Faulty Appraisals Hurting Home Sales

A proper appraisal can go a long way to setting a good price on a property.

Sales statistics continue to show a rise in consumer confidence. But because the statistics include the sales of distressed properties and buyers' desire to get a “deal,” they cloud the value of those statistics.

Obviously, if all of the distressed properties were sold, the value of homes would increase, making every seller's dream come true. That is not going to happen until the job market improves.

All sales stimulate the economy in some way, and roadblocks to these sales should be eliminated. There are instances that may be hampering the successful closing of many transactions. Many point to problems associated with acquiring mortgages and problems with properties not appraising for contract prices.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) believes that faulty appraisals have deterred the successful completion of many new home sales.

“How homes are valued can have a dramatic effect on home owners’ mortgages, foreclosure rates, the health of banks and, ultimately, the condition of the U.S. financial system," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of NAHB.

“The current system is not working,” Nielsen said. “We must resolve a flawed appraisal process that produces inaccurate assessment of home values, because this fosters price instability, puts more families in danger of default or foreclosure, and undermines the housing and economic recovery.”

A recent NAHB survey shows that one out three builders have lost signed sales contracts because of flawed appraisals and a fall survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors shows that 18 percent of realtors reported a recent contract cancellation or delay as a result of a low appraisal.

A recent survey of several local builders, lenders and realtors dispute these factors and prove that everything has to be looked at on a local level.

Tom Covello, a site representative for Murray Franklin Homes, has not seen any homes that were not appraised for contract price.

“Appraisers have been consistent in their valuations and have even been willing to include any of the extras the buyer specifies," he said.

Terri Hermes, also a site agent and Windermere agent, goes a little further to explain the success in her re-sale properties.

“I always meet the appraiser at the property with information on comparable properties to ensure that the appraiser is using the correct information," Hermes said. "Appraisers that may not be familiar with the neighborhood always appreciate the help.”

With today’s rules that prohibit the lender from influencing the appraiser, the realtor can still meet the appraiser and takes on more responsibility to ensure a successful close.

It is not just new construction that is experiencing value based appraisals. Michael Cornell of Michael Cornell Real Estate Group is working in the Seattle market.

“I haven’t had any problem with appraisals lately. I have been working mostly with buyers and have been successful with helping them get homes at below market value,” Cornell said.

It seems reasonable to expect that distressed properties or those on the verge of being short sales would be appraised at what the buyer is willing to pay.

Many leading economist point to the inability to secure funding as the reason many of the transactions fail to close. This may happen in some instances, but after speaking with several lenders, it is clear that each one has distinct requirements and programs. It may be necessary to speak with several before receiving a mortgage that you are comfortable with.

These are just a few exceptions to national figures. Ask your realtor for specifics about your neighborhood. They know what has sold in your neighborhood and why and hold the key to what your home will really sell for. They also know the lenders that offer the programs that meet your qualifications.


Joan Probala is the managing broker for Issaquah Windermere (Windermere Real Estate/East Inc.). She has 30 years of experience in real estate, construction and sales and is president-elect (2012) of the Seattle King County Association of Realtors.

Robert P February 18, 2012 at 06:06 PM
The residential market is declining in most locations. . . this is not due to faulty appraisals, this is due to economics. This is like saying the Wall Street Journal caused the recession because it reported on it. The appraiser analyzes and reports on the market, they don't drive it.
Robert P February 18, 2012 at 06:13 PM
“I always meet the appraiser at the property with information on comparable properties to ensure that the appraiser is using the correct information," Hermes said. "Appraisers that may not be familiar with the neighborhood always appreciate the help.” This is absolutely true. A real estate transaction is very complicated as is determining value, particularly in a custom or semi-custom property. The real estate agent can provide specific information about different transactions that helps the appraiser understand how the buyer and seller came to a negotiated sale price both for the subject being appraised and subject comparables. These considerations often involve information that is not available in MLS. While market analysis processes are the same in every market, the valuation drivers are very local. The system needs to support a very localized market understanding with appraisers attending open-houses and interviewing real estate agents to understand the details of each transaction.


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