tamara Dorris - RealtorTamara Dorris – Realtor: I think most Realtors will agree that when we are showing a house and there is a barking dog next door, we wish it would be quiet. I’ve had prospective buyers of a property actually mention how annoying the barking dog was, however, I’m not sure it would keep someone from buying a house. In fact, I recently sold a home in El Dorado Hills that I was sure they wouldn’t buy because there was a small dog with an incessant yipping next door. The buyers were specifically looking for a home in the hills where they could hang out in the backyard and enjoy the view, so that annoying barking was off-putting. They did end up buying it, but, I think that given two houses that met all their other criteria, and one did NOT have the dog, that one would have won. Bottom line: part of being a responsible pet owner is to be respectful to your neighbors. When my dogs start barking in the backyard, I bring them in or scold them. Why should my neighbors have their enjoyment hampered by my dogs? (and visa versa).

Steve Ostrom - RealtorSteve Ostrom – Realtor: Here are the stories we have experienced and/or been told by our clients for reasons for frustration and/or an actual move. We have had a few homeowners move to the Roseville area to get away from barking dogs. I think it was more of a motivation to improve the quality of life and not an effect on property values. We once had a buyer from the Bay Area move due to a neighbor trying to poison their dog. Another buyer from Twitter, a few years ago now, that was in full battle with a neighbor due to the neighbor being unwilling to manage their dog’s barking. We have had sellers ask their neighbors to quiet their dogs or do their best to manage. Still should be a disclosure unless the issue of dog barking is fully resolved.

Summary: In short, dogs can be wonderful for neighborhoods because they’re companions, conversation magnets and parcel protectors. However, a “man’s best friend” isn’t always a neighbor’s best friend if there is out-of-control barking going on. Barking is not a selling point, so you’ll never see comments in MLS saying, “Classic neighborhood with a pool-sized yard, separate Living & Family Rooms, and um, the dogs next door bark all night long.” Ultimately if there is a big-time barking issue, and it really does negatively influence property value, it should work itself out on the front end of a sale with buyers being turned-off or making lower offers (as opposed to the appraiser bringing objective “dog market data” to make a negative adjustment in the appraisal report for “canine external obsolescence”).

Questions: Do you have any barking stories to share? How do you think continuous barking impacts the quality of neighborhood life or property value? What is the solution to stopping a barking problem? Do dog owners just not hear their dogs or do they not care? What’s the deal there?

If you have any questions or Sacramento area real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs, contact me by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email or “like” my page on Facebook

High voltage towers and property value

Would it bother you to live next to a high voltage tower? I snapped these photos recently while in a neighborhood in the Sacramento area. You can see these towers are very close to the houses (within 100 feet easily in some cases). While someone selling the property might be tempted to say the house “backs to open space”, the view is clearly obstructed and dominated by the presence of the tower, so any “open space” premium is likely watered-down a bit, right? In appraisal terminology, we’re dealing with external obsolescence, which is a reduction in value caused by an undesirable factor outside the property.

How have you seen buyers respond to a location near a power tower? What do you think is the main turn-off in the minds of buyers? Visual pollution or a potential for health risks due to electromagnetic fields?

Photo of high voltage tower by Sacramento Appraiser

Photo of high voltage tower by Sacramento Appraiser

Photo of high voltage tower by Sacramento Appraiser

Photo of high voltage tower by Sacramento Appraiser

If you have any questions or Sacramento area real estate appraisal or property tax appeal needs, contact me by phone 916-595-3735, email, Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to posts by email.