Appraising Historical Homes

Historical Properties and Their Unique Appraisal Approaches

Excerpts: Appraising historical properties involves a complex interplay of factors, making it a specialized field within real estate valuation. This article provides an insight into the appraisal process of historical properties, emphasizing the role of market data, potential buyers, specialized databases, appraisal methods, and the significant impact of preservation restrictions.

The appraisal process begins with a thorough analysis of market data, focusing on sales of properties that share historical or antique characteristics. This comparative market analysis extends beyond standard parameters like size and location to include age, architectural style, and historical significance. The scarcity of historical properties often requires appraisers to expand their search to find comparable sales, both geographically and over longer time frames.

The distinction between a historic property with preservation restrictions and an old house without them is crucial in the appraisal process. Preservation restrictions, often governed by the National Register or local historical commissions, can add value by ensuring the property’s integrity. However, these restrictions may also limit modifications, potentially affecting the property’s market appeal.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: If you don’t want to appraise a historic property, be sure to check it out before accepting the assignment!

Worth reading. A good summary. I suspect that a company based in Boston, MA sees lots of historic homes!

For many years I appraised in the nearby city of Berkeley, CA. There were definitely adjustments for homes built by famous, widely known, architects. Fortunately, their names were listed in the MLS.

In my small city, there are a few homes by famous architects. One was sold about 20 years ago by a famous architect, Julia Morgan. She designed more than 700 buildings in California during a long and prolific career. She is best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. No effect on value. I was surprised. If it was in Berkeley, there would be a substantial adjustment.

Some cities have large historic buildings, such as the City Hall in my city, built in 1895, twenty years after the city charter in 1872. The Gold Rush in California started in 1848, which brought many people to Northern California.

But, in my city, there are many restrictions on what can be done with older homes, such as Victorians. For example, window replacements must replicate the original windows, plus some other restrictions on exterior modifications. Restrictions are from the city, the county, and the state. In my city of 78,000 population, there are over 10,000 buildings constructed prior to 1930, including many classic Victorians.

Many downtown mixed-use buildings (retail and apartments) are in my city. I appraised many of them, but never noticed any effect, plus or minus, for historic designation.

Knowing what modifications are allowed is very important for the appraiser. Many people don’t like them. You need to know the market. Sometimes buyers like them and sometimes not.

See how many historic homes and buildings are where you do appraisals and where you live. You may be surprised!



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Appraisal Time Adjustments Underutized

FHFA Report: Underutilization of Appraisal Time Adjustments

Published: 1/8/2024

Excerpts: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Federal Housing Administration appraisal guidelines require such adjustments whenever market conditions have been changing. However, this blog shows that appraisers frequently do not make time adjustments, even when they are likely to impact the appraised value substantially. This analysis also finds that the adjustments appraisers do make are typically substantially smaller than house price indexes would suggest.

The main dataset used in this blog is a 5 percent sample of single-family housing in the Uniform Appraisal Dataset (UAD) that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) collect.5 The time period covered, the third quarter of 2018 through the fourth quarter of 2021, includes all the UAD data available to FHFA when the analysis began.

…monthly house price indexes for ZIP codes are used to walk forward the comparable sales amounts. For each comparable in the data, the price indexes are used to calculate a predicted time adjustment corresponding to the age of the comparable and local price trends.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Check out the very good graphs. Maybe the indexes were not as reliable as actual appraisal adjustments, but overall adjustments were lower by appraisers.

When I started my business in 1986, several very experienced local appraisers said don’t make time adjustments for lender appraisals. In a significant drop in prices, in the 1990s, some appraisers who made negative adjustments lost their businesses. I always made them and never had any complaints from my lender clients. I worked for an assessor’s office in the late 1970s where we were making 2% per month time adjustments upward. Since Fannie started focusing on UAD analysis around 2015, losing business because of negative market conditions has almost stopped. They are one of the easiest adjustments to make.

My market is very volatile. The only dollar adjustments on non-lender appraisals that I make on homes are market conditions unless it has a valuable feature, such as an excellent view, that needs an adjustment.


Online comments by a very experienced and savvy appraiser:

This (price indexing) is one thing that AVMs do quite well.

I’ve seen thousands of appraisals over the years where appraisers made no Positive or Negative Market Conditions adjustments, as though the market is always in balance and prices are always stable, even during periods of rapidly changing prices.

Ignoring market conditions adjustments makes us look incompetent to buyers, sellers, lenders, Realtors, and the general public. I purposely omitted AMCs from this group as they are order takers. It’s not good for Residential Fee Appraisers when FHFA tells the public how poorly we’re performing with regards to what most call “time adjustments”.


Appraisal Adjustments Yes, No, Maybe

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Superadequacy Adjustments for Appraisals

How to Account for a Superadequacy

By: McKissock

Excerpts: What is superadequacy?

Per The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 6th Ed., superadequacy is defined as “an excess in the capacity or quality of a structure or structural component; determined by market standards.” It’s a type of functional obsolescence in which the structure or one of its components is overly improved to a capacity or quality than a prudent buyer or owner would build or pay.

While we provide more detailed illustrations below, a simple example would be a 5,000 square foot luxury home built in a neighborhood comprised of two and three-bedroom mid-century ranch homes.

Example #1: Superadequate custom fireplace

Example #2: Superadequate 12-car garage

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Although the blog post references luxury homes, this can occur anywhere. Have you ever driven closer and closer to your subject and noticed that the homes are much smaller or have standard designs? You keep getting closer, hoping it is not your subject. It Is! This definitely has happened to me. Large unusual additions, two large kitchens, very extensive landscaping, etc.

Maybe you were busy and forgot to check it out in public records, MLS or speaking with the owner or agent (if a sale) when scheduling the appointment.

Market Your Appraisal Services: 59 Ways to Get More Business Now

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Appraisals: Using Comps Across a Freeway?

Pulling comps from the other side of the freeway

By Ryan Lundquist

Excerpts: It can be a REALLY bad idea to pull comps from the other side of the freeway, but not always. Today I have some thoughts about location, comp selection, and lenders freaking out when schools are mentioned in appraisal reports.

I don’t normally pull comps across a highway

In so many cases it’s an awful idea to cross a major road or highway to pull comps because a highway sometimes separates markets that are far different in age, square footage, lot size, architecture, price point, school district, etc….

But, crossing the highway does work here

With that said, I want to show you an example of a local neighborhood where I have zero hesitation about pulling comps from both sides of the highway. The areas north and south of Highway 50 below represent the College-Glen area…

Why it’s no biggie to pull comps like this

A) Prices are similar: Prices are similar on each side of the highway. I’ve found this when pulling comps through the years, and I’ve also shown this when making graphs. I will say the north side tends to have a slightly larger square footage than the south side (same with west vs east), which is something to consider when we compare stats. But it’s still not a major difference.

B) Buyer Behavior …

C) School System …

To read lots more, plus maps and many appraiser comments, Click Here


Why Comp Photos in Appraisals?

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Strange Properties Appraisers Have Seen

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

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2024 USPAP For Appraisers

2024 USPAP

Source: Appraisal Foundation

The 2024 Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice is now available for purchase in physical and digital formats.

This year, for the first time, you can purchase just the book of USPAP standards for $35. This covers all Definitions, Rules, and Standards.

We also have a new product launching this year. All Advisory Opinions, Frequently Asked Questions and the recently launched Reference Manual will now be part of a standalone publication called the 2024 USPAP Guidance and Reference Manual.

This change reflects the maturation of USPAP, resulting in longer effective dates. The ASB will continue to review USPAP for changes when necessary but will shift much of its focus to providing more guidance to the marketplace. Appraisers can now buy one set of USPAP standards and keep that publication on their bookshelf for as long as that edition is effective and purchase just the Guidance and Reference Manual as needed for coursework and updates.

If you like having the USPAP standards and guidance material linked, we still have you covered. You can also purchase a linked digital version of the eUSPAP and Guidance and Reference Manual and get seamless access across both documents.

To read the full letter, click here

My comments: USPAP 2024 is effective January 1, 2024. I’ve been waiting for a very long time for longer than 2 years between effective dates. Also, there is no ending date for the 2024 version.

When USPAP started, it was very exciting as appraisers had to decide what needed to be changed or added. Lots of people wanted to be on the ASB. Over time, I quit following the updates as there were few significant changes.

2024-2025 USPAP 7-Hour Update Course is being approved or is approved, in the states. I assume a new class will be required every two years in the future. Gotta keep that money coming into the Appraisal Foundation, I guess…

I really hated the classes when there was not much to say except a rehash of the past. I taught USPAP before the ASB told you what to teach. It was my favorite class as we could focus on issues in our current market. Of course, now there is appraiser discrimination, the current hot topic. Personally, I think there is very, very little intentional discrimination by appraisers, compared with the intentional discrimination by lenders (and others). “Red Lining” still exists, some are in the same locations.


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NAR Appraiser Survey July, 2023

NAR Appraiser Survey July, 2023

In July 2023, NAR Research conducted a survey of all 9,800 appraiser members and 50,000 randomly-selected residential-focused non-appraiser members.

The survey results had a comparison of 2022 and 2023, which was very interesting.

  • Appraiser Topics
  • Greatest challenges in business
  • Lesser challenges with business
  • Valuations
  • Comfort with valuation tools
  • Radius in which appraisals are conducted
  • Radius by area type (rural, small town, urban, resort, suburban)
  • How often asked to conduct appraisals outside geographic area/Property type of expertise

Sample: Greatest challenges in business

(AMCs) in general among their greatest challenges. This year, this option was broken into three separate AMC-related issues. Forty-four percent cite at least one of these, with 28 percent specifically citing AMC requests for revisions.

This year, however, the single greatest challenge, cited by almost half (47 percent), is “fee pressures,” which, based on comments, is also related in many cases to pressure from AMCs. This is up sharply from 27 percent last year.

One-quarter (26 percent) cite technology fees (not an option in 2022). Appraisers are less likely this year to cite expanding regulations/interpretations of regulations, lender requirements, pressure from real estate agents/brokers, and liability concerns.

The 21 percent who cite other challenges are most likely to cite lack of business/slow market, rising interest rates, low fees, and to reiterate pressure from AMCs.

A very good graphic is included for each section.

To read the report, click here

My comments: Read the appraiser sections in the long report. Fortunately, appraiser results are in the first section. I read the full survey. Most of the questions were for all NAR members, both appraisers and non-appraiser members. Some may be of interest to you. Much of the appraiser results were what we already sort of suspected, but it is good to see actual survey results.

NAR Appraisal Survey 2022

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Appraising Unusual Properties

Appraising Odd Properties: What’s the Weirdest Property You’ve Appraised Recently?

McKissock Survey

Excerpts: As a professional appraiser, you’ll likely encounter some strange properties from time to time. Odd properties tend to be challenging yet rewarding in terms of the fee. To gain insight into these types of assignments, we asked our appraisal community, “What’s the weirdest property you’ve appraised recently?” Thank you to the many respondents who shared stories about the most unique and complex properties they’ve come across lately!

Most of them fall into these categories:

  • Challenging and complex properties
  • Unique property types
  • Properties with atypical characteristics
  • Historic properties
  • Rural properties
  • Non-compliant properties

“A yurt, a space dome, and a two-story single-wide mobile home. This was two single-wide mobile homes stacked on top of each other with a spiral staircase that was encased in semi tractor trailer chemlite panels. The stories behind them are lengthy.”


“It was a house on three lots. It has been added on to over the years. The GLA is 3200sf and there are two separate basements with a total 1100sf. There are funky angles, two kitchens next to each other divided by a wall. It was only 3 bedroom, but had 3.1 bathrooms. It had 3 family rooms on the GLA. Lots of weird spaces.”

“A custom-built art school built by artist named Solonevich that is used as a single-family dwelling. Every couple feet was a random angle. Nearly impossible to measure accurately.”


To see more examples, Click Here


My comments: I was inspired by this post and included two unusual homes in this newsletter. The one below with a jail is a good example! Down the page is a $1 listing.

If the appraisal is for lending purposes, be sure to find out if it is “lendable” before spending much time on it. Lenders and CU/AVMs, like nice newer tract homes.


Whenever two appraisers meet, there is never a lack of conversational topics! This one is very popular! Be sure to get a higher fee, of course. These properties are an excellent learning experience. If your business is slow, now is a good time to do the “tough ones.”

Highest and best use are often the issues that are the most tricky for me, especially if you have to consider non 1-4 unit uses. HBU is a regular issue for the older commercial and mixed-use properties I appraise.

Every unusual home has appraisal comps

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Value of a Pool for Homes?

The value of a pool for Homes?

July 18, 2023 By Ryan Lundquist


Some areas have more pools than others

Real estate is about location. That’s what we always hear. And, it’s true. Homes in different locations and price points tend to have different amenities, and that includes pools. Keep in mind the presence of a pool could be about lot size also – not just the price range.

More pools at higher prices

Here’s a look at the percentage of homes sold with pools by price range in a few local counties. In short, the higher the price, the greater chance of having a pool. This likely has to do with the cost of building a pool, cost of maintaining a pool, and even larger parcels at higher ranges – not to mention buyers at higher price points expecting a pool more often.

NOTE: Does your market look similar?

Adjustments for pools

Last but not least, let’s remember there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all adjustment for a built-in pool because the value of a pool is going to depend on quality, condition, and even age. But it’s also about location because some price ranges and areas simply expect a pool to be present. In contrast, pools hardly exist in some locations, so it’s less of a factor because buyers don’t expect a pool. Ultimately, let’s look to the comps for the answers. What are buyers willing to pay? The ideal is to find similar homes with and without pools to help us understand that.

To read more and see Ryan’s tables and graphs on pools, click here

My comments: I live in an island city with a “Mediterranean” climate located on San Francisco Bay, which means some fog and moderate temperatures. This week, the highest temperature will be under 70 degrees. About 10-15 miles away, east of the hills, the climate is totally different, with very hot summers. The current high temperature there is about 100 degrees.

Where I live, very few homes have pools. After 35 years of appraising here, the value effect is none. Often, the MLS mentions that the sellers will fill in the pool, but I don’t know if that has ever happened. In dramatic contrast, when I first started appraising “over the hill”, 10-15 miles away where there are many subdivisions, I noticed that in certain neighborhoods, a pool was almost mandatory. I used comps with pools for any homes with and without pools to see any adjustment.

If you are not in an area where this is clear, making pool adjustments can be tough without adequate comps. I have appraised a few homes with pools in areas with few pools. It was tricky.

Pools can be a significant hazard, especially for children. Also, maintenance and heating is a hassle.

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Quality Adjustments for Appraisers

Quality Adjustment Research and Methodology: The Basics

By McKissock

Excerpt: Quality and condition are not the same. Quality refers to the quality of items, materials, and construction. When making appraisal adjustments, examine the quality of your data and remember that any quality ratings in your county records or MLS are not always reliable. Here are some basic things to consider regarding quality adjustment research and methodology.

Reliability of data

You need to consider: What is this data telling me? How reliable is that data? If you’re using county data, and you’re looking at quality ratings in there, how reliably do they rate properties? Should you even be using that data?

To read more, click here

My comments: The blog post has a link to Quality Ratings. Quality is sometimes difficult to determine on the subject and very tricky on the comps. Another appraisal challenge!


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