More Crazy Appraisal Stories!


Restraining Orders & Appraisals – Never a Great Mix

Eric VanderWaal

The majority of my appraisal work is on divorces and estates, both of which have their fair share of crazy stories.

I was appraising a home for a divorce several years ago. The husband had contacted me for the appraisal, but it was the wife who was living in the home. We met at 9:30 am, which was an odd time that he requested. When I arrived at the home, he said that she wasn’t home and had locked all the doors, so he called a locksmith to come to open the back door. The locksmith arrived shortly and started to work on the backdoor. The husband said that his wife was aware of the appraisal appointment and should have left the home unlocked.

I started on the outside and about ten minutes later, a woman comes to the backyard where the husband, myself, and the locksmith were and starts yelling at the husband about him not being allowed to be there. I thought it was the wife, but it turned out to be a neighbor. The wife was at an appointment which is why, I figured out, that he wanted the appointment at 9:30 am rather than 10:00 am. After several minutes of the husband and neighbor yelling at each other, the locksmith got the back door open. The neighbor left and we went inside…

To read more, click here

My comments: We all have these stories ;> Divorce is the best non-lender option for residential appraisers. Very little competent competition and very high fees for expert witness testimony.

You will probably be going up against an MAI. Your attorney says to the MAI: How many house appraisals have you done this year? Answer: 4. Your answer: much more than 4! Your attorney is happy at winning the case, and you get lots more divorce work.

I will be writing about this in an upcoming issue of the monthly Appraisal Today, with lots of marketing and expert witness tips.

Many thanks to Appraisal Buzz for the image above. My favorite appraiser image ;>

Appraisal Business Tips 

Humor for Appraisers

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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 Graphs and Trendlines, Market Value definition, appraisal forms, unusual homes, mortgage origination stats, etc.


Big Houses, Sprawling Estates, and Cool Compounds: Tour 12 Extra-Large Properties

Gardens, guest houses, home spas — no matter how you slice it, these homes are undeniably enviable

Excerpts: There are few fantasies more persuasive or alluring than that of the expansive estate. When you think of big houses, your mind may immediately jump to the McMansions of yore, those garish homes you’d expect to see on an episode of MTV Cribs.

The ones we can’t stop daydreaming about more closely resemble graceful, though still boldly luxurious, homes like the central property of Downton Abbey or the setting of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies before the horror film took a dark turn.

13 New Structures and Four Existing Ones at a Maryland Compound (photo above)

As a child with an entrepreneurial mind, David Williams owned a lawn maintenance business. “I would cut grass at these beautiful Bucks County estates with stone walls and many outbuildings,” he reminisces, “and I always said to myself, someday I will have a farm like this.” After moving to Maryland for college, it became clear that the perfect location for this envisioned weekend getaway would be along the states’ storied coast. So when an old farm property on the Chester river went up for sale, everything fell into place.

Over the course of 10 years, perfecting the design and layout for his newly purchased compound became a passion…

To read more and see lots of photos, click here 

My comments: A good specialty for appraisers is appraising luxury homes for lenders and other purposes. Not much competent appraiser competition. Get on lenders’ Special Lists, which are short. Cubicasa works well for measuring them.


Visualizing Market Activity Using Graphs & Trendlines

By Dave Towne, November 18, 2022 Update

Excerpts: Appraisers, this article will highlight the process I use to bring clarity to my research and analysis of ‘comparable’ properties. This completed process becomes an exhibit in all my appraisal reports because it helps the Intended User(s) visually see what the market has been doing over a known time period. The exhibit graph also indicates a daily rate of change for the sales over the time period, which can then be applied as a ‘time’ (market) adjustment to each comp in the report – if warranted.

Before launching into the process, I want to acknowledge appraisers David Braun, Patrick Egger, George Dell, Joe Lynch and Steven R. Smith for teaching the importance of, and processes for, analyzing and using data and graphs in appraisal reports to me and other appraisers. Additional input has been derived from other educational sources, primarily for the use of Excel.

To read more, click here

My comments: See how Dave uses graphs to explain what he is doing. I have been reading Dave’s emails with lots of useful information for a long time. Having some of them on lets you make comments!

To subscribe to Dave’s emails, send an email with state of license, regional/city name & request to Dave Towne


New in the December 2022 issue of Appraisal Today. Available December 1.

  • 2022 year-end tax planning for appraisers. It’s not too late to save on your 2022 taxes!
  • Book Review: Residential Market Analysis and Highest and Best Use by Mark Ratterman, MAI, SRA Reviewer: Joe Lynch
  • Appraisers’ Heavy Loads USPAP, GSEs, Public Trust, Protect the Client by Tim Andersen, MAI Interesting comments from Tim. Not what you would expect!
  • Marketing with Holiday Gifts and Cards – An Easy, Excellent Marketing Tool! Good ideas, especially if business is slow.

To read more about these topics, plus 2+ years of previous issues, subscribe to the paid Appraisal Today.

If these articles helped you save money on your 2022 taxes or gave you some good ideas, it is worth the subscription price!


If you have any comments or info on any topics, please hit the reply button!! I’m always looking for something new ;>


How to Pull Comps on a Complex Property

By McKissock

Excerpts: When you are comparing like properties, pulling comps isn’t all that difficult. However, when it comes to atypical properties, the process becomes much more challenging. Experts almost always recommend that appraisers use an “apples to apples” approach when researching comps, but what do you when there isn’t another “apple” to compare?

Start with the low-to-high range

No doubt, this could be a wide range, but it at least provides you with some insight about where the value of the property is likely to fall. If either the low or high property doesn’t align at all with the subject property, you’ll know that you must do some additional digging and broaden your search.

Conduct deep research

The status quo is to look for houses of similar size and condition, within the same neighborhood, that sold within the last six months. However, that likely won’t apply with atypical properties. You may need to go back years, expand outside your neighborhood, or consider properties that only have some similar characteristics (e.g., the style is similar, but the square footage is different) to find a comparable property. Then make sure you adjust up or down to reflect market trends.

Other topics include: Previous sale of subject, Broaden your search to other competitive areas, and don’t be afraid to tap your appraiser network

To read more, click here

My comments: Worth reading. I have used the low to high method for many years for difficult appraisals. A friend of mine recently purchased a home and needed to refi. (He had to take an expensive private loan to close in time.)The refi appraisal used his sale as Comp 2. I explained to him that there was only one other similar sale. Other sales were from different neighborhoods. His sale was very useful. Without it, the appraisal would have been very difficult!

The November issue of Appraisal Today has an excellent article Tips for dealing with complex residential appraisals. The December issue has a review of the new book Residential Market Analysis and Highest and Best Use by Mark Ratterman, MAI, SRA.

Note on photo above. The well-known Fish House, located in Berkeley, CA. Appraisers I know appraised it for a lender and told me about the home!


Is the Definition of Market Value Outdated?

Guest Post from Bruce Hahn, SRA, MAI, CRE, CCIM

Excerpts: Why has the current definition of market value been around without change for so long? Many decades in fact! Not much of it seems applicable to the realities of at least the last decade nor the rest of this decade. Consider the definition from page 4 of the current FNMA 1004 – the URAR form.

There are problems with just about every element of this definition because they have not described the market conditions for the last decade plus in America. Item 4 stands out in particular. Why don’t appraisals consider the impact of financing on market value? Payment in terms of cash in US dollars or financial arrangements comparable thereto…..

Forget the other problems with the definition of market value! It is very clear that financing terms have not been equal to cash recently. The first line after the definition of value on page 4 of the URAR has the following comment: “*Adjustments to the comparables must be made for special or creative financing or sales concessions.” Isn’t a mortgage interest rate that is negative in real terms special financing?

So why is the definition of market value so hopelessly out of date? And why do appraisers not consider the impact of financing/leverage on market value? Clearly it matters!

To read more and see the graphs, click here

My comments: Worth reading. I have known Bruce for over 30 years. He is a very savvy appraiser who does both residential and commercial properties. Bruce is on my short list of appraiser experts to call when I need help. At the bottom of the post are links to other blog posts by George Dell on Market Value. On the right side of the post is a link to “Price Indexing in Changing and Declining Markets – a three-hour webinar”.

In my appraisal practice I have used many definitions of value. Some of them I make up myself. For example family members are fighting over values for various reasons. There are also different definitions of “market value”. Estates, condemnation, relocation, etc. also have different types of value names and definitions.

We are Totally Trapped with the current URAR definition. No changes to the form itself since 2005. Lender appraisals are going downhill fast. No URARs used for non-lender appraisals. You pick the report type you want. Your appraisal software has many forms.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Restored Fawcett Farm House Hits the Market for $4.25M in Los Banos, California

Excerpts: $4,250,000 Est. 7 bed, 6 bath, 4041 square feet, 76.16 acre lot, built in 1961. Listed 8/3/22 Previous sale: 6/22/12 for $1,600,000.

Sited amid acres of agricultural land in Los Banos, California, Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1961 Fawcett Farm hits the market at $4.24 million. The gated residence originally belonged to renowned Chicago Bears player Buck Fawcett before Ken & Carrie Cox, its current owners, came into the picture.

Upon their request, Fawcett Farm underwent a multi-award-winning and extensive restoration consulted by the architect’s grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright. Today, tucked within a peaceful island of greenery, the refreshed property stands ready to become someone else’s dream home.

For many, Fawcett Farm perfectly exemplifies the ‘Usonian’ home, a term first dubbed by Frank Lloyd Wright when designing for the archetypical American middle-class family: L-shaped, one-story, hugging a garden or a terrace, large cantilevered overhangs, local materials, clerestory windows and, most importantly, a strong indoor-outdoor visual flow. ‘We have no longer an outside and an inside as two separate things.

Now the outside may come inside, and the inside may and does go outside. They are of each other. Form and function thus become one in design and execution if the nature of materials and method and purpose are all in unison,’ the architect once wrote.

To read more, click here

My comments: Los Banos is in an agricultural area in central California, near Merced. Surprising to see this home there!


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 go to Or call 510-865-8041, MTW 7 AM to noon, Pacific time.

My comments: Rates are going up and down. No one knows when they will stabilize. Some appraisers are very busy, and others have little work. Varies widely around the country.


Mortgage applications increased 2.2 percent from one week earlier

Mortgage applications increased 2.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending November 18, 2022. Last week’s results include an adjustment for the observance of Veterans Day.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 2.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 10 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 2 percent from the previous week and was 86 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 9 percent compared with the previous week and was 41 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell for the second week in a row to 6.67 percent and is now down almost 50 basis points from the recent peak of 7.16 percent one month ago,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “The decrease in mortgage rates should improve the purchasing power of prospective homebuyers, who have been largely sidelined as mortgage rates have more than doubled in the past year. As a result of the drop in mortgage rates, both purchase and refinance applications picked up slightly last week. However, refinance activity is still more than 80 percent below last year’s pace.”

Added Kan, “With the decline in rates, the ARM share of applications also decreased to 8.8 percent of loans last week, down from the range of 10 and 12 percent during the past two months.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 28.4 percent of total applications from 27.6 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 8.8 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 13.4 percent from 13.5 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 10.5 percent from 10.6 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged at 0.6 percent from the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) decreased to 6.67 percent from 6.90 percent, with points increasing to 0.68 from0.56 (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 $647,200)decreased to 6.30 percent from 6.51 percent, with points increasing to 0.74 from 0.64 (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 decreased to 6.66 percent from 6.93 percent, with points increasing to 1.01 from 0.99 (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 6.08 percent from 6.27 percent, with points decreasing to 0.70 from 0.73 (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 5.78 percent from 5.73 percent, with points increasing to 0.73 from 0.65 (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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