Is It a Condo, a Townhouse, a Site Condo or None of the Above?

Excerpt: When appraising townhouses, I always search the MLS for both single-family attached sales as well as condominium sales. Why? It’s because at times, there is confusion between the differences. Often I see real estate agents list townhouses as condos when they are not actually condos and visa versa.

I totally understand why. When it comes to townhouses, it is impossible to know from an outward appearance whether or not it is a condo, or not. Before we get into that, what is a condominium and what is a townhouse?

Well written article. Worth reading.

My comments: The first question in appraising is always “what are you appraising?”. Some appraisers just look at what structure is there. You are appraising the form of ownership, the land and what is attached to the land. With condominium form of ownership, you own the airspace. It does affect what you can do with a home. Some people don’t like HOAs and dues. I sold my house on the water in 2008. There was a large rear yard that was on a “tidelands lease” with an annual payment to the city. It was recently re-listed and only included the original 4,000 sq.ft. lot, not the leased land. Both showed up on plat maps. I wonder what the appraiser for the sale will say about it?

About 20 years ago I appraised a detached home in a project built in the 1980s with both attached (stacked condo style,  duets – sets of 2 semi-detached homes, and townhome (attached) style) plus detached homes. The owner, the HOA president was surprised to learn that they were all condos. I had a title report I showed to him. (The detached homes are now called site condos.) Another nearby small development of sets of two homes (duet or semi-detached) built in the 1960s did not have any common ownership or dues. I have seen these in other nearby cities also.

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An Artist, a Shantyboat, and the Lost History of American River Communities

Excerpt: The rivers of the United States have a certain lore and mystique within American culture. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these roaring waterways were home to thousands. Entire communities existed on or near the water in self-made houseboats.

Very interesting!!

My comment: When I first moved to the Bay Area in 1967, I visited, via rowboat, friends who lived on an anchored “houseboat” near Sausalito. It was an inexpensive platform with walls and a roof towed out to the anchorage. When I moved to Alameda in 1980, an island, there were some of these structures anchored along an estuary. In the past, some of them also anchored in other small bays and estuaries. There were many built since the 1930s, including several that were towed and semi-abandoned in in a small bay in the 1990s behind my house. The issue of course, is the lack of bathrooms and water pollution, especially abandoned commercial boats with fuel tanks. Who is “in charge” of where these structures are could be anchored was a big issue, mostly resolved now but abandoned vessels are still a big problem. I cruised in our 24 ft. power boat in Bay Area waterways and in the Canadian Gulf Islands and American San Juan islands. Where you could anchor your boat for the night was critical and varied, where ever you are going by boat.

The Property Valuation Reckoning is Imminent

How Technology is Highlighting Underwriting’s Shortcoming

Excerpt: some high-level aspects that can be used to get conversations started.

1. Increasing the availability of detailed, property-specific information, including both operational (ongoing) activities and transactions (sale, refinance, etc.).
2. The collection and analysis of macroeconomic, microeconomic, and capital markets influences that affect the real estate industry.
3. Using concepts such as systems thinking, systems engineering, and advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning to design semi-automated models that capture and make sense of both property-specific and larger capital markets factors.

Very interesting ideas and analysis. Long, but worth reading. FYI PropTech is a newish acronym. See the next link.

What is PropTech?

My comment: The article gives commercial examples, but is relevant for residential. I have been watching commercial applications, such as AVMs, attempted since the 1990s. The biggest problem is the lack of data. Costar is the major source of data in many areas and has not allowed its data to be commercially used by AVM developers, as far as I know. For leased commercial properties you must have income and expenses, which is not always available. For some types of non-leased properties, such as owner occupied warehouses, AVMs could work well


Zillow slapped with $60 million lawsuit over hacked listing of Bel Air mansion

Seller sues listings giant for negligence after hackers post false sales info

Excerpt: The listing – for a $150 million property in Bel Air, California – was hijacked by someone using a Chinese internet protocol address who posted false sales information about the property, according to an article in The Washington Post.

The hackers claimed that the property had been sold multiple times for tens of millions of dollars below asking price – once for $110 million, then for $90.5 million and then $94.3 million. They also posted notice of an open house for the property, which would be unusual for a luxury listing at this price.

My comment: Web site security and who can access, or change, your data is a Big Issue everywhere. Of course… there are MLS issues….
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Lender and AMC staff appraiser layoffs increasing!!

Should you do non-lender work? What kind of work is best for you? Pluses and minuses of both lender appraisals and each different type of non-lender appraisal.


Excerpt: Working for lenders is very different than working for non-lenders. 
  • Requirements: lenders have lot, non-lenders have more reasonable requirements, if any.
  • Marketing: get on AMC lists. Non-lender, personal, similar to mortgage brokers plus referral network. Personal relationships.
  • Fees: Lender – very competitive. Non-lender – much higher than lender. Stable fees.
  • Client attitude: Appraisers are deal killers and not reliable. Give me what I need. Non-lender – need appraisals, appreciate good service, treated as a professional.
  • Reviews: Lender – excessive, computer analysis. Non-lender: Often no reviews or minimal.
  • Expertise: Lender – One appraiser is the same as another. Don’t tell me abut problems, may mess up the deal. Non-lender: Want you to identify various problems and issues. Will pay for your expertise.
In the October 2018 issue of the paid Appraisal Today, available to paid subscribers.  Plus many other articles on non-lender work. 
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Terrible real estate agent photos

Just For Fun!!

Cannot be described! Must be seen ;>

Click here for some photos of Strange Things and Creative Comments on each foto.

My comment: I love this website!! Yes, it has the infamous (or famous) basement dungeon ;>

8 Ways Appraisers Can Use an iPad or Tablet

Here are three:
1. Scan documents on the go
2. Take notes
3. Build and streamline appraisal reports

Lots more comments and details here:

My comment: good, short practical list, not too complicated. Of course, I love my ipad at home for reading books and newspapers, checking twitter and facebook, etc. Smartphone screens are too small. My laptop computer is too big. Plus, I can easily hook it up to my big screen TV to see pickleball youtube videos, etc. I like sitting in my recliner, not at a desk.

Appraiser Randall Bell featured in Rolling Stone magazine

Excerpts: Randall Bell has appraised the sites of the most notorious crime scenes in history, from the JonBenét Ramsey house to the Heaven’s Gate mansion

“Oh, I’ll tell you a bizarre one!” Randall Bell says. His tone is so cheery that I half expect him to launch into a recounting of his fondest childhood memory, or a ranking of his favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors. But instead, he tells a story about a property he appraised where a family who had recently moved in discovered a bullet hole in the daughter’s closet. The father followed the trajectory the bullet would have taken, only to stumble on a gruesome crime scene in the basement.

Interesting and worth reading, with a Rolling Stone style, of course, including how he got started, etc. ;>

My comment: I have been hearing about Randy Bell for a long time and have printed copies of his books. He is The Expert on damaged and/or stigmatized properties. If you decide to appraise a one of them, Buy His most recent book, Real Estate Damages, Third Edition. The Appraisal Institute is the best place with lots of info on the books and good prices. Amazon is confusing. Google “Appraisal Institute Randall Bell books”. He also gives speeches to appraisers occasionally.

HOW TO USE THE NUMBERS BELOW. Appraisals are ordered after the loan application. These numbers tell you the future for the next few weeks. For more information on how they are compiled, go to 
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Mortgage applications increased 2.3 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 13, 2019) – Mortgage applications increased 2.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending March 8, 2019.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 2.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 3 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 0.2 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 6 percent compared with the previous week and was 2 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Led by a 5.5 percent increase in FHA loan applications, purchase activity picked up last week and was almost 2 percent higher than a year ago,” said Joel Kan, Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Purchase applications have now increased year-over-year for four weeks, which signals healthy demand entering the busy spring buying season. However, the pick-up in the average loan size continues, with the average balance reaching another record high. With more inventory in their price range compared to first-time buyers, move-up and higher-end buyers continue to have strong success finding a home.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 38.6 percent of total applications from 40.0 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 7.2 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 10.4 percent from 10.3 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 10.2 percent from 10.4 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged from 0.6 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased to 4.64 percent from 4.67 percent, with points increasing to 0.47 from 0.44 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $484,350) increased to 4.45 percent from 4.41 percent, with points increasing to 0.34 from 0.25 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 4.61 percent from 4.66 percent, with points decreasing to 0.47 from 0.48 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.02 percent from 4.08 percent, with points decreasing to 0.44 from 0.46 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 4.09 percent from 4.08 percent, with points decreasing to 0.26 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The survey covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100.

Ann O’Rourke, MAI, SRA, MBA
Appraiser and Publisher Appraisal Today
2033 Clement Ave. Suite 105
Alameda, CA 94501 Phone 510-865-8041
Fax 510-523-1138
1 Comment
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