How Do Driveways Affect Appraised Value?

What’s The Size of Your Driveway?

By Jamie Owen
Excerpt: It really depends on how the appraiser is looking at it. Are they reporting the width of the driveway, the depth, or how many cars can fit on the driveway?
Most appraisers reflect the width of the driveway. Why? For one thing, many lenders prefer the driveway size to be reported this way. This is likely because it is less subjective. For instance, if the appraiser reports the driveway size based upon the number of cars that can fit on it, what kind of automobile are they using for their measurement? After all, a driveway may be able to accommodate a larger number of smaller cars than bigger ones.
Does it affect value? As is the case with nearly every aspect of a home, the answer is, it depends.
For instance, in high-density neighborhoods where street parking is limited, the size of the driveway could make a difference in value. On the other hand, in other high-density neighborhoods, many homeowners may use public transportation. If this is the norm for the neighborhood, the size of the driveway may not have any impact on value.
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My comments: Worth reading. Lots of topics are covered. Check out the fun animated gifs, etc.
In San Francisco, for example, off-street parking is at a premium in many neighborhoods. My brother bought a house 25 years ago with no off-street parking (primarily single family homes). I warned him, but he really wanted the house. It was a hassle then, but now, it is very difficult to find parking as many neighbors rent rooms to tenants with cars.
A significant issue with ADUs is where will the car(s) park? Will they take up the neighbors’ on-street parking?
I moved to San Francisco in 1968 and worked in a lab 20 miles away. The closest parking was 2-3 long blocks away when I got home from work. I moved from Tulsa, OK, where there was lots of parking everywhere. I never lived in a place without off-street parking again!
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Appraising Fixer-Uppers

What About Those Fixer-Uppers?

Insights from a Seasoned Appraiser
By Steven Vehmeier
Excerpt: We’re all familiar with the term “fixer-upper.” For many different reasons, properties can come on the market in less-than-par condition. The degree and cost to cure become an issue to buyers and sellers, and a challenge for appraisers. At some point, it’s no longer “normal market value minus cost to cure equals as-is value.”
The terms “entrepreneurial incentidddve” and “entrepreneurial profit” are typically discussed in terms of investment property, but the principles involved can also be applied to the many fixer-uppers—whether the buyer is a “purely investor type” or an “owner-occupied investor type.” Maybe a couple of new terms should be discussed: “sweat equity incentive” and “sweat equity profit.”
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My comments: Most of my appraisals are for estates (date of death). I have never appraised a home that was ready for sale when the person died: staged, new paint and floor coverings, yards cleaned up, etc. I very seldom have any repair estimates or structural pest control or home inspection report.
I always assume the home is empty of furniture and “broom clean,” which I learned doing lots of REOs in the past. If a home is cluttered with personal stuff, the price will be lower. But, it can be fixed easily and inexpensively. If it is a mess, I tell the executor to call me when it is cleaned out so I can see what the walls, floors, kitchen countertops, etc. look like.  If I can’t see, I disclose this in the appraisal and do my best to figure out a condition estimate.
Very few MLS listings here are not fixed up for sale. I look for “fixer”, “contractor”, “as is”, “handyman”, etc. in the description.

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Location, Location, Location In Appraisals

What’s Location Got to Do with It?

By Steven W. Vehmeier

Excerpts: We’ve all heard the old mantra that real estate is all about “location, location, location.” A perfect example of the importance of location in appraising can be found in The Villages in central Florida.

The development called “The Villages” has seventy-eight communities, each called a “village,” ranging in size from 100 to around 1,500 homes in each. In total, there are somewhere around 140,000 residents, and the home prices in these individual villages range from the low one-hundred thousand up to a couple million. In some cases, villages located near and/or adjacent to each other can vary significantly in price….

An appraiser not familiar with The Villages could easily over-or under-value a property by mixing villages. For example, let’s say the subject is a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 2,000 square foot home with a two-car garage on a typical sized lot. It would not be hard to find hundreds of homes with similar physical characteristics nearby; however, some might be located in the “wrong” village…

Can we apply this “village” concept to other areas? Are there typically many villages or neighborhoods in and around most major cities? Do the same principles apply in comparable selection and resultant values? Of course, they do!

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My comments: Very interesting “case study.” Tim Andersen soon will have two articles on neighborhoods and what USPAP says in Appraisal Today monthly newsletters.

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Subjective Language in Appraisals

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Why is the Appraisal Under Sales Price?

Top Ways to Defend Your Work When the Appraised Value Comes in Under Sales Price

Excerpt: As a real estate appraiser, you’ve likely encountered assignments in which the purchase price is not supported by the available comps. So, what are the best ways to address complaints and requests in these situations? To find out, we (McKissock) asked appraisers, “What’s your top tip for defending your work when the appraised value comes in under sales price?” Here’s what they said…
How to prevent and prepare for complaints and requests
Many survey respondents emphasized the importance of making sure your work is as detailed and well-supported as possible—by means of careful comparable selection and analysis, thorough documentation, and clear explanation of why the available comps do not support the contract price…
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My comments: Lots of good ideas. Worth reading

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What AMCs Say to Appraisers and How to Respond

What AMCs say to appraisers and How to Respond

By Steven W. Vehmeier

Excerpts: A student contacted me with the following dilemma concerning an Appraisal Management Company (AMC) request: “I told the Management Company that I cannot mark the Zoning Compliance as ‘Legal’ if the report is marked “as-is,” because this would not be true for the current “as-is” condition of the subject on the effective date of the appraisal. The AMC insists that as long as I disclose in the addendum that the zoning is currently ‘illegal,’ then I can mark on the first page as ‘Legal.’”

Taking the matter to the source can be accomplished by: 1) personal research of the appropriate documents, which is sometimes faster, or 2) emailing the controlling entity for their official answer. Notice I didn’t say to phone them. I want the answer in writing to pass on to the client/AMC.

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My comment: Some Most Excellent and practical tips!! My bottom-line advice: Fire the AMC! We all know there is always another AMC that is desperate for appraisers today. Now is a good time to shop for one that is easy to work for. You could check in appraisal online groups to see what they say. If they are not competitors, hopefully, you can get some good ideas. Be sure to post your location.

What to Do When Your Appraisal Is Under Review

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Appraising vs. the Public Good?

Has Appraising Failed the Public Good?

by Steven R. Smith, MSREA, MAI, SRA

Excerpts: The term Public Good is in the opening paragraph of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). An appraiser friend once wrote that our regulations and guidelines are intentionally ambiguous—and that may be. But what is crystal clear to me is that the industry has put the interests of its clients before the public good.

The Public Trust statement and the Ethics Rule have been largely ignored over the years with loan production put first…

What can an individual appraiser do to support the public good, even before they start an assignment? For me, the answer always has been to appraise the client and the appraisal assignment. There are some clients and assignments that simply should be avoided because of the wants, needs and desires of the client, with respect to the assignment results.

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My comments: I have known Steve Smith for a long time. To read more comments from Steve and other savvy appraisers, join the National Appraisers Forum, an email discussion group. I have been a member since it started. It is my “go-to” resource for appraisal topics. Moderated. Very different from Facebook and other appraiser online discussion groups where filling out forms and dealing with AMCs are discussed.

The future of residential appraising

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Appraisers and The Psycho Kitty

Favorite Crazy Appraisal Stories – The Psycho Kitty

Excerpt: Psycho Kitty

I had an appointment at a home in the country out in the woods. The access instructions said the cat MIGHT be caged. Got to the home and the cat was at the front door and hissed at me as I went in. I tried to make friends with the cat, but it didn’t work, so I ignored the cat and started my inspection.

As I came out of the first-floor master, he was waiting. He stood on his hind legs, teeth showing, hissing, and came at me. Once again, I used my clipboard and ran to the laundry room where I was able to shut the door. I was safe…

To read more strange and/or funny appraisal stories, click here

My comment: We all have appraisal stories, of course!! In my 45 years of appraising I have never been attacked by a cat. My creepiest cat encounter was appraising the home of a cat foster parent for a local animal shelter. Large outside cat enclosure full of cats, multiple cats on top of dressers and other places, looking at me (looked like they were hungry). I wish I could forget about all the cat eyes looking at me :<

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What are Pass through Bedrooms for Appraisals

Pass-through Bedrooms

Excerpts: This may not be a major problem if the house has sufficient bedrooms to match what is typical and expected in the neighborhood. It can have a negative impact on the marketability of the home if this arrangement reduces the number of usable bedrooms from what is typical.
The floor plan layout of a home can have an impact on its market value: The impact on value is determined from market data and how buyers perceive it. Did the home sell for less because it has a different floor plan than what is typical and expected?
The cost to fix can vary: Depending on the current floor plan configuration and the location of the bedroom in relation to other rooms the cost can vary widely and this should be taken into consideration when comparing it to the value added by fixing the problem.
Written for home owners with a good discussion of cost to cure vs. value added.
To read more, click here
For more analysis by Ryan Lundquist (from 2016) of what I often see, click here The image above is from Ryan’s article.
My comments: I have had many discussions with real estate agents and home owners about this issue. The number of bedrooms in a house can be a significant factor in many markets. In my market most homes were built prior to 1940 and have modifications, such as additions, over time. The pass through bedrooms can seldom be fixed. I usually call them “dens”.

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Complex Residential Properties for Appraisers

How to Identify a Residential Complex Property

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

“Below we dig a little deeper into each type of complex property outlined above, providing detailed descriptions and examples of properties that would fall under each of the three categories.”

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My comments: This is the best explanation I have read about this issue. All appraisers encounter complex properties. You may or may not decide to accept the assignment. Always check the info you have on the property before accepting the assignment. Or, you find out after starting on the appraisal that it is more complex than you thought. I regularly turn down assignments because it will require more time, or I don’t want to “reinvent the wheel,” as I may never do another like it, etc.

Mortgage lending appraisals are very, very cyclical. When you are very busy, I recommend turning down these assignments to make more money. You will have lots of time during the slow period to accept these assignments.

In ancient history, before AMCs, I often did the tough ones for loyal clients as a favor. AMCs will go down the list, sometimes for days, trying to find an appraiser. One called me yesterday about a mixed-use property that their lender client said was residential. From online information, it looked like commercial on first floor. The issue was highest and best use, of course. I told them I did not know any commercial appraisers who work for AMCs, plus the fee would be over $2,000. You have to know that city’s local zoning regulations, requiring local expertise to determine the highest and best use.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Risk Your Appraisal License if it is too complicated for you!! I get many calls from appraisers having problems. This is always my answer. I have returned fees up to $2,000 after spending lots of hours on the assignment.

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