By: Ilyce Glink and Samuel Tamkin
Q: I am in the middle of selling my home. I got an offer at 97 percent of my asking price. The inspection and all went well. In addition, I did a prelisting appraisal, after which I added about $20,000 in upgrades.
The appraiser for my buyer took two weeks to get appraisal to his lender. His appraisal came in over $50,000 under our contract price. It is even less than the presale appraisal. It is full of inaccuracies as well, including the size of the house, the lot size, the number of bathrooms, and the number of fireplaces. My agent has filed a challenge to the appraisal and listed all of the items that were wrong in the appraisal. The buyers have agreed to ask for another appraisal. Our closing date is supposed to be soon and we’re supposed to close on a different home as well. Do you have any suggestions for us?
A: Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about bad appraisals these days. They’re all over the place. An appraiser who doesn’t know what he or she is doing will make all sorts of mistakes in the size, shape and amenities of a property and will then compare this property to others that aren’t appropriate comps.
The problems also stem from the huge number of foreclosures and short sales in every metro area. Appraisers are required to use the most recent sales over the past six months, and if your area happens to have a large number of foreclosures or short sales, those low prices will have a great effect on values and appraisals.
The other issue with appraisals these days is the manner in which banks are now required to choose their appraisers. In the old days, lenders had their preferred appraisers, could call them up, and get them to go out and do the work. However, there was a feeling that the lenders could influence the appraisers and that appraisers would be afraid to be honest with their appraisals.
In our new world, banks don’t hire appraisers directly. Banks go through an intermediary company that then has a secondary process to select the appraiser. They say the process is random and, if it is, you can get appraisers with different backgrounds, experiences and local knowledge. However, the selection process may not use that background, experience and local knowledge in the selection process. Potentially, the system can pick any appraiser that is qualified in urban condominiums perform a rural appraisal for a home on a farm.
Another complaint we hear is that the cost to perform appraisals has not gone down, but the dollars flowing to appraisers has declined. In the loan application process, a portion of the money that used to flow to appraisers now goes to the appraisal management company and we’ve heard that some residential appraisers have decided to forego working with them.
Asking the bank for a new appraiser is important. Your agent should have met the appraiser at the house loaded with appropriate comps, walked the appraiser through the property and tried to make sure the appraiser noted items correctly about the home.
I hope the new appraiser is more familiar with your property and the neighborhood, and that your sale goes through. If the bank rushes the second appraisal, you can hope that this second person has a better understanding of your local market. But, don’t be surprised that the bank’s second appraiser still values your property low.
The appraisal you paid for before you sold can be a good source of information about the value of your home, but even that appraisal is not definitive. And, while you did make improvements to the home, those improvements may not have added value to the property from an appraiser’s point of view. You’ll need patience to navigate the home sale process and dealing with lenders these days. We hope the seller of the home you’re buying is willing to have patience with you as you wait for your home to sell.