This post may self destruct, for it tells too much! Yep, I might remove this post after my 1,000 subscribers get it in their inbox (are you signed up, do so in the upper right). Hopefully the competition doesn’t get to it. (I have already had one request to take it down)
So you have probably read newspaper articles about bidding wars on homes for sale in the Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia area. Especially houses in Arlington Virginia.
The inventory is tight and people are off to the races. Sometimes 5 offers, sometimes more.
I hate the new appraisal system and non-local appraisers. (see video below)
Let me explain. The government came up with a brilliant idea to curb another housing meltdown!
Assuming (you know what they say: It makes an “Ass out of you and Ming”) most lenders and appraisers were fraudulent, they decided to put a great wall of china in between the lender and appraiser.
So instead of having a “reliable” and experienced local appraiser, they instead farmed out the process (and sometimes to a company they own) to a company that would then find an “independent” appraiser. 1 problem is, the appraiser has no accountability.
Also problem #2 is now another middle man has to make a cut, but the cost to consumer is the same. The result? The cost to the appraiser goes down. The result? NON-LOCAL APPRAISERS.
You know you are in trouble in Northern Virginia if your appraiser gets out of the car with a cowboy hat & boots.
So if you (Mr. Appraiser) don’t know the area, what are you going to do? Pick the wrong houses and appraiser more conservatively (they can only get in trouble if they appraise a place too high, so why not just make it come in lower. It also takes more work to come in higher). An appraiser’s job is not to be conservative or aggressive, but to be as correct as possible.
Recently we had a listing where a bank promised that they used local appraisers. The appraiser came from Purceville! Over 50 miles away! The appraisal made comments about Ballston and Rosslyn being where the jobs were. As if Clarendon was 2nd fiddle and not desirable. (If you aren’t from the area, like the appraiser, you wouldn’t know that Clarendon is the most expensive and nicest place in Arlington, see Arlington Rap )
Even before the appraisal system was mixed up, I would always warn my buyers “hey if it comes in higher than what you paid, don’t really celebrate. Sometimes appraisers like to come in higher, just to make you feel good, and oftentimes they aren’t really “real” in my book.” Why would I burst their happy dance?
Because I warn them that the flip side (a low appraisal) is also possible.
Just because an “appraiser” says something has a value of X, that doesn’t mean it is the “true” value. While some might argue there is no “true value” or “it is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it“, I’m referring to the other problems with appraisals.
1) BANK SALES IN COMPS
Appraisers usually include bank sales on the MLS. These are homes that are oftentimes underpriced, they get 7-20 offers and the all cash offer wins. NOT THE HIGHEST OFFER. So a $400,000 bank listing might get bid up to $415,000 with an “all cash” buyer, and 3 other buyers had offers in for $435,000. What is it “worth?” Well the appraiser says $415,000, but the market says $435,000. And this isn’t even going into whether a regular, properly marketed identical listing would sell for $450,000. So what is the “value?” of this $415,000 closed home?
For some people this means NEVER being able to buy a home. They live in areas that are full of investors buying with all cash (like WOodbridge). Those sales then drive down the price of a regular listing but not enough. The appraisal will still be low, and the 3% down FHA buyer doesn’t have the money to make the difference (yes, I got emails on this).
2) SHORT SALES
Similar to the above, but the seller has NO interest in trying to get full market price. Actually the banks expects to sell them for 5-15% off market price. The seller just wants a patient buyer, oftentimes an investor. And as I have written in all my other Short Sale posts, these deals will go 3-6 months and oftentimes never pan out. So yes they have to sell for less, to compensate the buyer for the hassle and high chance of never closing. Many buyers will not even look at short sales. So are these good comparable for an appraisal? I think not.
3) MARKET UPSWING?
Oh my! Could it be? Could it be possible that homes and condos in Arlington are actually selling for more than the low in June 2009? Yes. In reality they are (this is the first time I have said anything about the market going up), yet the appraiser is more likely to call the market “steady.” All you need is a small 1-3% increase for a $500,000 place to now be selling for $515,000, yet the appraiser won’t adjust for that.
4) LOW INVENTORY
Rarely will an appraiser adjust for low inventory. IE, Ain’t nothing else out there to buy in this price bracket. Good appraisers will see this and understand supply and demand.
SOLUTIONS TO LOW APPRAISALS?
So this is what I see happening. When a low appraisal comes in, the buyer oftentimes freaks out. It is the buyer agent’s job to warn them about this (see post above) and then discuss what they want to do. About 1/3rd of the time the buyer will walk (until it happens to the next property!), 1/3rd of the time the seller will just drop their price and the last 1/3rd get new appraisers or work it out.
1) DEMAND A LOCAL APPRAISER
Put it in the contract (as the lister) that you will only entertain a local appraiser. Maybe give it a 15 mile range. If the lender can’t do this, make the buyer get a new lender and new appraisal if somebody non-local does the appraisal.
2) GET A NEW APPRAISAL. CHALLENGE IT.
Either the buyer or seller can get a new appraisal. Yes, my buyers have hired new reliable and local appraisals. Why? Because the buyers have been to each home in the area for the last 3 months and they know the value. While a bank won’t flat out accept the new appraiser, it can be used to challenge the first appraisal.
3) PAY THE DIFFERENCE
While it might be painful, it might be the only way. Especially if you have gone through it a few times, if you start all over, it will likely happen again (unless you are willing to wait 3 months for a short sale to MAYBE close).
Appraisals falling short is occurring in about 50% of transaction. IT EVEN HAPPENED TO ME! The home I bought did NOT appraise. Yes, I paid well over the “appraisal” price. (yep soon that will be a good post, make sure to subscribe to the blog).
Thanks for hearing me out. Now I can warn my clients with a link to this post instead of giving a limited explanation to the appraisal problem. The goal is not to pressure a buyer to increase their price. I really hope this didn’t come off that way. Instead the goal is to explain the process and for buyers to not ignore their own perceived “value” and ignore their Realtor, when some $20 an hour newbie appraiser from West Virginia says otherwise.
UPDATE: Paul Todd, has a brilliant comment. You are brilliant! Paul says, when the appraiser calls, ask exactly where they are from. If they aren’t local, then refuse access and make the lender pick another appraiser. Wow, great idea.
Written by Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker Owner FranklyRealty.com and FranklyMLS.com