Strange Encounters in Property Appraisal

By: McKissock

Excerpts: Property appraisal is not typically thought of as a “dangerous” profession per se. However, you may encounter some strange—or even spooky—properties from time to time. Recently we asked our appraisal community, “What’s the weirdest property you’ve appraised recently?” While some appraisers discussed atypical and challenging properties, others shared stories of strange encounters ranging from surprising to creepy to downright scary.

We’ve organized the strange and spooky properties described by our survey participants into the following categories:

  •  Vacant and secluded homes
  •   Spooky historic properties
  •   Properties in horrible condition
  •   Other surprising and strange site visits

“Vacant house that neighbors told me had not been occupied for almost 3 years. They were concerned that the electric was still on and could pose a danger as you could hear an electrical buzzing sound. Once I entered the house, the sound was evident and I looked for the source, probably a light fixture with a bad ballast or short-circuit. However what I found was a massive wasp nest that was approx 4′-5′ tall in one of the bedrooms.

When I opened the door, it clearly agitated them and I got out quickly and advised the lender to send in an exterminator ASAP. They were far too aggressive for me to even snap a photo. The AMC rep wanted to know if I could simply hit the nest with a can of wasp spray! Is this the actuality of ‘walking into a hornet’s nest’?”

To read more, click here

My comments: We have all encountered strange homes. I worked for an assessor’s office for 5 years in my first appraisal job. I appraised everything in a specific geographic area. I saw a lot of weird homes, especially in the more rural hillside areas. Lenders would have never loaned on them!

An appraiser I have known for many years saw a ghost in a haunted B&B he stayed in when traveling in Montana. He is about the last person you would think who saw an apparition of a woman. The owner and other visitors had seen her also.

Haunted House Appraisal Adjustments

Appraisal Business Tips 

Humor for Appraisers

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NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other topics in this long blog post, appraisers with increased income, ADUs in California can be Condos , unusual homes, mortgage origination and more!



White House Ghost Stories

Source: White House Historical Association

Excerpts: As a home with a history dating back to 1800, the White House has its fair share of supernatural stories.

1862-1863: Mary Lincoln, grieving over her son Willie’s death in February, began to participate in spirit circles or at the White House and the presidential cottage at the Soldiers’ Home. Spiritualism was wildly popular during the height of the Civil War as families sought comfort for the loss of loved ones.

Abraham Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln appears in the Lincoln Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room. First Lady Grace Coolidge, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands claimed to have seen Lincoln.

Thomas Jefferson: Thomas Jefferson plays his violin in the Yellow Oval Room.

William Henry Harrison: William Henry Harrison haunts the attic. He was the first president to die in the White House.

To read more click here 


Haunted Housing: How Many Homebuyers Would Buy a ‘Haunted’ House? Adjustment – Positive or Negative?

Excerpts: Zillow’s survey of prospective homebuyers finds that 40% say they could be convinced to buy a haunted house if it had features such as a big backyard, a pool, or a two-car garage. Nearly one-third of prospective buyers (32%) say the same if the home were in their desired location.

Overall, nearly 30% of prospective homebuyers say they would be more likely to purchase a home if it were haunted (29%), while just 20% say ghosts wouldn’t impact their home purchase decision.

Speaking of surprises, a recent Zillow analysis finds most states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity in the home they’re selling. A spine-tingling 12% of successful homebuyers say their home is definitely haunted, while an additional 17% say their home may be harboring spirits.

To read more, click here 

My comments: Very interesting! My small city has online articles about all the haunted homes and other buildings, plus a World War II aircraft carrier. Many who have visited or stayed overnight at the carrier have seen, felt and heard very strange things.

Search for “Your City” haunted locations, and you will probably find articles. Scroll past all the Halloween haunted houses that are homes and other places set up for Halloween only.


Coming in the November 1 issue of Appraisal Today

Property Data Collectors (PDCs) Will Be Widely Used by Lenders in the GSEs’ Value Acceptance + Property Data Option

They are are a very popular option for lenders. They get a value from Freddie or Fannie before the borrowers pay for PDC. Also, it is much less risky for everyone than waivers.

If your business is slow and you want part-time work with PDCs you can use your appraisal skills to make money. Appraisers are, by far, the best PDCs. An appraisal license is not required. Trainees can be used.

I have many details, plus a 2 page Fannie list of approved AMCs and companies selling PDC s smartphone apps.

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ADUs Can Now Be Sold Separately as Condos In California

Excerpts: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law Assembly Bill 1033 on October 11, 2023. It allows accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to be sold separately from the homes they are associated with, in effect creating two- or three-unit condominiums.

… specific rules on how to convert an ADU into a condo are being left up to each municipality. “This satisfies the affordable housing element,” Al Salguero, real property division manager at the Orange County Assessor’s Office, told the publication. Assuming all the local condo conversion compliance boxes are checked, homeowners with ADUs can keep, rent, or sell one or all the units.

To read more, click here

If you appraise ADUs in California, read this bill!

To read the bill, click here

My comments: WoW! Will this happen in other states? Definitely will increase the affordable housing supply for homes, as home prices are very high in California, especially in coastal areas.

HBU will be tough for ADUs in California now. This is much easier than splitting a lot and putting in a few more rental units. Or, upzoning changes permitting more units per site.

I have yet to see many ADUs built in my area. I would much rather have an ADU condo than an ADU rental in my backyard. Most local people I know who built ADUs planned on living in them when they retired and renting out the front house. Or have a relative living in the ADU.

When ADUs started in California, local jurisdictions set the guidelines, which varied widely. It was a mess. Now, there are state laws.


Are Some Appraisers Actually Making More Money This Year?

By Dustin Harris

Excerpts: The short answer is, “Yes!” It’s a peculiar twist, isn’t it? Amidst a gloomy landscape where interest rates soar, and property transactions plummet, how is it that some appraisers are turning the tide and seeing greater financial success this year than they did last? The reason is simpler than you might think, they are rolling up their sleeves and changing the game.

1. Networking With a Passion

2. Speaking and Educating

3. The Power of the Internet and Social Media

4. Going Above and Beyond with AMCs and Other Clients

5. Working on the Business

6. The Value of Mentorship and Accountability

To read three case studies and lots more, click here

My comments: I was surprised that the appraisers’ comments below the article were very negative. How did they make more money on lender appraisals? Marketing. There is nothing new in this article. These ideas and methods are well-known in business marketing.

I suspect that the appraisers in the case studies don’t only work for AMCs. Or, they somehow work for “good” AMCs, whatever that is. For a very long time, some lenders have special lists of appraisers for the “tough ones”. Maybe they were able to get on some of these lists, which are used by their AMCs.

There are direct lenders in many markets who have their own appraiser lists, including mine. They are careful to keep appraisals separate from those who make the loans. There are two large ones in my area.

I understand. We all want to get orders emailed to us and send the appraisals with a very prompt payment, including myself. AMCs require no marketing to get on the list. But when business dies, you are out of work.

Do you have to join one of Dustin’s mastermind groups? No. But, if appraiser coaches were available when I started my business, I would have probably used one.

I have marketed my appraisals to lenders and non-lenders since I started my business in 1986, using many techniques discussed in the article.

I quit all residential lender appraisals in 2005 due to the cyclicality. My non-lender work is always steady. I am getting calls every week for non-lender appraisals now. Appraisers I know who do non-lender work are also busy now. Relatively few lender appraisers are willing to do them, even though they are easier and very little hassles, as compared with most AMCs.

I have always been a local market expert in my city. There are few appraisers here. I became well-known among appraisers, real estate agents, and others.

Ryan Lundquist is an expert in his market and uses many of Dustin Harris’ tips. He only does non-lender appraisals.



California $8M Coastal Home With Its Own ‘Mystical Portal

Excerpts: 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, 4,560 sq.ft., 0.94 acre lot

There’s nothing like waking up to ocean views—especially if you’re nestled in a 4,650-square-foot architectural masterpiece with a mystical portal that delivers the sound of the ocean right to your bedroom.

This 5-bedroom residence in The Sea Ranch, CA, was originally crafted by renowned architect Carson Bowler in 1972, then thoughtfully updated by Obie Bowman in 1997. Now on the market for $8 million, the home was designed with true ocean fanatics in mind, explains listing agent, Pattie Lawton, of Sotheby’s International Realty.

“A delightful, corrugated tube—a ‘mystical portal’—runs through the home and brings in the views and sounds of ocean waves into a very special bedroom,” she says. The one-of-a-kind feature is billed in the listing as an “enchanting auditory retreat.”

The town of The Sea Ranch is the product of architectural pioneers who erected timber-frame, modern structures designed to honor the beauty and serenity of their surroundings. The Sea Ranch stretches along 10 miles of Sonoma County’s coastline.

This 3,500-acre community offers 55 miles of hiking trails through majestic redwoods, 60 miles of private roads for biking and scenic drives, as well as a private airstrip. Three recreation facilities for residents feature heated pools and sports facilities.

To read more, click here

My comments: The Sea Ranch is north of San Francisco. I have local friends with vacation homes there. This home is not unusual for the Sea Ranch.


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, click here.

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. Many appraisers are not busy. Some are busy, usually in rural areas and/or non-lender appraisals.


Mortgage applications decreased 1.0 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 25, 2023) — Mortgage applications decreased 1.0 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending October 20, 2023.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 1.0 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 2 percent from the previous week and was 8 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 22 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“Ten-year Treasury yields climbed higher last week, as global investors remained concerned about the prospect for higher-for-longer rates and burgeoning fiscal deficits. Mortgage rates followed Treasuries higher, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate jumping 20 basis points to 7.9 percent – the highest since 2000. Rates have now risen seven consecutive weeks at a cumulative amount of 69 basis points,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “Mortgage activity continued to stall, with applications dipping to the slowest weekly pace since 1995. These higher mortgage rates are keeping prospective homebuyers out of the market and continue to suppress refinance activity. The ARM share of applications inched up to 9.5 percent, its highest since November 2022.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 31.4 percent of total applications from 30.5 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 9.5 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 15.2 percent from 14.8 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 10.5 percent from 10.7 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 ($726,200 or less) increased to 7.90 percent from 7.70 percent, with points increasing to 0.77 from 0.71 (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 $726,200) increased to 7.78 percent from 7.56 percent, with points decreasing to 0.71 from 0.85 (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 7.52 percent from 7.36 percent, with points increasing to 1.15 from 1.02 (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 7.08 percent from 6.98 percent, with points increasing to 1.42 from 1.04 (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 6.99 percent from 6.52 percent, with points decreasing to 0.68 from 1.50 (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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