Appraisers…..we love to hate them. They scrutinize your house, call your ‘baby’ ugly, and they tell you it isn’t worth as much as you would like. But they are a critical part of every real estate transaction when you’re getting a loan, so we have to learn to speak appraisal language. What does an appraiser do, anyway? In a nutshell, appraisers determine an unbiased price your property is worth at any particular moment in time. They do this by pulling ‘comps‘ or comparable properties near you, and then factoring in upgrades and features to nail down a property price. The bank hires an appraiser to confirm the loan they are about to give you is on a safe, solid, properly priced property. This week we had the pleasure of hearing long time Laguna Beach appraiser Mary “Vicky” Wilson tell us how we can get closer to the right numbers. As an agent in the business 11 years, some of this info was totally new to me! I’m sure you’ll learn a few things too – so read on :)
First off, appraisers take a completely factual and non-emotional approach. So to get on the same page with them…you’ve gotta use your head, not your heart. Every price adjustment and comparable property needs to be validated with a series of facts behind it, not just thoughts or feelings.
Basic guidelines Orange County Real Estate appraisers follow:
- **Appraisers do NOT NOT NOT use a price per square foot average.** Don’t even try to value your property like this. You may be able to justify it to the buyers agent, buyer, and yourself, but the appraiser isn’t buying it, and they give the bank the green light needed to lend the money needed & close this deal. Now, lots and land are an exception to this rule, but the main dwelling is NOT.
- Comps must be reasonable substitutes. ie single level properties vs 2 story properties are NOT comparable. Read that again because it takes a minute to sink in. SERIOUSLY?? The 2 story that is 3 doors down is not a comp if you’re a single story??? Notsomuch in the eyes of the appraiser. Be careful not to price a less desirable model in a neighborhood the same as the most desirable if they differ in stories.
- To follow along these lines, lenders don’t want an appraiser to compare properties that are 15% plus or minus in size. If you are the smallest model, you may not be a comp with the largest, and vice versa.
- Lenders require 4 closed sales AND 2 backup or pending sales that support the value opinion & your price tag. Pay attention to active, pending, & backup listings because the appraiser is! They are looking for upward or downward trends in your local market. One high closing in your area won’t help you, remember FOUR closed properties are needed, plus 2 more that are under contract.
- Did you know there are only 17-20 line items on an appraisal? Appraisers stick to the cold, hard facts.
- L O C A T I O N is the #1 consideration. Location also trumps distance from property. So if you are the only ‘ocean view’ in your community, an appraiser may go to a neighboring community to pull other ocean view comps instead of other non-view properties in your same neighborhood. Same would go for a ‘corner lot’ or ‘end unit’ location.
- Time is of the essence. Appraisers like 3-6 month old closed comps, not more than 1 mile away. Pull up this data before you price your property so you are in line with the realities of today’s market.
- No, your converted detached garage, pool house, or Mother In-Law suite is not part of the square footage of your property. Ever. Rule of thumb: If you have to walk outside the main structure and have air or water or wind touch you then it’s not part of the square footage :( Furthermore, to be considered square footage, permitted improvements must be above soil grade & under the main roof. Sorry, but your cool casitas or underground grow and wine rooms can be appraisal line item adjustments, but NOT included in the square footage.
- .75 bath (toilet, sink, shower) is counted as a full bath in appraisals!!!! .5 baths with no tub or shower, on the other hand, are only noted as .1….so if your property is 5 full and 3 1/2 baths… it’s a 5.3 on the appraisal; not 6.5.
- Appraisers only have 48 hours to send their appraisals in, and they get paid less than $500 per report. Banks have high expectations and short timelines, so this is where a good agent comes in to assist your appraiser in understanding your home’s true value, quickstyle. More agent tips coming if you keep on reading….
- The market will *usually* pay back 50-60% of what you spent on upgrades!!! Sellers who try to add the entire price of remodels or upgrades into a purchase price always end up disappointed. Remember this ratio and come to terms with it now.
- If you do have an unpermitted addition, appraisers will ask: Does it have intrinsic value to the property? Is the addition positive or negative to the overall home? How is the condition? Remember, non-permitted additions won’t count toward square footage, ever, but it can be added as a line item to the overall valuation.
Tips for Realtors and homeowners to better work with appraisers:
- Be present at the appraisal appointment with a comp packet. Or email it early. The appraiser is in the field NOW, not in 3 hours when you get back to the office and your email. Don’t expect appraisers to drive back to see your comps. Make sure to support upward and downward trends with comps and a possible market report, too.
- Inform – appraisers need to know what was upgraded and how much was spent. Readily offer full access to everything.
- Don’t approach an appraiser negatively or with an attitude if you don’t agree with their valuation.
- Don’t say: “You should have no problems with the value”. Famous last words.
- During follow up: don’t ask the value, they can NOT tell you the number directly. Instead ask: “Did you find any problems with the home that may be an issue?”
Wanna Ask the Appraiser more specifics?
Want an Orange County Market Report and professionally pulled comps?
Contact the AskAngie team and we’re happy to help! You can reach Angie direct at 949-338-7408. Or just email Angie@AskAngie.com or tweet @AskAngieTeam so we can help you get the research you need to sell your biggest asset for top dollar!
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