Uh – oh some appraisals are low!
As we enter the spring market I have growing concerns over appraisals here in Northern Virginia. As we come out of the “slower” winter months, appraisers have fewer homes to choose from to help catch them up with the market today. We are seeing 20-30 people regularly at open houses which is rare for this time of year. There are only 3,081 houses for sale in all of Northern Virginia – a true supply issue for the number of buyers in the marketplace. As a result, it is rare not to see multiple offers on houses listed today. This is not an artificial “run up” of housing prices and we are not stretching prices as we are still below the highs of the housing bubble in many areas. The law of supply and demand should dictate property values in my opinion.
Here are examples of the last few appraisals we have come across. Two single family homes in the same neighborhood in Fairfax both recently came in low – one was sold at $850,000 and appraised for $847,000 – really? The other one sold at $877,000 and appraised for $811,000. How can these numbers be so far off from each other and where is the real estate market headed today? One of our agents listed a town house in Countryside for $320,000. They received 3 contracts in the first weekend – an obvious issue of supply and demand. Well, it sold for $326,500 and appraised for $300,000. The appraiser used a short sale that had closed several months prior to this sale at $260,000 as a comparable. Short sales are less than 8% of the market plus if it closed several months prior to this sale, because of the short sale process, the contract was written several months prior to closing – how is this truly a reflection of the market today? We also had an offer come in on a town house in Centreville recently which sold for $450,000 and appraised at $435,000. The appraiser used a new town house in a community down the street that settled in July of 2012. Again, as it was new build, the contract was written a few, if not several months prior to the settlement – is this a true indication of market value today? What’s worse is there was a closing in the same neighborhood which was a higher value that settled in December that was not used to support the price of our town house. Lastly, we had a condo in Sterling that came in low by $8,000. The sales price was $175,000 and it appraised for $167,000. I think you can understand our issue.
What can be done? First, provide information to your sellers and buyers early. Set the expectation that the property may not appraise for the sales price and discuss the potential options with them so they understand what the next steps would be for them. Let them know that the appraisers may have difficulty finding suitable comparable sales – this is where you must be diligent and provide solid comparable sales to the appraiser. If you are dealing with an FHA appraisal and the sellers of comparable properties paid closing costs for their buyers, let them know the appraiser will take that amount off the top of the sales price which could bring down your value. As there are many multiple offer situations, some buyer’s agents are putting in high offers to get an approved contract knowing they won’t get the needed appraised amount – let your sellers know this is the case and the highest price is not always the best offer. If you are selling a new home, most builder contracts do not have appraisal contingencies in them for their protection, not the buyers. As prices of new homes are escalating this becomes a concern for buyers today. Remind them that an appraisal is a snap shot in time based upon historical data that is already behind our escalating market.
In addition to providing information to your sellers and buyers, provide extensive details to the appraiser. Plus, don’t just provide them with information, meet them and discuss what you and they are seeing in the market – build rapport by sharing your stories and listening to theirs. Share with them your comparable sales and why they should be considered. Explain the Home Pricing Wizard to them in detail and how it helped you determine the market value. Provide them with copies of the competing offers so they can see it is a desirable property. Share with them your feedback from Showing Suite that shows other agents that visited the property how they felt the property was priced at market value – or below. Bring market data from RBIntel that shows the market is increasing in value, as well as, articles that point to this fact. You must be diligent in your representation of our clients and do all you can to get the houses to appraise.
The good news is not all properties are appraising low, but there are enough that are, so this is why you need to pay attention and educate our clients on what is happening in the market. This separates you from other agents and makes you a professional. Get it? Got it? Good!
Now, go sell something!
Uh – oh some appraisals are low!