Using graphs: why are they so important?

By George Dell, MAI

Excerpts: Graphs provide the way for the human brain and the computer to connect. And why is that important? Why appraisers should use graphs.

Computers are really good at certain things. They can handle lots of data and can quickly carry out complex instructions (algorithms) with no mistakes, with perfect memory. They also work well with no sleep. These are things the human brain does not do well.

Humans are good at other things. We make decisions and solve problems based on “massively parallel processing” systems. These are our ‘common sense’, instincts, and broad knowledge of the topic at hand.

These can be called imagination, creativity, and even belief-based inspiration.

“Computers can outperform humans on certain specialized tasks, such as playing [the game] go or chess, but no computer program today can match human general intelligence,”

To read more, click here

My comment: Great explanation of why graphs are important for humans, including AMCs if they have any human reviewers to see the graphs.

Appraisal Business Tips 

Humor for Appraisers

Covid-19 Residential Appraisers Tips on Staying Safe

For Covid Updates, go to my Covid Science blog at

Click here to subscribe to our FREE weekly appraiser email newsletter and get the latest appraisal news!!

To read more of this long blog post, click Read More Below!!

NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other sections of this long blog post on unusual homes, liability, Zillow, Foreclosures , Covid tips for appraisers, mortgage origination stats, etc.


Former Sheriff’s House With 9 Jail Cells

Excerpt: When it was built in 1875, this home in Fayette, MO, belonged to the local sheriff and included a jail with nine cells out back.

Now, after a renovation, the property is on the market for $350,000.

Thanks to the accommodations for ne’er-do-wells, the otherwise modest Missouri home has rocketed around the web and became a bona fide viral sensation.

The two-bedroom home is a three-story historic residence with hardwood floors and updated major systems on 2,465 square feet… attached to the home is a 2,500-square-foot slammer with multiple cells and a booking room.

To read more, click here

My comments: Wow! It looks like a house outside and inside but… I see why it went viral!! When I scrolled down the web page, I thought the home’s interior photos were from another listing. Highest and best use for attached jail cells?


Why homeowners aren’t selling in a hot seller’s market

COVID-19 is Driving the Housing Inventory Crisis in Unexpected Ways – Zillow survey

New Zillow data reveals the pandemic’s influence on why homeowners aren’t selling in a hot seller’s market

  • About a third of homeowners who are considering selling in the next three years cite life being too uncertain right now (34%) and financial uncertainty (31%) as reasons they aren’t selling.
  • Nearly 40% of these potential sellers say they anticipate a higher sale price if they wait.
  • A quarter of potential sellers say they aren’t selling because of COVID-19 health concerns, while 6% cite taking advantage of mortgage forbearance programs as a reason they are holding off.

Life uncertainty, likely caused by COVID-19, keeps more than a third (34%) of would-be sellers out of the market. Financial anxiety is a big part of that: 31% of homeowners considering selling in the next three years say a current uncertain or precarious financial situation is a reason to stay put. 27% report a recent change in employment with a decrease in hours or pay, and 17% saying they or their spouse/partner were laid off or involuntarily unemployed — which could be barriers to finding a new home.

To read more, click here

My comment: Worth reading the press release(link above) for a summary. For more info, there is a link for more details in the press release. I don’t like the Zestimates because many are not reliable, but I have always used their data for price changes, especially for retrospective appraisals. I also like some of their their statistical data analyses, such as this one.


Zillow joins Appraisal Foundation Industry Advisory Council (IAC)

By Jonathan Miller

Excerpt: Notice sent to IAC members “The voting process was completed for Zillow Group, and approved as an IAC member with the required affirmative votes (two-thirds of the IAC members). Thank you for taking the time to vote.”

My appraisal firm is a member of the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) of the Appraisal Foundation (TAF). I’ve presented to IAC in Washington and the people I’ve met at IAC are great. Before I get to Zillow, here are my thoughts about the structure of the TAF councils Note: below is a very brief summary of Miller’s comments:

IAC = Pay to Play. To see how the sausage is made, members pay $2,500 per year to buy access to TAF executives, board chairs, and various staff…

TAFAC (The Appraisal Foundation Advisory Council) = free.  Composed of 60 non-profit organizations and government agencies. There is no fee for these members, just travel costs.

To read more, click here

My comments: Worthwhile reading Miller’s interesting comments. I have been following the Appraisal Foundation since it started. Over time I have become more negative. Miller has been very negative about the Appraisal Foundation for awhile. Sometimes I agree with him, and sometimes I don’t. I am not comfortable with Zillow on the IAC.

Over the years, I attended a few IAC meetings. They were very informative and great networking. In contrast, the few ASB meetings I attended were not very informative for various reasons.


Getting too many ad-only emails?

4 ways to get only the FREE email newsletters and NOT the ad-only emails.

1. Twitter: (same time delivery) – all recent newsletters

2. Appraisal Today blog:  (posted by noon Friday) To get notices when newsletters are posted, sign up in the upper right of the blog. No ads in the blog post. You will receive an email to confirm.

3. Email Archives:

(posted early Friday) Link is above and to the right of the big yellow email sign up form. Newsletters start with “Newz”. Contains all recent emails sent.

4. Link to 10 most recent posts and newsletters (no ads) at  scroll down past the big yellow signup block.

NOTE: When you have set up one of the choices above and it is working, you can unsubscribe from this email list, which includes getting ads, by clicking the unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email newsletter.


Click here for the list of 4 ways plus information on why I take ads, etc.


Reduce your liability: Sample disclaimers and statements for your appraisals

In the July issue of the paid Appraisal Today, available to all paid subscribers


Appraisers are not home inspectors – very important to include in all your reports – a significant issue for borrower claims, the majority of claims today. Borrowers can get confused about the difference between appraisers and home inspectors.

“The appraiser is not a home inspector, and this appraisal report is not a home inspection report. It does not guarantee or imply that the property or any structures are free of defects or property condition problems. It is suggested that the borrower secure a professional inspection of the property and take diligent steps to assure the house and property are acceptable to them prior to closing escrow.”

Disclaimers/statements also included (sample) :

External or desktop appraisals

Intended users

Also included is good legal advice from Peter Christensen, on where to put the disclaimers in your appraisal report, use of hypothetical conditions, signing Covid “disclaimer” forms before you go into a home being sold, getting sued if the occupant gets the virus after your visit, and other practical topics.

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

If this article gave you one good idea

about liability reduction for your appraisals,

it is worth the subscription price!!

Not sure if you want to subscribe?

Sign up for monthly auto renewal for $8.25!!

Cancel at any time for any reason!!!

$8.25 per month, $24.75 per quarter, $89 per year (Best Buy) 

or $99 per year or $169 for two years 

Subscribers get, FREE: past 18+ months of past newsletters 

To purchase the paid Appraisal Today newsletter go to  or call 800-839-0227. What’s the difference between the Appraisal Today free weekly email newsletters in this blog and the paid monthly newsletter?

Click here for more info!If you are a paid subscriber and did not get the November issue, emailed Monday November 2, 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.


The Serious Disconnect Between A Hot Residential Real Estate Market And The Coming Tsunami Of Foreclosures

Excerpts: If you just look at volume and prices, the U.S. residential real estate market looks as rosy as ever, spurred on by very low interest rates from the same Federal Reserve …

The shady side of the street is much different. Mortgage delinquency rates are at a 20-year high worse than the 2008 high if that tells you anything (and it should), and there are predictions that at least two million mortgages will soon go into default. And that is just the tip of the iceberg…

The problem is that supply in the form of foreclosed homes (and homes voluntarily sold to avoid foreclosure) is about to overwhelm demand by many magnitudes.

To read more, click here

My comment: finally, someone is writing about this!! I have been thinking about this for a while now. Understandable and worth reading.


Built in 1638, the Oldest Log Cabin in the U.S.

Excerpt: Eighteen years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, a simple log cabin was built 350 miles to the south, near the Delaware River, in what’s now New Jersey.

Now the Nothnagle Log Home in Gibbstown, NJ, was on the market for $2.9 million in July 2017. The property includes a 352-square-foot log cabin built in 1638 as well as a more modern home. It’s now back on the market for just $875,000, at a 70% discount.

“It includes an instant museum, artifacts, and antiques.”

To read more, click here

My comment: Good fotos and interesting stories. Worth checking out!!


COVID-19 Recent posts

Very Big Pfizer Vaccine News!! Return to Normalcy!

Fauci says we could all be vaccinated by next April.

On Monday, Nov. 9 2020, Pfizer sent a press release stating that their vaccine was more than 90% effective.The flu virus averages 50%, with the other 50% of people taking the shot not getting immunity. The measles vaccine is unusual, with over 90% effectiveness with one dose.

Dr. Fauci has always been “cautiously optimistic” about vaccines. For the first time, he said, “The results are really quite good, I mean extraordinary,”

Fauci also said Covid could remain a chronic problem and face masks, distancing, etc. would still be needed.

Estimates vary on how long before we will reach herd immunity, depending on how many people will get vaccinated and other uncertainties (see links to my blog posts below). I am hearing from mid-2021 to 2022 or longer, assuming the vaccine is 90% or more effective. To get the economy back would take more time.

Pfizer’s vaccine is totally different than all other approved vaccines, which are based on other viruses, such as the annual flu shots. These new vaccines are bioengineered: mRNA (messenger RNA).

Two other U.S. mRNA vaccines in late stage clinical trials are coming very soon from Moderna and Novavax. If they are 90% or more effective, there will be more vaccine shots available to us.

Pfizer press release 11-9-20. A bit technical but worth reading for the details. It has is all anyone knows until the FDA allows for more data releases. Pfizer is, or will be, applying for Emergency Authorization Use (EAU) from the FDA very soon.

To read the press release, click here


The three videos below are posted on my covid blog. 

Fauci says the vaccine could be available to all by April. – 3-minute video

To watch the video, click here


Pfizer Vaccine 90% effective – Fantastic news!! 5-minute video. Understandable with good videos of distribution and an animation of the vaccine.

To watch the video, click here


Pfizer CEO on vaccine – a “game-changer” for controlling COVID-19 – 5 minute video. Speaker is a bit “dry” but good info on the background and where they are doing directly from the top.

To watch the video, click here


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 0.5 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 11, 2020) – Mortgage applications decreased 0.5 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending November 6, 2020.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 0.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 1 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 1 percent from the previous week and was 67 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 5 percent compared with the previous week and was 16 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage application activity was mixed last week, despite the 30-year fixed rate decreasing to 2.98 percent – an all-time MBA survey low. The refinance index climbed to its highest level since August, led by a 1.5 percent increase in conventional refinances,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The purchase market continued its recent slump, with the index decreasing for the sixth time in seven weeks to its lowest level since May 2020. Homebuyer demand is still strong overall, and activity was up 16.5 percent from a year ago. However, inadequate housing supply is putting upward pressure on home prices and is impacting affordability – especially for first-time buyers and lower-income buyers. The trend in larger average loan application sizes and growth in loan amounts points to the continued rise in home prices, as well as the strength in the upper end of the market.”  

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 70.0 percent of total applications from 68.7 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 2.0 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 10.6 percent from 11.1 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 12.6 percent from 12.2 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.4 percent from 0.5 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 a survey low of 2.98 percent from 3.01 percent, with points decreasing to 0.35 from 0.38 (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) decreased to 3.13 percent from 3.18 percent, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.30 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA remained unchanged at 3.08 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 2.55 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 2.79 percent from 2.67 percent, with points decreasing to 0.42 from 0.52 (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


We want to know what you think!! Please leave a comment.