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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How to challenge a low appraisal (and tips for agents and appraisers)

The appraisal came in low. Those are five very stressful words during a real estate transaction, right? We hear these words every now and then, but when a market begins to change in the spring especially, it seems like we hear them more. So what can be done when this happens? What is the best way to communicate with the appraiser? What are some things to do and not do? Let’s talk about what it can look like to work through this issue. I’ve included a template you can download to your desktop, but I’ve also included some communication tips. The goal here is not only to give a useful rebuttal format, but to spark conversation between agents and appraisers (see tips below).

I’d love to hear your take and insight in the comments.

Image purchased by 123rf dot com and used with permission by sacramento appraisal blog - target value

DOWNLOAD this format HERE as a Word document. I created this format to help foster better communication with appraisers and focus on the right issues when challenging an appraisal. You might notice the diplomatic tone and logical flow too. Use this format as a template to fill in the blanks for a specific property.

appraisal rebuttal format to use - sacramento appraisal blog

Example of the template filled out:

appraisal rebuttal example - by sacramento appraisal blog

DOWNLOAD this format HERE as a Word document. Use it as a template to fill in the blanks for a specific property.

TIPS FOR AGENTS:

  1. Be Reasonable: Be realistic about what a property is worth. Try to help the owner base the list price on actual similar sales and whatever the current market is doing in the neighborhood for similar properties.
  2. Communicate First: Sometimes real estate agents have a very hands-off approach about communicating with appraisers (until an appraisal comes in too low of course). When that happens, agents will often start communicating all sorts of things about the property and how the market responded to it. But why was this information not shared in the first place? If you aren’t using my “Appraiser Info Sheet“, please consider doing so because it helps you be intentional about answering questions appraisers tend to ask (before they ask). Remember, it’s easier to be proactive before the appraisal is finished rather than reactive afterward.
  3. Ask the Lender: Before launching into a rebuttal, first make sure to ask the lender what their process is for challenging an appraisal so you know you are spending your time wisely. They might have their own form. Remember, a reconsideration of value has to come to the appraiser from the lender.
  4. Wear your Data Hat: It can be emotional when a property appraises too low, so it’s important to remain objective and stick to the facts of the market when talking with appraisers. Focus on critiquing the meat of the appraisal, which is comp selection and adjustments given (or not given). Forget about minor issues or clerical errors that don’t really sway value.
  5. Price Per Sq Ft: I recommend giving most of your attention to similar sales rather than bringing up price per sq ft. At the end of the day price per sq ft can be a valuable metric, but during an appraisal rebuttal it’s important to focus on sales that are similar since that is probably what is going to be most useful for the appraiser.
  6. Be Humble: It’s easy to blast the appraiser because you think you’re right, but the appraiser might have nailed the value. Remember, some appraisals come in low because the appraiser did a bad job, but many times properties come in lower than the contract price because that’s really where value is.
  7. Novel: There is a better chance of being heard if you keep it short. Don’t write a novel (and it helps if you’re diplomatic and nice). This is why the format above is useful because it helps organize thoughts into a logical manner.
  8. No pressure: Remember to not pressure for a higher value (Dodd-Frank). Stick with the facts and try to help the market speak for itself. That’s the value of the sheet above because it helps focus the conversation on comps and adjustments. You are asking the appraiser to reconsider the value, not meet your contract price. In fact, don’t even suggest a target value for the appraiser to meet. With some focused communication, you can provide support for a higher value without saying, “it’s worth at least X amount”.

TIPS FOR APPRAISERS:

  1. Seasonal Market: When the market changes, the most recent sales may not yet reflect the change. This means if we use older sales, we might essentially undervalue or overvalue a property unless we give an adjustment for the way the market has changed. The most recent sales probably got into contract 30 to 60 days ago, which means they reflect the market at the time. This means we need to weigh carefully if we ought to be giving a “Date of Sale” adjustment to help sales conform to current trends.
  2. Correct Mistakes: I know some appraisers never budge on changing the value. I get that. Nobody wants to have different versions of a report out there. I’m not an E&O company, but if the value is wrong due to our mistakes, isn’t our professional duty to get it right? It’s okay to change the value in the report, and if you need to do that, I would recommend writing in the addendum what changes were made and why they were made. This happens to the best of us. Nobody nails value perfectly all the time.
  3. Professionalism: The market is complex and there is something humbling about putting a value on something. This ought to bring a sense of awe and evoke a deep respect for the way value works in a neighborhood. In other words, since it’s not always easy to interpret value, we ought to be careful to not be arrogant. Let’s rather find ways to reek of humility and professionalism.
  4. Use the Info Sheet: If you think it would be useful, feel free to use my Appraiser Info Sheet document to help train local agents in your area to give you the type of information that is valuable to you during a transaction (this makes for a great office presentation too). Many times agents are doing their best to give appraisers what they think is useful, but it’s actually not helpful at all. This is why appraisers can help educate agents on what type of information they are really looking for. I have a set of questions I always ask a listing agent, so this is exactly why I created the info sheet. Feel free to download the sheet and use it in your market. In fact, make it better. If you end up posting the document on your blog or online, please give me a link back to honor the original source (I’ll do the same for stuff you create).
  5. Be Neutral: There is often pressure to “hit the number” or make the deal work, but appraisers aren’t escrow helpers or deal-enablers. This point really could have been placed above for agents, but it’s always a good reminder for us appraisers too. If value isn’t there, it’s not there, and everyone else needs to be okay with that. Recently a file on my desk ended up appraising 4% below the contract price. In this case the seller was asking way too much in hopes of netting more money to buy a larger house. My job wasn’t to meet the contract price, but to be a neutral party to the transaction.

I hope this was helpful.

SacBee Article: By the way, I have some cool news to share. I’ll be writing a bi-monthly column in the weekend real estate section of The Sacramento Bee. My first article was published last weekend. I’m honored and excited for the opportunity. Now I just need to find more time to write.  🙂

ryan lundquist SacBee real estate article

Questions: Anything else to add? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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3 ways price per sq ft is valuable in real estate (even for appraisers)

My name is Ryan and I use price per sq ft in real estate. There it is. My confession. Are you surprised? I know you’ve heard me talk about how price per sq ft is one of the most abused metrics out there. I still believe that. Yet there are several ways price per sq ft is actually valuable and useful for real estate professionals (even appraisers). So let’s kick around some ideas together below. I’d love to hear your take in the comments. Any thoughts?

price per sq ft value in real estate - image purchased and used with permission by sacramento appraisal blog

1) Price Per Sq Ft Helps Us See the Entire Market: What have buyers been willing to pay in a neighborhood? It’s valuable to see the price per sq ft spectrum to help answer this question. What is the high, the low, and the average? I ran a CMA of sales over the past 90 days in the Mather neighborhood in Sacramento County (a tract subdivision), and the price per sq ft range is $112 to $206.

Mather all sales past 90 days - sacramento appraisal blog

2) Price Per Sq Ft Helps Us See The Competitive Market: Imagine we’re valuing a home that is 1569 sq ft. The question becomes, where does the 1569 model fall on the price per sq ft spectrum that we see above? After running a CMA for model match sales, the price per sq ft range is $184 to $193. That’s a much more narrow range compared to the overall neighborhood, right? Ideally it would be nice to have many more sales, but that doesn’t always happen as we know. This is why sometimes it might be best to look at more than just 90 days of sales and obviously expand the square footage range to maybe 1400 to 1800 or so. Whatever you do, just make sure you have enough data to produce meaningful results.

1569 model in mather - price per sq ft - sacramento appraisal blog

3) Price Per Sq Ft Helps us Talk to Clients About the Market: Some clients are so stuck on price per sq ft that they struggle to think about real estate in any other terms. Here’s how it usually goes. A home owner sees a figure of $206 from a different sale in the neighborhood, fixates on that number, and then expects a value for his own property based on that number (even though no similar sales have commanded a price per sq ft close to $206). After talking through Points 1 & 2, hopefully the client can understand that hijacking a random price per sq ft from the neighborhood isn’t a good valuation methodology. Lastly, it’s critical to actually completely set aside price per sq ft and ask two questions: What have similar properties actually sold for? (sales price) & What are similar listings actually getting into contract for?

price per sq ft in real estate - image purchased and used with permission by sacramento appraisal blog

Application:

  1. Real Estate Agents: Be sure to study the price per sq ft spectrum for the entire neighborhood AND competitive properties in the neighborhood. But make sure you spend a good amount of time finding similar sales and listings. Sometimes agents say to appraisers, “I used a price per sq ft of $215 to price the property”. Okay, but where did you get $215 from? Why not $208, $214, or $225? Remember, appraisers like myself can find value in using price per sq ft to see the context of the market, but at the end of the day we are fishing for comparable sales to tell us what the market has been willing to pay for something similar. So when you communicate with appraisers, I recommend talking about actual sales you used to price the property rather than price per sq ft figures. This helps you speak the language appraisers use, and your initial research with price per sq ft vs. actual sales might even help convince sellers to not get hung up on a list price that is far too high (based on a hijacked price per sq ft).
  2. Appraisers: Sometimes appraisers mock price per sq ft and treat it like a meaningless metric, but there is actually some real value in using it. Not only can we get a more detailed sense of the market, but we can also communicate well with clients. Consider paying close attention to competitive price per sq ft figures (I know, this may not work in rural markets). If you are coming in lower or higher than the competitive range in the neighborhood, just be sure you know why and can explain why. Also, consider using price per sq ft figures in your final reconciliation. For instance, along with statements about comps, I regularly find myself saying things like: “The final value is also supported by trend graphs as well as competitive price per sq ft figures in the neighborhood.”

I hope this was helpful.

reaa-north-bayClass I’m Teaching Next Week: By the way, I’m teaching a class next week in the North Bay to a group of appraisers. It’s called How to Tell the Story of Value in Appraisal Reports (good for 2 hours CE). Come on by if it’s relevant.

Questions: How do you use price per sq ft in real estate? Anything else you’d add to the points above? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your take.

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A “cheat sheet” for agents of information to provide to the appraiser

I recently appraised a custom home, and when the order came through the property looked overpriced. I thought, “Yep, I’m going to look like the bad guy when this one appraises too ‘low'”. However, after doing all my research AND asking all the right questions to the listing agent, this property was clearly worth slightly more than the contract price. Ultimately I left the transaction feeling a bit curious why the agent did not offer more information about the property until I asked. At the end of the day her insight was actually vital since I found out there was a back-up cash offer above asking, one other full-priced conventional offer, and another listing coming on the market priced at a similar level – not to mention the feedback on the layout, landscaping, and location. The agent spent so much time, effort, and money to market this listing, but when it came to communicating with the appraiser, her approach was hands-off.

A “cheat sheet” to communicate with appraisers: What if you had a document on your desktop to simply address some of the questions appraisers tend to ask? You could quickly fill it out, and then email it or give it to the appraiser in person. Check out the document below, and you can download in WORD or a PDF.

information to give to the appraiser

This document addresses how the market responded to the subject property, and it also gives an opportunity for the listing agent to share any insight about the neighborhood, school district boundaries, market trends, important reasons buyers might be looking in the neighborhood (that the appraiser may or may not know), or insider knowledge about the subject property or street. Remember, this is potential market data, so it can be important for the appraised value. Also, you can look like even more of a rock star to your client when your client sees how intentional you are with the appraiser.

Some quick tips:

  1. Save this document to your desktop and use it for each listing.
  2. Tell the truth in everything you write.
  3. Feel free to skip, delete, or add any categories.
  4. Take 10 to 15 minutes to answer questions.
  5. You don’t need to write a novel, but it’s okay if the document ends up being more than one page (try to keep it less than two though).
  6. Remember, this information is about sharing facts instead of pressure to “hit the number”. This is exactly why it’s okay to share this type of information.
  7. Try to avoid subtle pressure statements like, “Please get value as high as possible”, or “We really need this one to work out”, because that comes across as trying to steer the value.
  8. Be specific about upgrades. For instance, instead of saying, “The house was remodeled throughout,” unpack what that means and when any remodeling was done (if you know).
  9. If you don’t feel comfortable providing sales or listings to the appraiser, that’s okay. However, if you do provide sales, make sure they are actually competitive to the subject property. If you know the sales well, you can always write out any differences at the top of the MLS sheets. I recommend saying “here is data I used to price the property” instead of “here are your comps”. If the appraiser doesn’t want to take any sales from you, maybe the appraiser would still take this information sheet.

DOWNLOAD the WORD DOCUMENT or DOWNLOAD a PDF.

Is there anything you’d tweak about this document? Speak up or offer constructive feedback below. If there is enough response, I can post a second round of an improved document in a few weeks. I’m all for better communication, and I would LOVE to get more information like this on a regular basis.

Questions: Do you think this document would be useful? Anything you’d add or take away?

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