How do appraisers value a property?

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending has posted another great blog recently about appraisers. I have taken some liberty with his original blog and modified it to some of my personal experiences. Check it out below!

Lenders are not ever allowed to communicate directly with appraisers. They are only allowed to order appraisals through an Appraisal Management Company, which in turn contacts the appraiser. This arose out of the mortgage meltdown in the efforts to prevent fraud.  Overall, I think it hurt the buyer because the cost of appraisals rose.

Realtors, however, can communicate directly with appraisers and I highly recommend that they do so.  I meet the appraiser at the home, provide them with the comps I used to come up with the list price and let them know how many offers I had and the offer price of them.  It is important to be nice, and not tell them ‘how’ to do their job, but provide them with data that they may not have.

Below is the criteria appraisers use for Comparable Sales Data guidelines.

1. Size: Comps need to be within 20% of the size of the subject property. For example, they usually cannot use a 1,300 square foot comp for a 1,000 square foot subject property. Likewise, they cannot use a 700 square foot comp for a 1,000 square foot property.

2. Distance: Comps need to be within one mile of the subject property, and not over any major barriers like a freeway or a river.

3. Same Town/City: Comps need to be in the same city as the subject property in most cases, even if the comp is less than a block from the subject property.

4. Closed: Comps need to have closed in the last 90 days. Pending sales and listings are not acceptable.

5. Lot Size: Lot sizes must be accounted for too. If the subject property is on a small lot of 6,000 square feet, for example, a comp and a 12,000 square foot lot will have to be downwardly adjusted significantly in most cases.

6. Adverse Influences: If the subject is on a busy street or abuts a school, a freeway or an industrial area, valid comps will need to have similar adverse influences or they will make adjustments to equalize the value.

7. Bracketing Comps: Valid comps need to “bracket” the appraised value. Hence, at least one comp needs to be priced higher than the appraised value, and one should be priced lower.

At the end of the day. Appraisals are still subjective based on the appraiser’s interpretation and experience. Most of the time they are trying to do their best, and as markets shift, they have to adjust. They do not always have some inside information about a neighboring sale or a credit and if you can make their job a bit easier, I find everybody’s job becomes a bit easier.

I should also note that Mortgage Bankers have AMC – Appraisal Management Companies, where they can cherry pick the appraisers that are in the pool, even though they can’t talk to them about value.  These are usually much better than the big banks and that is a whole other story that only frustrates me….

The problem with large AMC’s for lenders and clients

Our friend Jay Vorhees at JVM Lending wrote a blog recently about Apprisal Management Companies (AMC’s) that I found really interesting. Jay wrote about the mess that usually comes out of a broker-lender relationship due to appraisal issues.

Family Home, Residence, Contemporary, Property, Modern

After the mortgage melt down the laws changed that required lenders to use AMCs instead of cherry picking their appraisers directly.  This past practice created an opportunity for dishonest practices.  However, creation of AMC’s created a separate list of issues and caused the cost of appraisals to increase.  The AMC’s usually paid the appraisers too little and decreased motivation by appraisers to do a good job or they hired inexperienced appraisers because the seasoned appraisers got out of the business as their salary decreased. Initially there was no parameters in place for the appraiser you got.  Many times, I got an appraiser from Sacramento appraising a property in the Walnut Creek School District and would get a low value because the comps they pulled were parts of Walnut Creek not in the school district.  As you can imagine, this led to some huge problems

As time passed, mortgage brokers such as JVM have moved to a “mortgage banking channel” to avoid using AMC’s and now utilize their own internal AMC that is still compliant but staffed by competent, local, highly-skilled appraisers of JVM’s choosing.  The lender still can’t talk to the appraiser, but at least they have control of the quality of appraisers and know the area they are appraising.

For more information about this topic, see this Washington Post article Jay quoted in his blog. You can visit JVM Lending here.