Homes with structural problems for appraisers

Take a break and see some very strange things that can happen!!

Excerpt: For nearly 30 years, Alpha Structural, Inc. has developed a powerful reputation as the number one foundation engineering and repair, landslide repair, earthquake, and structural rehabilitation contractor in the Los Angeles area.

In this post, they share photos from its engineers’ day-to-day work, including all the funniest, most bizarre, and downright dangerous things they discover.

To check out the text, photos, very humorous comments, and leave your own comments, Click Here !!

My comments: I have appraised a lot of hillside homes and seen a lot of foundation damage, including strange ways people try to keep the damage from getting worse. One house was slowly moving down the hill. I appraised it as land value plus interim use as a rental (a very slow market at that time). Many thanks to long-time appraiser and friend (30+ years), John Regan, for this Most Excellent Link,!!Getting too many ad-only emails?

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

NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other topics in this long blog post on subpoenas, pets, Zillow, mortgage origination stats, etc.


Appraiser gets subpoena. What to do?

Excerpt: Depending on the nature of the subpoena and if witness testimony is requested, the appraiser may seek to get paid for their time. Some appraisers rightly point out that their limiting conditions in the appraisal include a statement that their service “does not include testimony.” They, therefore, insist that the attorney pay them their hourly fee. But because the appraiser is being ordered by the court, they typically are entitled to no more than the daily witness fee. Here in California, that is $35 for the day and $0.20 per mile for mileage.

Serving an appraiser with a subpoena is an approach that some attorneys use to try to get “expert witness” testimony for free. Consequently, an appraiser who is called to testify may want to present an expert witness contract to the attorney who was involved in issuing the subpoena. It is often helpful to speak to the attorney first, as this will allow you to understand why they are involving you in the case in the first place. And it might also present an opportunity for you to sell your services if you so desire.

To read more, click here

My comment: The question, of course, is the fee. This article is detailed and explains a lot of the issues. Excellent advice. A good example from a home inspector.

Let the attorney who sent the subpoena know what you will not be testifying as an expert witness. I have done expert witness testimony but have never received a subpoena, fortunately.


Things To Remember About Tax Appeals

By Jamie Owen

Excerpt: As January rolls around each year, homeowners begin receiving their property tax bills. That’s why my tax appeal work often picks this time of the year. It should be no surprise that assessed home and land values are increasing. Property values have been increasing in many areas for years, with 2020 being a record year for home appreciation in many neighborhoods. So, it should be no surprise that the assessed values of homes are increasing.

In my experience with tax appeal work, usually the county assessor’s values are supportable. So, when might it be worth having an appraisal completed to contest your assessed value?

To read more, click here

My comment: Written for homeowners, but lots of excellent ideas for appraisers. The May 2019 issue of Appraisal Today has an article on this topic: Assessment appeals – marketing, fees, critical dates, etc. Focuses on the business side of tax appeals. It can be a profitable appraisal service. Available to paid subscribers. I attended meetings of assessment appeals boards in 3 local counties. Very interesting – a wide range of experience, background, politics, etc.


Underground Compound of 4 Fallout Shelters in Montana

Excerpt: When spectacular mountain views are available, nearby homes almost always feature an abundance of windows to soak in the vistas. However, this property in Montana heads in a completely opposite direction. These four homes have no windows at all. They’re completely underground.

Listed for $1.75 million, the earth-sheltered homes were originally built as fallout shelters. Completely remodeled with curved walls.

To read more and see lots of photos, click here

My comments: Another appraisal challenge!!! Or nightmare ;> AirBnB? No complaints about noisy parties… I still remember the days of lots of people building fallout shelters in rear yards and hiding under my desk during drills at school for nuclear bombs.


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Burned out on broadcast AMC orders looking for low fees, fast turn arounds, picky “reviews”?

Thinking about non-lender work?

These two articles discuss the differences between lenders and non-lenders and can help you decide.

  • Communicating with non-lender clients: Very, very different than lenders!!
  • Should you do non-lender work? Pluses and minuses of both lender appraisals and each different type of non-lender appraisal.

To read the articles, plus 2+ years of previous issues, subscribe to the paid Appraisal Today. I also have lots of articles on doing different types of non-lender work.

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Unaffordable Affordability?

By George Dell

Excerpt: A great deal of economic, social, and political talk has been around affordability of housing. To explore this topic, it may be helpful to ask some questions. Good policy starts with the right questions.

In simplest terms, some people have the resources to have nice homes in nice neighborhoods, others have just tolerable homes for shelter. And others have no homes at all. We call them “home-less.”

More recently, we have become aware of the connection of poor housing and groups of certain ethnic categories. Discovery. There is association between housing status and ethnicity. Now what?

To read more, click here

My comment: Controversial topic. I reviewed Bagott’s book Dispatches from the Cosmic Cobra Breeding Farm, mentioned in this post. Worth reading. Mostly about the Appraisal Foundation and money


The Best Part Of My Job As An Appraiser

Excerpt: The best part of my job is the great animals I get to meet every day. I grew up with dogs in the house and have always gotten along with them. After college in the first year of our marriage, a friend offered us a kitten, Damien, who enriched our lives for 21 years. Thanks Dave.

Being able to read animals and owners is a key skill. I have yet to be a bit after entering more than 5,000 homes over the past 18+ years which shows I’ve been successful.

(So that means I’ll get bit on my next inspection, I know how it works)…

What has been your experience with animals while inspecting? Any harrowing stories to share? Or have you been lucky like me and not yet bitten?

To read more, read the comments add your own, and see the pet photos, click here

My comment: Awhile ago, I was appraising the house of an appraiser I knew. Both of his small dogs bit me at the door. Beware of small dogs!! There was also the time I accidentally let a dog out and tried to get it back. Owners were home, fortunately. Been very careful with doors since then, especially cats who are good at escaping! All appraiser have pet stories!!


Zillow Starts Making Cash Offers For the Zestimate

“15 years after the creation of the Zestimate, the latest evolution has Zillow standing behind its trusted home valuation tool to guide initial cash offers on qualifying homes”

Excerpts: The Zestimate is now an initial cash offer for eligible homes… Markets with homes eligible for this program include: Phoenix, Tucson, Ariz., Charlotte, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., Miami, Jacksonville, Fla., Orlando, Fla., Tampa, Fla., Portland, Ore., Denver, Colorado Springs, Colo., Fort Collins, Colo., Nashville, Tenn., San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Calif., Sacramento, Calif, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Minneapolis.

The initial offer equal to the Zestimate valuation is currently available on a limited subset of homes in markets where Zillow Offers operates.

To read more, click here

Comments from Jonathan Miller’s Housing Notes: For years, Zillow has described the Zestimate as a place to start, but it is not an appraisal (to limit their legal exposure). Yet now they are going to use it as a basis for cash offers? Given the Zestimates inaccuracy…what a 5% median accuracy rate means: The Zestimate is within 5% of the actual value 50% of the time and 50% it is not. This seems quite reckless, no? What am I missing?

Link to Miller’s Housing Notes

My comment: It works well with newer tract homes. Will be interesting to see what “a limited subset of homes” includes. Recently built tract homes??


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 11.4 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 24, 2021) – Mortgage applications decreased 11.4 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending February 19, 2021.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 11.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 10 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 11 percent from the previous week and was 50 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 12 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 8 percent compared with the previous week and was 7 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage rates have increased in six of the last eight weeks, with the benchmark 30-year fixed rate last week climbing above 3 percent to its highest level since September 2020. As a result of these higher rates, overall refinance activity fell 11 percent to its lowest level since December 2020, but remained 50 percent higher than a year ago,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Additionally, the severe winter weather in Texas affected many households and lenders, causing more than a 40 percent drop in both purchase and refinance applications in the state last week.”  

Added Kan, “The housing market in most of the country remains strong, with activity last week 7 percent higher than a year ago. The average loan size of purchase applications increased to a record $418,000, in line with the accelerating home-price growth caused by very low inventory levels.” 

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 68.5 percent of total applications from 69.3 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 2.7 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 11.2 percent from 9.0 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 11.9 percent from 13.2 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.3 percent from 0.4 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 3.08 percent from 2.98 percent, with points increasing to 0.46 from 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $548,250) increased to 3.23 percent from 3.11 percent, with points increasing to 0.43 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 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 3.00 percent from 2.93 percent, with points decreasing to 0.33 from 0.37 (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 increased to 2.56 percent from 2.47 percent, with points increasing to 0.40 from 0.36 (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 remained unchanged 2.83 percent, with points decreasing to 0.36 from 0.70 (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

1826 Clement Ave. Suite 203 Alameda, CA 94501

Phone 510-865-8041

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