Trends to watch in real estate in 2017

What’s the real estate market going to do this year? I thought it would be worthwhile to consider some of the emerging trends to watch in 2017 in Sacramento and beyond. What do you think? I’d love to hear your take in the comments.


1) Bubble conversations: This year we are going to have even more real estate “bubble” conversations. We’ll hear things like, “The bubble is going to pop in 2017”, or “Get ready for 2007 again”, or “It’s all going to crumble after this year.” As these conversations ensue, my advice is to sift through the headlines, pay close attention to actual data, know the limitations of your ability to predict the future, and be in tune with the way the seasonal market tends to behave so you can spot anything out-of-the-ordinary.

2) Creative lending: As interest rates presumably rise in coming time, it will make mortgages more expensive (duh). This won’t matter for some buyers because they have the money to afford the market, but others will need an extra edge to keep up with higher prices. This is where lenders can loosen up financing options so they continue to close deals and make as much money as possible (sounds healthy, right?). Keep in mind President-Elect Trump is talking about repealing Dodd-Frank too, and that could create waves in the market if it actually happened. 

values-in-real-estate-sacramento-appraisal-blog-image-purchased-and-used-with-permission-from-123rf3) Housing inventory remains low: There isn’t any quick fix for anemic housing inventory, so we can expect to see another year of low inventory unless something drastic happens causing sellers to list their homes. That brings me to share something I talked about last month. In a video John Wake talks about San Francisco values and how sellers tend to wait to list their homes when values are increasing. The thought is, why list now when values are going to be higher next year? But then when values do eventually turn there can be a flood of houses hit the market as a “race to the exit”. That’s something to keep in mind.

4) Marijuana: It can be polarizing to talk about marijuana, but it’s definitely a market force since it is now legal in California for recreational use. Over the next year many cities and counties will be fine-tuning rules for grow operations, so be on the lookout for details. By no means am I glorifying marijuana, but I will be talking about it in coming years because it’s a force bound to impact real estate values. 

5) Smart homes: With the advent of Amazon Echo and Google Home, consumers can now say things like, “Alexa, set the sprinklers for 7am tomorrow morning” or “Okay Google, turn the temperature to 68 degrees.” The huge popularity of these devices during the holiday season will only mean millions more households are now going to be making their homes more digitally connected.

finding-cheap-properties-image-purchased-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog-from-123rt-dot-com6) Disappearance of the $100,000 market: There is definitely upward value pressure on the lowest end of the price spectrum. Other price ranges last year were much more flat, but not so much with the lowest prices in town. This year in Sacramento we are going to very likely see the disappearance of the market under $100,000. Each month lately we’ve had maybe 6-12 sales under $100,000 for single family detached homes, and after the next few quarters I expect that number might be down to zero. We shall see though.

7) Home flipping courses: There will be no shortage of “learn to flip” courses coming to a city near you. Friends, be very cautious about paying anyone to teach you “secrets” you can probably get for free online. You can read my open letter to celebrity flippers for more thoughts.

8) Custom woodworking: I’ve been seeing more and more custom woodworking in homes. I don’t mean really high-end craftsmanship per se, but rather the cool DIY stuff you might see on Pinterest or a show like Fixer Upper. I’m seeing more wood walls, large wood slabs, custom exterior wood accents on the exterior, etc…. As a dabbling woodworker, this makes me smile.

9) More agents will enter the market: When values increase and positive real estate news saturates the market, it tends to compel people to enter the real estate profession. So last month’s headline that Sacramento will be one of the “hottest market in the nation” in 2017 very likely sealed the deal for a number of folks on the fence about getting into real estate. 

real-estate-contracts-multiple-offers-in-sacramento-appraisal-blog10) Multiple offers: We are likely to continue to see a climate of multiple offers in the Sacramento area. In a market like this I would advise sellers to be realistic about pricing their homes properly. What have similar homes actually sold for? What is similar and getting into contract right now? It’s easy to cherry-pick the highest non-similar sales in the neighborhood because “the market is hot”, but we have to remember similar homes are the “comps” appraisers are going to use (key point). At the end of the day appraisers have to support the value, so it may be best to be reasonable on the front end rather than run into all sorts of “appraisal issues” because the property got into contract too high. Remember, just because housing inventory is low does not mean you can command whatever price you want. That may have been more true in early 2013, but it’s not true right now.

11) The 2-4 unit market is heating up: These days in many areas it seems like the market is heating up with some surprisingly high prices again for 2-4 unit properties. Values were subdued for years after the housing crash, but news of increasing rents is certainly part of what’s helping drive 2-4 unit prices up. I’ve also observed some Bay Area buyers wanting to park money in Sacramento and overpay. Sometimes unrealistic cap rates are being used to justify value too (more on that in a few weeks maybe).

12) Appraisal waivers: Last month Fannie Mae rolled out an appraisal waiver program. They say this program is only for refinances, but it’s a pretty good guess we’re going to see some purchases waived too. On one hand this program can help offset slower turn-times by appraisers lately, but on the negative side of things it can lead to inflating values too. In short, let’s watch this closely and not forget important safeguards in real estate (like appraisers).

BONUS: This is a quick (well, 12 minutes) walk through what it looks like to see the seasonal trend in real estate and what it was like when values began to decline in 2005. With so much “bubble” talk these days, it’s critical to be able to cut through any hype, focus on data, and be able to spot seasonal trends (and non-seasonal trends). Watch below (or here):

I hope that was helpful or interesting.

Questions: What else do you think will be important in 2017? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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

Selfies, market hotness, & waiting to sell (and a Sacramento update)

Have you ever taken a selfie from a particular angle to make sure you look as good as possible? Be honest. Of course you have, and so have I. Well, housing stats can be just like selfies. It’s easy to pick the best angles (stats) to share while missing the real picture. Let’s keep this in mind as it’s tempting in real estate to gravitate toward “hot” headlines while missing the full story. Let’s kick around some ideas below and then take a deep look at the Sacramento market. Any thoughts?

56299814 - young pretty woman taking selfie outdoors - female winter fashion portrait - teenager student holding mobile phone for selfi photo next to brick wall background - soft and hazy vintage filtered look

1) Market hotness: It’s been blasted all over the news that Sacramento is going to be one of the hottest markets in the nation next year. The SacBee wrote about this a couple of weeks ago and I was actually quoted in the piece. In short, predicts we will see a 7% increase in value. The irony is price stats showed a 7% increase in 2015 and we’re on track to see something similar for 2016 in Sacramento. Thus I suppose could have just said “Sacramento will do what it’s done for two years in a row.” Zing. Remember, just because the median price went up 7% doesn’t mean actual values increased by that much. This is a huge point and we can talk about it in the comments if you wish.

2) Deciding to wait to sell: When sellers hear the market is “hot” or sense values are increasing, they sometimes wait to list their homes. Last week an agent told me an owner who was ready to get her property on the market called and said, “We’re going to wait because we just saw a story on TV that said the market is going to be the hottest in the nation next year.” On a related note I spoke with a client who is now concerned about his home increasing in value too much since he is going through a divorce. This reminds me of a video John Wake shared on Twitter. He was talking about San Francisco values and how sellers tend to wait to list their homes when values are increasing. The thought is, why list now when values are going to be higher next year? But then when values do eventually turn there can be a flood of houses hit the market as a “race to the exit”. Really good stuff from John.

3) VA appraisal fees just increased: If you haven’t heard, VA increased their appraisal fees from $450 to $600 in the Sacramento area. Unlike other loan programs, VA pays a standard fee for every appraisal. Just a heads-up.

4) Fannie Mae waiving appraisals: A few days ago Fannie Mae officially began a program to waive appraisals for certain refinances. In the background Fannie has been mining data from appraisal reports for the past two years for their Collateral Underwriter program, and with a database of millions of appraisals they can now eliminate the use of appraisals in some transactions. It’s like Fannie Mae in a small way is helping appraisers dig their own grave. I understand efficiency and how this makes reasonable sense for some transactions, but let’s not forget the very important role appraisers are supposed to play in a transaction.

Any thoughts?

skateboard-from-ryan-lundquist-sacramento-appraisal-blogSKATEBOARD GIVEAWAY: If you didn’t know, I love woodworking. Anyway, I made a skateboard and I’m giving it away in two days to someone local (or not local if you know we’re going to see each other soon). Keep it or re-gift it for Christmas. Leave a comment on Facebook if you want to enter the contest and I’ll pick a random name in two days (we don’t have to know each other).

—-—–—– And here’s my big monthly market update  ———–—–

big-monthly-market-update-post-sacramento-appraisal-blog-image-purchased-from-123rfTwo ways to read the BIG POST:

  1. Scan the talking points and graphs quickly.
  2. Grab a cup of coffee and spend time digesting what is here.

DOWNLOAD 71 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file. Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

NEW: I created a one-page market sheet to print and keep handy when talking about real estate. I’ll keep it around if it seems relevant (not sure yet). Is this a step in the right direction? Download here.

Quick Market Summary:

The market normally softens each year in the fall and we are definitely seeing that right now, but this fall isn’t as dull as some of the seasons we’ve seen in the past. Yes, it took 4 days longer to sell a home compared to the previous month and prices are down from the summer, but sales volume was up a whopping 18% in the region last month. If you didn’t know, sales volume has actually been higher for four months in a row in the Sacramento region. On the other hand, one of the big issues that just won’t go away is housing inventory is anemic as it’s about 20% lower than it was the same time last year. Of equal importance is interest rates have been ticking up, so buyers are anxious to get their rates locked and their appraisals in on time. As rates presumably rise more next year it will naturally soften values because higher rates take away purchasing power from buyers. Yet the big question is whether lenders will get more creative with financing to help buyers artificially afford higher prices. This reminds us how much power lenders have right now to direct the market.

Check out specific stats and graphs below for Sacramento County, the Sacramento Region, & Placer County.

Sacramento County:

  1. The median price is the same as it was in August 2007.
  2. Housing inventory is 22% lower than the same time last year (there is only a 1.36 month housing supply).
  3. Sales volume was 17% higher this November compared to November 2015 (up 2.5% for the year).
  4. There were only 36 short sales and 34 REOs in the county last month.
  5. It took 3 days longer to sell a house last month compared to the previous month (one year ago it was taking 3 days longer to sell).
  6. FHA sales volume is down 6% this year compared to 2015 (24.4% of all sales were FHA last month).
  7. Cash sales are down 11% this year (they were 11% of all sales last month).
  8. The median price is $325,000 and is down 2% from the height of summer, up 1.5% from last month, and 12% higher than last year.
  9. The average price per sq ft was $202 last month (down 1% from a few months ago, but 7% higher than last year).
  10. The average sales price at $349,659 is down about 2% from the height of summer (but is 8% higher than last year).

Some of my Favorite Graphs this Month:


sales-volume-in-sacramento-county-since-2012 inventory-in-sacramento-county-since-2013-part-2-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

inventory-november-2016-by-home-appraiser-blog cdom-in-sacramento-county-by-sacramento-regional-appraisal-blog





  1. Housing inventory is 26% lower than the same time last year.
  2. It took 4 days longer to sell compared to the previous month (but 4 less days compared to November 2015).
  3. Sales volume was 18% higher this November compared to November 2015.
  4. FHA sales volume is down 6% this year compared to last year.
  5. Cash sales are down 8% this year compared to last year.
  6. REOs were 2% and short sales were 2.1% of all sales last month.
  7. The median price was $355,000 in November. It went down slightly from October but is down 3.5% from the height of summer (up 8% from last year).
  8. The average price per sq ft was $208.6 last month. That’s down about 1% from the height of summer and 8% higher than last year.
  9. Cash sales were 13.3% of all sales last month (FHA sales were 22%).
  10. The average sales price was $392,500 in November. It’s down about 3.5% from the height of summer but 8% higher than last year.

Some of my Favorite Regional Graphs:









  1. The median price was $438,000 last month (highest point of year, but take that with a grain of salt).
  2. The average price per sq ft was $213 last month (down very slightly from the height of summer and up 6% higher than last year).
  3. It took 41 days to sell last month (same as previous month but 6 days less than one year ago).
  4. Sales volume was about 3% lower this October compared to October 2015.
  5. FHA sales volume is down 16% this year compared to last year.
  6. Cash sales were 17% of all sales last month (FHA sales were 13%).
  7. Cash sales are down 3.6% this year compared to last year.
  8. Housing inventory is 13% lower than the same time last year.
  9. Both REOs and short sales were each 1% of sales last month.
  10. The average sales price was $481,000 and is 8.5% higher than last year.

Some of my Favorite Placer County Graphs:







DOWNLOAD 71 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file. Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Questions: Did I miss anything? What are you seeing out there? How would you describe the market? I’d love to hear your take.

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

Why a property’s previous sale can really matter for an appraisal

Paying close attention to a property’s previous sale can be a big deal. I know it’s tempting to say value is all about the current market, but sometimes looking at the past can help us understand the present. Here are some reasons why I pay attention to previous sales. Any thoughts?

previous sales matter to appraisers - sacramento appraisal blog

5 things to consider about a property’s previous sale:

  1. Requirement to Explain: If you didn’t know, appraisers are required by USPAP (our uniform standards) to analyze and report the past 36 months of sales or transfers of the subject property. Thus analyzing a prior sale can be a normal and even mandatory part of the appraisal process.
  2. Context: A previous sale can sometimes give tremendous insight into how the market responded to the subject property. This is especially true if a property is unique or funky. What did the subject property compare to at the time of its previous sale? How did it fit within the market? Digging deeply into neighborhood sales can help us answer these questions and maybe even influence the comps we choose for today’s value.
  3. Clues into Adjustments: A prior sale can give clues into how much we might need to adjust for certain aspects of the property. For instance, if the subject is located on a busy street, a previous sale might help us see if that was a big deal or not compared to other neighborhood sales. Or maybe the subject property has a very large lot for the neighborhood, and prior sales can help us gauge how much of a premium there was if any. Or imagine a house is twice as large as anything else in the neighborhood. Let’s find some current comps of course, but let’s also look to the past too. Can we maybe glean some value context by seeing what buyers were actually willing to pay for this beastly home in the past? Maybe so.
  4. Comp #4: Appraisers can use the subject property as a comparable sale in reports. Not that appraisers need permission, but according to Fannie Mae, “The subject property can be used as a fourth comparable sale or as supporting data if it was previously closed” (B4-1.3-08). I’ve done this on occasion when a property is unique and data is limited. After all, what is more comparable than the subject property itself?
  5. Past vs. Present: If there was a previous sale in the past, we can probably milk it for some perspective, but let’s remember we ultimately have to let the current market speak to us instead of imposing the past on the present. After all, the market might be different today due to a change in zoning, change in buyer demand, gentrification, etc… It’s worth noting too sometimes sales in the past simply sold for way too much or way too little.

Example: Here is a graph I made for an appraisal I did recently that was going to court. The subject sold three times in the past at a mid-range of the competitive market. Does the history of sales help build credibility for why I reconciled the value to the middle range? I think so.

context for value with graphing - by sacramento appraisal blog

Tip for Agents & Owners: If something has changed about the property since the previous sale, be very intentional about talking with the appraiser about the change (please use my Info Sheet for Appraisers). Also, I recommend opening up discussion about the nature of the prior sale so the appraiser can have more information and maybe make a judgment call about the sale (especially if the property sold too high or too low for some reason).

I hope that was helpful.

Questions: How do you use previous sales when you value properties? What is #6? Did I leave something out? I’d love to hear your take.

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

How do appraisers deal with cracks?

Is it going to be an appraisal problem if there are cracks in a home’s foundation or walls? I saw the crack below in a home in Sacramento, and stuck a pen in the wall to show how big it was. What do you think? No biggie or big deal? I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

cracks in walls in appraisal - sacramento appraisal blog

Here are a few things to consider about cracks:

  1. Cracks are Common: Buyers buy homes all the time with cracks – especially on the exterior when there is stucco. Cracks are a bit like wrinkles in that they are inevitable at some point as a home ages. Yet sometimes we see a crack like the image above and think, “Yikes, what is going on?”
  2. Cracks are Subjective: Some cracks might be deemed “normal” by an appraiser because nearly every house in the neighborhood has cracks as such. I know it sounds a bit subjective to talk like this, but after seeing thousands of homes in an area, appraisers have to consider what normal looks like. Yet other times cracks might indicate something is clearly not right. So will the appraiser call for repairs? Well, there really isn’t a one size fits all answer because not all cracks are created equally.
  3. Fannie Mae Structural Integrity: If you didn’t know, Fannie Mae’s appraisal form asks appraisers to state whether there are any adverse conditions or physical deficiencies that impact the livability, soundness, or structural integrity of the property. Side note: Is it just me, or is it a bit odd that Fannie Mae asks appraisers to verify something like this? Anyway, appraisers either select YES or NO to this question in their appraisal reports. This means if an appraiser observes a crack that looks beyond what might be “normal”, the appraiser will describe the issue, include photographs, and possibly call for repairs or further investigation by the client. If an appraiser essentially believes there could be a problem, it’s prudent and professional for the appraiser to bring the issue up rather than ignore it.
  4. Qualified Professionals: Lenders sometimes ask appraisers to state that cracks are normal or okay, but since appraisers aren’t crack specialists they need to outsource making that call to someone else – a qualified professional. I do this from time to time in lender reports when I see an iffy crack. I don’t know if there’s an issue or not, but if a crack looks suspicious or too big, I’d rather not guess that things are okay. So I make the value subject to further inspection to make sure things are alright. I don’t do this for every single crack I meet because then I’d be asking for an inspection on virtually every single property. It’s really only when something looks out-of-the-ordinary (or there is a clear trip hazard for FHA). What type of professional should look into the situation? As an appraiser I simply say “qualified professional” and let the client decide. Often times a lender will send out a structural engineer or some other individual they deem qualified, and I can then include that person’s written professional opinion in the appraisal if needed. Keep in mind this is important because a lender will want to be sure there are no structural issues before lending on a property. However, during a cash transaction or private appraisal, an appraiser might not have access to a “qualified professional’s” opinion. Thus the appraiser will render a value, but make assumptions and disclaimers about the cracks – and reserve the right to adapt the opinion of value based on new information. Lastly, in other cases an appraiser might have a documented cost-to-cure from a qualified professional. In a case like this an appraiser would entertain what sort of value impact exists for the repairs so the appraiser can render an “as is” value.

I hope that was helpful. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear your take.

Class I’m Teaching: By the way, I’m teaching a class called How to Think Like an Appraiser at the Sacramento Association of Realtors on March 10 from 9-12pm. This is my favorite class to teach because we set aside a few hours to really tackle issues and get valuation training. You can register here if interested. Thanks.

how to think like an appraiser class - sacramento appraisal blog

Questions: Any stories, insight, or ideas to share? Did I miss anything? What is point #5?

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