Basement Issues and Values

Understanding Basement Contributory Value

By Jo Traut

Excerpts: Determining how a basement contributes to a residential property’s value requires an appraiser to determine what type of basement the home has, its level of finishing, and take into account common concerns, like evidence of mold or signs of structural concern.

By following best practices, including separating the basement from the above-grade finished area, understanding the intended use of the space, and completing comprehensive research, you can evaluate the basement’s contributory value more accurately.

Topics

  • Know your basic basement types
  • How is the basement finished? Determining levels
  • Best practices when appraising a basement
  • Know the intended use and client requirements
  • Common problems in basements
  • Environmental hazards: One of the most significant issues appraisers run into is mold.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: This is one of the best discussions of basements I have read. It is worth reading. In my area, there are few fully underground basements, as we have a mild climate. Most homes were built prior to 1930, and there are many types of “basements.” They are not easy to determine added value, if any. I research, check with agents, check permit histories, try to get comps with the same type of basement, etc. The type and level of finish are critical.

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Desktop Appraisals: Who, When, and Why

Desktop Appraisals: Who, When, and Why

Excerpts: The ability to identify property characteristics without a personal inspection is not a new concept. Retrospective appraisals, drive-by (exterior inspection) appraisals, and valuations from plans and specifications, are all valuation assignments where an appraiser develops an appraisal opinion without personally inspecting the property.

Similarly, while not identical, appraisers generally use the cited sources above to identify the physical characteristics of comparable sales in their appraisals. Thus, it’s fair to say that identifying the physical characteristics of the subject property in a desktop appraisal is a similar process to verifying comparable sales.

While they won’t replace a full appraisal for a majority of property transactions, desktop appraisals can offer a more efficient and cost-saving alternative for all involved parties and are often used in low-risk scenarios and non-GSE appraisal assignments, such as:

  • Helping sellers determine a price: A desktop appraisal provides sellers with valuable insights into their property’s market value, helping them make informed decisions when determining an appropriate listing price.
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs): When homeowners apply for HELOCs, lenders may request desktop appraisals to ascertain the property’s value and determine the credit limit without requiring a full appraisal.
  • Tax Appeal Support: When there is a challenge to a tax assessment, a desktop appraisal may be used to provide a current market value.
  • Insurance purposes: Lenders or other clients may order desktop appraisals for insurance purposes to determine the property’s replacement cost or insurable value.
  • Managing Investments: For investors who own multiple properties, desktop appraisals provide rapid updates on property values.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Although the web page title includes “for new appraisers,” this post has ideas for all appraisers. The list of non-lender uses is very good. I have done drivebys for estate appraisals when the home had been sold and I had no access.

Desktop appraisals okay for some Fannie Loans March 2022

Fannie Wants Desktop Appraisals

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Functional Obsolescence in Appraisals

Functional Obsolescence Can Be Challenging

By McKissock

Excerpts: For appraisers, functional obsolescence can be a challenging concept because the elements that influence property values may not be obvious or immediately apparent. To help you better understand what it means and how to pinpoint it, we’re exploring some examples, the different types of functional obsolescence, and how it can influence property values.

Additionally, we’re sharing insights from appraisers who answered our survey question, “When dealing with functional obsolescence in real property appraisal, what aspect do you find most challenging?”

Topics include:

  • Types of functional obsolescence
  • Curable obsolescence
  • Incurable obsolescence
  • Superadequacy

What aspects of functional obsolescence do appraisers find most challenging? We asked our appraisal community, “When dealing with functional obsolescence in real property appraisal, what aspect do you find most challenging?”

The top two answers were “supporting adjustments for it” and “finding comparable properties with similar obsolescence.” Here are the full survey results, followed by comments from appraisers who shared further insights into these two common challenges related to functional obsolescence:

Supporting adjustments: 46%

Finding comps: 33%

Sample appraiser comments:

“Functional obsolescence is not a searchable criterion in any MLS database I’ve found. The ability to find a credible impact on other homes repeatedly is an anomaly. So, I may be able to generate a factor or dollar difference but having only one comp to determine with leaves you deciding on credibility or making no deduction if you don’t feel it’s a credible adjustment.”

To read more, Click Here

My comments: We all encounter Functional Obsolescence when appraising. The blog post is well-written and understandable. It is worth reading the full blog post and the appraisers’ comments. Plus, the explanations about functional obsolescence are good reminders.

Functional Obsolescence for Appraisers

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Remove all bathtubs from home?

Is it a problem to remove all bathtubs in a house?

By Ryan Lundquist

Excerpts: I’ve been asked this question twice this week. Is it a problem to remove the tubs from each bathroom? People planning a remodel asked if it was a big deal or not to only have a walk-in shower in each bathroom. Here are my thoughts, and I really want to hear from you too. Anything to add?

It’s not a black and white answer: There’s not one black-and-white answer that applies to every house, price range, location, or market. Bottom line. But backing up, part of the fun of working in real estate is figuring out how to answer questions like this in a way that is balanced and hopefully reflective of the sentiment in the marketplace.

Other topics include:

  • It’s never just about resale value
  • 55+ communities
  • Splitting hairs to prove an adjustment

To read more, including Ryan’s many comments, fun images and graphics, his Twitter X and Instagram surveys, plus 50+ comments, Click Here

My comments: This is the only analysis I have ever seen about this appraisal topic and it is great! I started appraising in 1975 and this was an issue then, continuing today.

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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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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

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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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What level appraiser are you?

How to Level Up as an Appraiser

By Conrad Meertins Jr.

Excerpts: The key is not the letters but the competency or skill. For example, are you competent to prepare an entire appraisal from start to finish? You might answer, “Absolutely!” But what if the appraisal form was completely blank with no boilerplate text? Do you still feel the same level of assuredness? What if you could not use the URAR form at all, but still had to produce an appraisal report that could stand up in court? Are your legs shaking? These questions help us to start to gauge our current level.

The three levels that we are going to discuss are “Beginner,” “Intermediate,” and “Pro.” Now, we could go deep and say that there are levels within the levels, but for now we will keep it simple and explore these three main levels. Some view each level as a stepping stone, and some view each level as a permanent parking space. It’s your choice which level you choose to pursue. The goal here is for us to evaluate which level we are at and determine which level we want to achieve.

Level 1 – Beginner

This is where we all start. There is no shame in this level. Depending on how you were trained, at the beginner level you typically view appraisals as forms — forms with checkboxes to be checked or left blank. If all the right boxes are checked and your report is signed with a value, mission accomplished!

Level 2 – Intermediate

At the intermediate level, you realize there is more to appraising real estate than checking boxes. Here is where you provide more explanations. If you say the market is stable, perhaps you add a sentence or two to expound on that. If you say that comp #1 was the best comp, you add a sentence explaining why. If you don’t adjust for the subject being on a busy road, you add a sentence about the neutral impact of the busy road and a comparable to support that conclusion—before being prompted to do so by the underwriter.

Level 3 – Pro

There is a subtle difference between Level 2 and Level 3. But one indicator that you have crossed the line from intermediate to pro is understanding how all the pieces fit together. For example, you understand that you do not need a form to produce an appraisal.

To read more, click here

My comments: Hybrid Appraisals are coming fast for lender appraisals, when any “human” appraisals are done. Full appraisals that Level 1 and most Level 2 appraisers cannot do will be done by Level 3 appraisers. I am writing two long articles for the November issue about Hybrid Desktops and Property Data Collectors. Both positive and negative sides for appraisers. If you want to continue to do AMC appraisals, this is an option.

What if you don’t want to do either one? If you have done AMC lender appraising only, you only appraise homes that conform to GSE requirements. You have a low skill level.

If I did lender work now, I would be in the “top tier” to be called when other appraisers said no. For as long as I have been appraising, lenders had special lists for the tough ones, or for a valuable bank client that borrows money from the bank and has large deposits.

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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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