Being realistic about a range of value in real estate

If an appraisal came back at $327,462.44, would you be concerned? For starters, I think most of us would scratch our heads and wonder how in the world the appraiser got so precise at 462 dollars or 44 cents. Either the appraiser is an absolute value wizard or something else is going on. I can’t speak to why an appraiser would reconcile value that precisely, but I do want to kick around the idea of a range of value in real estate. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

range of value in real estate - image by sacramento appraisal blog

Sometimes we get so locked into thinking a house is only worth a certain amount. Most of us wouldn’t get so exact like the example above, but we do often say a house is only worth whatever the contract or list price is. Thus if the appraisal comes in lower, everyone is frustrated. Let’s consider the following points though.

  1. There is always a range of value: When we sell something on Craigslist, we list a certain price, and we’d like to get that price, but realistically we would probably be happy with an offer somewhere close to the price. For instance, I am trying to buy a drill press on Craigslist right now (for woodworking, which is one of my passions). I found one the other day listed at $150. I offered $100, and the owner said no. I then upped my offer and through conversation discovered the owner wasn’t really set on $150 at all, but rather $125 to $150. If we lined up other buyers for this drill press, they’re probably not going to say market value is exactly $150, but they might instead think market value was anywhere from $125 to $160. In other words, nobody would bat an eye if the drill press sold at $125 or even $160. This is exactly how it works in real estate in the mind of buyers. When assigning value to a property, buyers are going to look at similar homes, consider their budget and loan approval amount, and ultimately be comfortable with a reasonable price range. For instance, buyers might consider a realistic price for the house above to be $323,000 to $330,000.
  2. Appraisal Comes in $1000 lower than contract price: So buyers make offers on the property, and the seller accepts an offer at $324,000. The appraiser comes out and appraises the property at $323,000. When this happens, many agents say, “This is ridiculous. Why could the appraiser not just give me $1000 more?” I get the frustration because if the contract price fits very nicely in a tight and reasonable range of value, it’s hard to see how the appraiser could argue against that as if the appraiser is an absolute value genius. I’m not arguing for the appraiser here in this example as you can hopefully pick up in the following comments. But I do want to remind us that appraisers cannot invent or give value – even $1000. If the contract price really is pushed above what the market would reasonably pay, and there is no way to really support that on paper (the appraised value has to be supported), it makes sense to see the appraisal come in lower. In this case it may be suspect, but I can’t say that for sure. For reference, it’s actually not fishy for an appraiser to reconcile the value at the exact contract price if the contract price is realistic. When the appraiser does this, the appraiser is simply saying, “Yep, the price is good, and I can’t argue against it.” The appraiser might say something like this in the report: “The sales price falls within the range of values indicated by comparable properties and represents a reasonable value for the subject property based on an analysis of comparable properties and market trends. Therefore the opinion of value in this report was reconciled to the sales price.” Of course this assumes the appraiser wasn’t “hitting the number” so to speak to make the loan work.
  3. Reconciling to the Lower or Upper End: Despite there being a realistic range of value for a property, sometimes it’s best to consider where a property is going to fit on the value spectrum. I find sellers sometimes struggle with this because they always want top dollar. But sometimes fetching the highest price in the neighborhood simply isn’t possible. Maybe the house just doesn’t quite compete at the very top of the range of value because of slightly less upgrades or some other minor issue. So an appraiser might look at sales at $330,000 and give those sales less weight in the final value because they are slightly superior, but then look at sales at $323,000 and give them the most weight because they are the most similar in market appeal. Additionally, if all the offers on the property were coming in around $323,000 or lower, the market has probably spoken, and it likely makes sense for value to be reconciled around $323,000. Or if we have one high offer at $330,000 and all other offers were at $323,000 or less, this might also say something about the market. Not always, but maybe.
  4. Willing to Budge on Contract Price: Sometimes it seems the real estate community gives too much weight to the original list price and the contract price. It’s as if the offer is made and then negotiation is over. There is no further budging. But there is still room for negotiation based on the pest report, home inspection, the appraisal, and a number of other factors. When new information is discovered through the course of a transaction, it should be okay to negotiate. Part of a lack of negotiation is the byproduct of a market with such low housing inventory. Sellers have been in the driver’s seat for years, so they have not had to negotiate as much. But as inventory presumably rises in years to come, this staunch belief about the contract price being holy is going to have to budge.

I hope this interesting and helpful.

A CHEAT SHEET FOR AGENTS TO USE: If you are a real estate agent, I highly recommend you communicate in detail about the property to the appraiser during the inspection (or before the appraisal is finished). Consider talking about any upgrades, the number of offers made on the property, price level of offers, and anything that might be relevant for the appraiser to know. Don’t pressure for a certain value, but help tell the story of how the market responded to the property. DOWNLOAD my “cheat sheet” for appraisers and please use it.

some of my recent projects

Questions: What else would you add? What is point #5?

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

Does a $20,000 solar system really add $20,000 in value?

Would you pay $20,000 for a solar system if you knew it added $20,000 of instant home value? That’s exactly what a solar salesman told the client of a real estate friend. Is that legit though? What advice would you give someone talking to this salesman? This is a timely scenario, so I wanted to share my friend’s question and my response. I’d love to hear your take in the comments below.

solar panels in real estate - sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased and used with permission from 123rf - 2

Real Estate Friend: I have a client that wants to add solar to his 1989 house and was quoted a price of $20,000. The solar guy told my client that it would add value dollar for dollar…doubt that. Let me know your thoughts.

My Thoughts: Where is this SALESMAN getting “dollar for dollar” from? Is he a real estate value expert? Could he prove the value actually? Would the system add $20,000 in value regardless of the neighborhood, state, or price range? What if the system cost $40,000 or $80,000? Would that add $40,000 and $80,000 respectively? It’s a great sales claim, but achieving dollar for dollar is not something that happens in real estate in every case. For example, a kitchen remodel might cost $50K, but that doesn’t automatically mean buyers are going to line up to pay $50,000 more for the house. Or a built-in pool could run $35,000, but we all know buyers don’t expect to pay full price in the resale market (sometimes they’ll go for $10-15K or so, right). Thus the cost of something doesn’t necessarily translate dollar for dollar to the value. When it comes to solar, it’s more of a marathon of value so to speak because there will be value recognized over time as savings happen (as opposed to an instant rush of full value at the present time). I am not saying the house could not be worth $20,000 more, but my BS alarm is beeping I am skeptical. Appraisers and the real estate community have to consider what buyers are actually presently willing to pay for the system. Granted, we have limited data, and solar is still an emerging field, but we have to study homes with and without solar. What sort of price difference is there? Also, how much money will the system actually save the owner each month? Moreover, when considering monthly energy savings, how much more home could a buyer effectively afford because of the savings? If I were your contact, I would read this solar Q&A I did, but I would also do the math. Will the savings from solar far outweigh the cost of the system? If not, what energy conservation steps might your client’s household make instead? Lastly, if the solar system is leased, it won’t actually add anything to the value because it’s more or less considered personal property.

Questions: What do you think of the solar salesman’s claim? How would you respond? Any thoughts, stories, or further insight? I’d love to hear your take as an agent, appraiser, or home owner.

Home Office Update: By the way, I’ve been building a new home office these past few weeks, and it’s been fun to make progress. Shoutout to Keith Klassen for helping me with the framing. If all goes well, crown moulding will be up this weekend.

home office

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

What market value looks like in real estate

What is market value? Does it depend on who you ask or is there a definitive answer? Let’s take a look at an image below to help illustrate Fannie Mae’s definition of market value – which is what appraisers use in their reports. Knowing how to think about and explain this definition can be really helpful when working with buyers, sellers, and appraisers – especially in a market with many overpriced properties right now. I created the image below, and I hope it’s a helpful visual.

KEY POINT: One buyer might be willing to pay more than anyone, but how much would most buyers pay? If you lined up 100 buyers, what would most of them pay for the property? That’s what the appraised value should represent.

what market value looks like - sacramento appraisal blog - 530

The Definition of Market Value from Fannie Mae: Market value is the most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: (1) buyer and seller are typically motivated; (2) both parties are well informed or well advised, and each acting in what he considers his own best interest; (3) a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; (4) payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and (5) the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.

NOTE: There are other definitions of value that appraisers use for different types of appraisals, but most mortgage finance transactions will use Fannie Mae’s definition of value.

I hope this was helpful.

Question: Any thoughts on stories to share? I’d love to hear your take.

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

The importance of understanding what “market value” really means

If a buyer and seller agree on a price, that’s market value, right? I ask this question all the time during real estate presentations, and responses are mixed. There are passionate yeses, but there is also a bit of hesitation. Ultimately having a good framework for market value is incredibly useful when working with buyers & sellers – not to mention appraisers. Let’s consider 10 quick scenarios to test the concept of a buyer and seller’s price equaling market value.

what is market value - by sacramento appraisal blog

Quick Test: Which one example is a good picture of market value?

  1. An out-of-area investor is paying $30,000 higher than any recent sales.
  2. A short sale is in contract 10% lower than any sales or listings.
  3. A buyer really needs to find a home, so she offers more to close quickly.
  4. Grandma sells her house to a grandson for 25% less than all other sales.
  5. A seller is giving the buyer artwork and a car if the buyer closes at X amount.
  6. There were zero offers at $350,000 after 150 days, but now there is a contract at $350,000 with a $30,000 credit for the buyer.
  7. A property has been on the market for a reasonable period of time, was priced at a reasonable level, and had several offers at list price.
  8. An FHA offer is $13,000 above all others in hopes of getting into contract.
  9. A builder can’t sell units at the same price level as last year since the market softened, so the builder is offering fat credits to help keep prices high.
  10. A buyer wants to live next door to an aging parent, so the buyer offers $40K above any recent sales or listings.

Contract Price vs. Market Value: Can you see why a buyer and seller’s agreed upon price might not represent market value? A property can get into contract at any price level, and both the buyer and seller might agree with that price, but the price might not represent what the rest of the market is willing to pay (see “100 buyers vs 1 buyer” below). Of course if you’re paying cash, you can define “market value” however you want, but if there is a loan involved, Fannie Mae’s definition of market value comes into play.

overpriced property for neighborhood

Fannie Mae Definition of Market Value: Market value is the most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: (1) buyer and seller are typically motivated; (2) both parties are well informed or well advised, and each acting in what he considers his own best interest; (3) a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; (4) payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and (5) the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.

100 buyers vs. 1 buyer: If you lined up 100 buyers, how much would most of them pay for a particular property? That is a good picture for market value from an appraisal standpoint. If you are listing a house or coaching buyers on making an offer, it might be helpful to think about value this way because it is more in tune with how an appraiser is likely going to be thinking about value. Does that make sense?

Questions: Do you agree with the definition of market value? Why is it important to define what market value is? What is example #11?

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