By Dustin Harris

Excerpt: Should appraisers pay to be on an AMC’s approved appraiser list? Is this one way to get new clients? If an AMC solicited you, would you check it out?

Now, I work for some AMCs that, frankly, you might not choose to work for. That’s fine. It’s a choice we all make. Understand that most of the areas I work are rural, so AMCs are generally willing to pay more because of this. Some AMC are very demanding. Yet, when I meet those demands, I get a lot of well-paying jobs from them.

To read more, plus lots of appraiser comments, and listen to the podcast, click here

My comment: A never-ending very controversial topic ever since AMCs took over residential lender appraisals after the mortgage crash around 2008!

Which Appraisal Clients are used the most?(Opens in a new browser tab)


NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other sections of this long blog post on Dirty vs. Disheveled Homes, Underground house, Trainee speaks out, Top 10 Appraiser Blogs, mortgage origination stats, Covid risk chart for appraisers, etc.  

Subscribe to this blog (upper right of this page) and get all the posts emailed when they are posted!!


Dirty vs. Disheveled… Which is Worse on Value?

Excerpts: In some homes I have appraised, the interior is very disheveled, with underwear hanging from doorknobs, bathroom towels on the floor and clutter everywhere. Often, it is these types of situations, that the homeowner asks if this is going to have an impact on market value…

What about selling a home? Can a cluttered home impact market value? It can. It really depends on the who’s looking to purchase the home. Some buyers may be able to look beyond the clutter, while others may be turned off by it, which could impact what they are willing to offer.

Tip: scroll to the bottom and see a funny Covid video!!

To read more, and see the videos, click here

My comments: I always look at a house “as if” it is vacant. Some appraisers get upset when a house is messy or dirty. Not me. I just walk down the narrow aisle between all the newspapers, etc. and take a photo of the ceiling. And state that I assume the flooring and walls are okay because I can’t see them. But… I have appraised a few homes where the smell was so bad I could only last 5 minutes inside and had to go outside to breathe clean air and then go back inside… I guess everyone has a limit ;>

Sometimes it does affect value. I mention any health and safety issues, especially if the appraisal is for a lender. For estate appraisals, sometimes I tell them to call me when all the stuff is gone so I can see the kitchen, walls, floors, etc.


Through the Eyes of an Appraiser Trainee

By Jason Vargo

Excerpt: Things are pretty wild here at Appraisal Camp-Sedona. To bring you up to speed, Appraisal Camp-Sedona offers appraisal trainees real world experience, on-the-ground case-study training, all while completing required courses for licensing and certification. We examine and study basic standards of practice, explore the importance and application of honesty, integrity and respect throughout the process, and engage with experienced professionals that specialize in everything from basic appraisals to complex assignments, appraisal review, litigation, and education.

Currently, there are three trainees enrolled. Trainees are ‘on the job’ full time, Monday through Friday, and split their time between taking the requisite courses and applying what they’re learning to the actual appraisal practice. Trainees are shadowing and assisting with inspections in the field, practicing the particulars of observing and taking notes, measurements, etc. Back at the office, we’re learning how to apply our observations, findings, and analyze relevant data.

To read more, click here

My comment: In the July issue of the paid Appraisal Today, “Welcome to Appraisal Purgatory! A day in Appraisal Camp, Sedona, Arizona” a very interesting, and fun, article written by Julie Friess, SRA who runs the Appraisal Camp. Julie definitely speaks her mind and makes trainees work hard ;>

I trained two residential appraisers. Both had to quit appraising during bad downturns. I learned a lot, but would never have another residential trainee as I did not like laying them off during the inevitable downturns of residential lending.


Institutional Memory and Appraiser Firms

By Richard Hagar, SRA

Excerpt: Institutional memory, having “old farts” working with younger appraisers, that’s where the profit is today. Finding those who have the experience and figure out how to work with or for them to make your life easier and more profitable. Here’s why that is so.

Institutional memory can be defined as a collective set of facts, concepts, experiences and knowledge held by a group of people. Wikipedia explains the concept as: Adaptations developed over time and taught to new members of the group, keeping them from encountering the same problems and having to develop a solution that already exists.

In this way, organizations save time and resources that might otherwise be wasted. In our context, it might mean a veteran appraiser or appraisers helping a newbie deal with changes impacting business.

To read more, click here

My comment: Richard has been appraising, plus advising and teaching appraisers for many years. He is an excellent instructor and knows a lot. I have taken many classes from him.

I used to have 6 employees in my appraisal company. There was a big appraiser recession in the 1990s and I downsized to myself and a part time assistant. I never built it up again. I really, really miss having other appraisers around to discuss appraisals :<Getting too many ad-only emails?


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Appraising Solar: New Fannie Guidance August 2020

In the August 2020 issue of the monthly paid Appraisal Today, available September 1.

Excerpt: What about appraisal forms. Bracketing, cost, income?

Well, gee thanks Fannie. When sales with solar are not available to fit into the lenders “bracketing box”, what is an appraiser to do? Consider the cost and income approach you say? Most residential appraisers have not spent a significant amount of time wading in either of the Cost or Income approaches waters.

I can already hear the rally cry, “No Comps, No Value! It says it right there, Mark, the analysis must rely primarily on the market approach”. Lenders say provide sales within one mile, sold within six months, GLA within 20%, and on and on and on. I submit this novel idea to my fellow appraisers. (Written by Mark Buhler who teaches solar classes to appraisers.)

To read the full article with lots of good tips, plus 2+ years of previous issues, subscribe to the paid Appraisal Today.

If this article gave you one good idea about appraising homes with solar, it is worth the subscription price!!

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Click here for more info!If you are a paid subscriber and did not get the August issue, emailed Monday, August 3, 2020, please send an email to and we will send it to you!! Or, hit the reply button. Be sure to put in a comment requesting it.


Underground house in Texas with lots of wall and ceiling paintings done by artists 

Excerpts: It’s difficult to spot the home on this plot of 40 acres near Buffalo, TX. Which is exactly the way the owner wants it—the home is entirely underground….

Listed for $2.25 million, the residence consists of a series of five interconnected dome homes covered with dirt. It measures in at 3,000 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

“It’s completely covered by earth,” says the listing agent, Terri Alexander

To read more and see lots of fotos, click here

My comment: Interior painting was done by artists and is very well done. I have seen the interior of other underground homes, and this has the best paintings.


Appraisal Today was selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 10 Real Estate Appraiser Blogs on the web.

For each blog, you can sign up and read recent posts. Very useful. See if you are interested in any of the blogs. I regularly include posts in these email newsletters from most of them.

The first 5:

  • Appraisers Blogs
  • Miller-Samuel
  • Sacramento Appraisal blog
  • Appraisal Today
  • Birmingham Appraisal Blog

To see who else is on the list click here

My comment: I don’t know what criteria was used, but this web site has Appraisal Today listed, comes up on google and looks official. Yay! The person who set up the list emailed me after it was published.


What’s new on my Covid Science Blog at

Covid does not work well in my monthly newsletter. When there are changes, I can’t get the original newsletter back and do a new one. My Covid blog can be changed at any time.

I was planning on using material from my August 3 newsletter issue plus what did not make it into the newsletter due to lack of room. But, so much has changed since then!! For example, I was going to post about human challenge trials, which most scientist said had significant ethical issues. But, now they are being planned, sort of. Gotta rewrite it.

Here’s what is new since last week’s email newsletter:

New posts:

  • Physical distancing – 3 ft. vs. 6 ft. vs. 13 ft. vs. ??? – new research
  • Terminology: Coronavirus, Novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19
  • Preprint vs. peer-reviewed scientific research papers. What is the difference?
  • 1918 Spanish flu documentary (Video)
  • Previous epidemics and pandemics
  • Why what scientists say about COVID keeps changing

Fauci Tracker Updates:

  • 8-18 Fauci Talks to Healthline About COVID-19 Vaccines, School Safety in Live Town Hall (Video)
  • 8-13-20 Fauci: The Bottom line is, I’m not pleased with how things are going. (Video)
  • 8-13-20 Fauci says despite upcoming election, science will not be politicized. (Video)

FYI, Fauci’s voice has been very “husky”. I saw a video from 1998 (Spanish Flu post above) where he had his “normal” voice. He had surgery to remove a vocal cord polyp and will not be able to speak for awhile. Darn!! Oh well, there are lots of videos and writing about what he has said…

He recently said he disagreed with Monday’s (August 25), CDC recommendation this week regarding not always testing asymptomatic people who have been exposed to Covid. He gave a statement Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical reporter. Also, he said he was not at the task force meeting when it was discussed as he was under general anesthesia for his surgery. The CDC Thursday issued a clarification. To read more click here.

To read what’s new (or old, if you did not go the blog last week), go to Covid Science for Everyone! 


New Post Yesterday – Physical distancing – 3 ft. vs. 6 ft. vs. 13 ft. vs. ??? – new research

Completely revised from my August 3 newsletter!!


“The table below presents a guide to how transmission risk may vary with setting, occupancy level, contact time, and whether face coverings are worn. These estimates apply when everyone is asymptomatic. In the highest risk situations (indoor environments with poor ventilation, high levels of occupancy, prolonged contact time, and no face coverings, such as a crowded bar or night club) physical distancing beyond 2 m (6 ft.) and minimizing occupancy time should be considered. Less stringent distancing is likely to be adequate in low risk scenarios. People with symptoms (who should in any case be self-isolating) tend to have high viral load and more frequent violent respiratory exhalations.”

TO READ MY NEW BLOG POST CLICK HERE Something to consider when going inside homes and apartments when appraising.


Temporary Fannie Mae appraisal flexibilities extended to September 30

From Fannie, The Procrastinator

We’ve updated the Impact of COVID-19 on Appraisals Lender Letter to extend the temporary flexibilities through Sept. 30.

To view LL-2020-04 click here

(This should also apply to FrMAC, since they both are under FHFA)


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 Note: I publish a graph of this data every month in my paid monthly newsletter, Appraisal Today. For more information or get a FREE sample issue go to or send an email to . Or call 800-839-0227, MTW 7AM to noon, Pacific time.

Mortgage applications decreased 6.5 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 26, 2020) – Mortgage applications decreased 6.5 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 21, 2020.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 6.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 7 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 10 percent from the previous week and was 34 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 0.4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 33 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage rates were mixed last week, but the rates for 30-year fixed mortgages and 15-year fixed mortgages declined. Despite the lower rates, conventional refinance applications fell 11 percent and government refinance applications fell 6 percent, which pushed the total refinance index to its lowest weekly level since July,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The home purchase market remains a bright spot for the overall economy. Purchase applications were essentially unchanged but were 33 percent higher than a year ago – the 14th straight week of year-over-year gains. Mortgage rates at record lows and households looking for more space are driving this summer’s surge in demand.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 62.6 percent of total applications from 64.6 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 2.6 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 10.5 percent from 10.3 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 11.8 percent from 11.2 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 ($510,400 or less) decreased to 3.11 percent from 3.13 percent, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.36 (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 $510,400) remained unchanged at 3.41 percent, with points remaining unchanged at 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA remained unchanged from 3.16 percent, with points increasing to 0.29 from 0.27 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 2.70 percent from 2.73 percent, with points increasing to 0.39 from 0.36 (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 3.14 percent from 2.95 percent, with points increasing to 0.42 from 0.41 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased 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

1826 Clement Ave. Suite 203 Alameda, CA 94501

Phone 510-865-8041


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