How to Identify a Complex Residential Property

By Dan Bradley

Excerpts: A complex one-to-four family residential property is defined as a property that meets at least one of the following criteria:

  •   The property to be appraised is atypical
  •   The form of ownership is atypical
  •   The market conditions are atypical

Some of the key physical features that can make an appraisal assignment complex include:

  •  Size (significantly larger or smaller than typical for market)
  •   Floor plan (there may be functional obsolescence)
  •   Unique custom features
  •   Quality of workmanship or construction (higher or lower than the norm)
  •   Architectural design
  •   Adequacy of HVAC, electrical systems, well and/or septic
  •   Additional living unit(s)
  •   Non-conforming zoning
  •   Mixed-use property (for example, it is used as both a business and residence)
  •   Waterfront properties

Keep in mind that what is considered a complex residential property in one market might not be considered complex in another market. For example:

  •  A mansion in Beverly Hills is not atypical; a mansion located somewhere in rural America might be
  •  A log cabin in the mountains of Virginia is common; a beach-front log cabin in VA, not so much
  •  Manufactured or mobile homes with additions are common in rural areas, but generally not in cities

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Read this short article and keep it available. Very good lists of the factors.

Why do you want to know about this topic? Business is slow now, which is a good time to try appraising unusual homes. But, a fast turn time is not a good idea unless you are very familiar with the subject’s complexities. Do you have another appraiser who can help you? Don’t risk your appraisal license by getting in “over your head”. I get regular calls from appraisers who said “yes” but did not have anyone to advise them.

Very few appraisers, if any, would have experience on all these types of properties. For example, I have appraised many life estates, but no homes with a leasehold (ground lease) in a market area where such interests are uncommon. I have only appraised homes where the subject and all the nearby homes are leaseholds. I get advice for appraising it.


Appraisers Riding the Waves of Up and Down Mortgage Rates

Appraisal Business Tips 

Humor for Appraisers

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NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other topics in this long blog post overpriced homes, appraising 3,000 years ago, AMCs good bad ugly, unusual homes, mortgage origination stats, etc


$85M Oceanfront Legacy Estate in the Hamptons (NY)

Excerpts: 10bedrooms, 12.5+ baths, 13,690sqft 5.8 acre lot, built in 1968.

The home is said to be owned by real estate mogul Barton “Mark” Perlbinder, who was quietly shopping around the property last year for $150 million as a whisper listing.

With no takers, the 13,690-square-foot residence resurfaced at the astonishing $6,209-per-square-foot asking price to live in the most expensive zip code in the state.

Developed over time with the guidance of prominent designer John Saladino initially and then later with the legendary architect Peter Marino who reimagined the structure back in 2005 and oversaw a 10,000 square foot addition to the house.

The setting is unique as are the coastline views to the east and west. The surrounding farm-views and western skies make for allowing the play of light throughout the house each day. The home stands prominently on 5 acres with 357 feet of ocean frontage and borders a preserved Peconic Land Trust dunescape.

To read the listing, plus a video tour and 22 photos, Click Here


An open letter to overpriced sellers

And some fun memes ;>

June 12, 2024 By Ryan Lundquist

Excerpts: Yes, the above top image is a Xena Warrior Princess meme.

At this time of year, the market starts to slow, and we begin seeing a growing club of sellers who are overpriced and need to find the market through price reductions. Many areas around the country are still quite competitive, but there is no mistaking the market is different this year with more supply in just about every location.


We are no longer at pandemic lows. It’s just not 2021 any longer. We are seeing more new listings across the country, and it’s something we’re also seeing locally. Listings have increased much more in portions of Texas and Florida especially, so it’s important to recognize the trend isn’t the same in everywhere. The first visual is from Lance Lambert (highly recommend following him on X and subscribing to his daily emails). See bottom image above.

I’m not a huge Zillow fanboy, but I think this visual packs a punch to show how different locations don’t have the same temperature. See middle image above.


A closed sale today doesn’t really tell us about the market today. Nope. It tells us more about the trend one month ago when the property got into contract. Where is the market at right now? This is where we want to give strong respect to other similar units that are getting into contract. Forget about other overpriced listings. What is actually going pending at the moment? That’s what matters most. Of course, we’ll look at recent sales too. Let’s just not get stuck on sales from the past while ignoring current listings that are sitting.


In so many cases, lowering the price is more meaningful than offering concessions. The dream is to say, “The seller will give a credit for closing costs with a full-price offer,” but that’s not exactly enticing when a home is really overpriced. Keep in mind builders are often able to command lofty prices, but that’s because their bag of tricks includes a 5.5% rate, credits for closing costs, extra upgrades, etc… In other words, it’s a different vibe when a seller in the existing market expects to get builder premiums without fat concessions. Don’t get me wrong. Offering credits or a rate buydown can be an excellent strategy. All I’m saying is don’t forget about reasonable pricing.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Read this blog post. If your market is still hot, it may change. Don’t miss the change! I am hearing problems in many parts of my Bay Area market now. A friend had expected to sell her home easily but is having problems with few buyers. She had expected to sell her home before closing escrow on a home in another state. It is very, very stressful.

I was going to write about the national view and have read many articles and data about it. Fortunately, Ryan has done this with his blog post, which includes graphs and some fun memes.


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Appraising Over 3,000 Years Ago

Book of Moses – Donation to a Priest

Excerpt: There is a biblical reference in the Bible to appraising in the five books of Moses, written about 1400-1500 BC.

A person could give (dedicate) his house or his land to a priest for their use.

Kind of like when we donate property to charity. But the original owner had the right to redeem the land/house back if they so choose. If the original owner makes this decision, they would have to pay a 20% penalty over the original value to redeem the land/house.

Therefore, a neutral appraiser was needed to estimate its market value, so

as to determine the price and penalty. This role was given to the “priest”. (Not the one receiving the gift, but someone from “the clergy”.)

Scripture Reference…

“And when a man dedicates his house to be holy to the LORD, then the priest shall set a value for it, whether it is good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand.

‘If he who dedicated it wants to redeem his house, then he must add one-fifth of the money of your valuation to it, and it shall be his.” (Leviticus 27:14-15,

New King James Version of the Bible).

Thanks to John Karmelich, MAI for this contribution to appraisal history from

the Bible.


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Exposing Predatory AMCs

Excerpts: Appraisal Institute CEO Cindy Chance’s recent comments about the concerning practices of some appraisal management companies (AMCs) have struck a chord with many in the real estate valuation industry. Chance is shedding light on the troubling ways in which certain AMCs have come to wield significant power and influence over the appraisal process, often to the detriment of both appraisers and the public. The growth of AMCs in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis was driven by the misguided belief that they could help “ensure the integrity and independence” of property valuations. However, the reality has played out quite differently, with many AMCs prioritizing profit margins over quality and fairness.

From Cindy’s desk

Last week I hit a nerve with some comments about the value of appraisers and predatory AMCs not respecting their value. I got many notes from appraisers who were supportive and a few from AMCs, one of which was downright upset. And here I thought they would agree with me! I was thinking I was careful to call out predatory AMCs only, but apparently the number with ethical, transparent practices may be smaller than I imagined.

We are committed to getting the message to consumers that appraisers perform an essential function in our economic system, and anything that interferes with the professionalism and quality of an appraisal is a risk to the public. It is sad indeed that many AMCs, put in place to ensure quality in appraisals, are doing just the opposite.

To read more plus over 40 appraiser comments, Click Here

My comments: I have been a member of the AI (and SREA and AIREA predecessor professional appraisal organizations since 1986. After they merged in the early 1990s, interest in residential member issues dropped for various reasons. Finally, AI will at least stand up against the predatory AMCs.


Gov’t-Indulged Middlemen Are Wrong RX for Battered Borrowers, The Infirm and AMCs’ high appraisal fees

by Jeremy Bagott, MAI June 17, 2024

Excerpts: Today, according to the publication Healthcare Finance, three big pharmacy benefit managers have come to control 80% of the brand-medicines market. Their activities account for 42 cents of every dollar spent on brand medicines in the commercial market.

Now, a group of whistleblowers in federally backed mortgage lending has collected a random sampling of nearly a thousand cases of price-gouging by another obscure group of middlemen known as “appraisal management companies.” Some of the federally backed mortgage transactions show mark-ups of more than 60% on brokered appraisals in connection with home purchases and refinancings.


  • A borrower in the university town of Eugene, Oregon, paid for an appraisal. The mark-up on the appraiser’s underlying $325 fee was $740, costing the borrower a total of $1,065. The middleman’s mark-up amounted to nearly 70% of the total fee for the appraisal.
  • A borrower in Commerce City, Colorado, just north of Denver, paid a total of $820 for an appraisal. The mark-up on the appraiser’s fee of $315 was $505. The mark-up was 62% of the total appraisal fee.
  • A homeowner in rural Lonedell, Missouri, paid $525 for an appraisal. The mark-up on the appraiser’s $220 fee was $305, amounting to nearly 58% of the total cost to the borrower.
  • A Los Angeles homeowner paid a mark-up on the appraiser’s $375 fee of $725, for a total cost to the borrower of $1,100. The middleman’s mark-up amounted to 66% of the total appraisal fee.

The price-gouging revelations were a surprise to nobody in the profession except the one federal official tasked specifically with overseeing the regulation of these middlemen on a state-by-state basis. A University of Texas-trained lawyer and activist called Zixta Q. Martinez is chair of an obscure do-nothing federal committee tasked with overseeing the way states regulate appraisers and appraisal management companies.

Besides her duties on the committee, she is deputy director at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No one in the universe was better positioned to uncover price-gouging by appraisal management companies in mortgage transactions than Martinez.

But instead of regulating, Martinez was busy self-promoting and peddling a poisonous canard known as “appraiser bias.”

The whistleblowers – each with a different vantage point on the problem – have collected a random sampling of nearly a thousand instances of price-gouging by these middlemen and presented their findings directly to Martinez’s boss, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra. Many of the instances illustrate mark-ups of more than 60% of the total fee paid by hapless borrowers in connection with home purchases and refinances.

Chopra’s agency is now soliciting information from the public about “fees charged by providers of mortgages and related settlement services.”

To read more, Click Here

My comments: The June 7 weekly newsletter had info on sending in your comments and lots more. To read the June 7 newsletter Click Here, .

Bagott is a bit “out there” but has some good information and comments. He is the only appraiser investigative reporter!


The Fish House in Berkeley CA

Excerpts: The “Fish House” at 2747 Mathews St. in Berkeley, designed by Emeryville’s Eugene Tssui, is the least-expected and probably the most-photographed architectural design in Berkeley.

Crumbled abalone shell is mixed in with the stucco-ish exterior, providing the sparkle.

Tssui designed the home for his parents, who lived in it from 1995 until 2014. It is on Mathews Street, just west of San Pablo Park. But for it, Mathews Street is largely a street without quirk.

The house is designed based on the tardigrade, a segmented marine micro-animal. The tardigrade can survive extreme cold and extreme hot, extreme pressure or a vacuum, radiation doses, and can go without food or water for more than ten years.

When Tssui’s parents moved to Berkeley, they were concerned about earthquakes and wanted him to design a house in which they would be safe no matter what the Richter Scale said. Tssui consulted zoology and learned that the tardigrade is the most indestructible creature on the planet. True to his belief in biomimicry, he created a house based on the architecture of the lowly tardigrade. He believes that the Mathews Street house is safe from fire, earthquake, flood and pest.

The house’s proper name is Ojo del Sol or Tai Yang Yen – the Sun’s Eye. The name alludes to the south-facing 15-foot oculus window, a common feature of Byzantine and Neoclassical architecture. The oculus here serves to light and warm the house. Tssui now uses the name given the house by the public, the Fish House, tardigrade or not.

To read more and see the photos, Click Here

To read Part 2 with many very interesting interior photos, 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, 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 with non-lender appraisals.

Mortgage applications increased 15.6 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 12, 2024) — Mortgage applications increased 15.6 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Applications Survey for the week ending June 7, 2024.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 15.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 26 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 28 percent from the previous week and was 28 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 9 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 19 percent compared with the previous week and was 12 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage rates were trending lower over the course of last week until a stronger than anticipated employment report resulted in a bounce back, with the weekly average for the 30- year fixed mortgage rate decreasing to 7.02 percent,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s SVP and Chief Economist. “Lower rates earlier in the week meant a strong increase in refinance activity, particularly for VA borrowers, who jumped on the chance to lower their rates. Overall refinance activity was more than 27 percent above one year ago.”

Added Fratantoni, “On a seasonally adjusted basis and compared to the holiday-adjusted level from the prior week, purchase activity also increased. Multiple data sources are now indicating that home inventory levels, while still historically low, are up significantly from last year at this time. This is good news for many prospective homebuyers who have been frustrated by the lack of homes on the market.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 35.2 percent of total applications from 31.1 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 6.3 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 13.1 percent from 13.2 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 14.7 percent from 12.1 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications increased to 0.4 percent from 0.3 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($766,550 or less) decreased to 7.02 percent from 7.07 percent, with points unchanged at 0.65 (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 $766,550) decreased to 7.18 percent from 7.21 percent, with points increasing to 0.54 from 0.41 (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 remaining unchanged at 6.87 percent, with points decreasing to 0.92 from 0.96 (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 6.60 percent from 6.75 percent, with points decreasing to 0.55 from 0.63 (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 6.45 percent from 6.37 percent, with points increasing to 0.81 from 0.63 (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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