Why You Should Join An Appraisal Organization Especially Now

Is history doomed to repeat itself?
Is history doomed to repeat itself?

I’ve posted the full version of my article Why You Should Join An Appraisal Organization with links to the organizations mentioned in the article. Now is an important time for the residential appraisal industry to join together because of threats to our place in the US real estate market. We need to spread the word of the role of appraisers, especially to federal regulators who want to diminish our standing.

If you haven’t heard, federal financial oversight groups such as the FDIC, Federal Reserve, and others have proposed changing the de minimus for residential lending in the US from $250,000 to $400,000. This is exactly the wrong time to reduce oversight in residential real estate given widespread signs nationally of markets slowing and potentially nearing a peak. Did we learn nothing in the last market crash?

Ryan Lundquist has an excellent summary on his blog (link). I strongly encourage you to sign the petition started by Ryan and Jonathan Miller at change.org (link) and to comment in the federal register about why this is a bad idea.

AppraiserFest 2018 Impressions

I want to add to the praise for the first AppraiserFest held last week in San Antonio. Kudos to Phil Crawford, Lori Noble, and Mark Skapinetz for a great first event! I’m very glad I made the decision to attend.

I was struck by how positive everyone was at the event. Even though the residential appraisal business is under threat from changing client needs and reduced loan volumes, AppraiserFest speakers gave us many ideas for how to grow our business.

I greatly appreciate that this was an appraiser-centered event with a distinct lack of client presence.

Attendees were younger than typical for industry events, a refreshing change. Also, a larger percentage of attendees were women.

I spent much of my time at AppraiserFest with George Dell and Steve Smith at the Valuemetrics booth discussing data analysis with attendees. Hanging out with George and Steve for several days was like a master’s seminar in appraisal. I’m so fortunate to have mentors so willing to share their experience like these two.

Tom, Ryan, Jamie, and Bill with yours truly at AppraiserFest

Meeting online friends in real life was the best part of AppraiserFest. I was fortunate to break bread with some of the best appraisal bloggers in the country including Tom Horn, Jamie Owen, and Bill Cobb. And Ryan Lundquist, a long-time friend in real life (!), was kind enough to put up with my snoring. Thanks for sharing the room Ryan.

This was my first trip to San Antonio so I had to visit the Alamo and the Riverwalk.

It was great catching up with Diane, John, and Teresa from the Excel class I gave in Portland two years ago. Can’t wait to see you again.

Takeaways:

  • Positive vibe throughout
  • Great networking with people I actually wanted to meet
  • Very professional event with great speakers and topics relevant to my day-to-day business

I will be back next year!

 

Why You Should Join an Appraisal Organization article

Are you a member of an appraisal organization? If not, why not?

I wrote an article for Ann O’Rourke’s Appraisal Today newsletter about why you should join an appraisal organization.

Click here to read it.

(current version is an excerpt. full version will be available here in December or sign up for Ann’s newsletter)

I would love your feedback. If you’re not in an appraiser association, what are some reasons why? If you are in an appraisal organization, what are some of the benefits?

Detrimental Crime Scene Discounts

Home of the Suspected East Area Rapist

Recently Joseph James Angelo was arrested outside of Sacramento and was accused of being the East Area Rapist. The East Area Rapist terrorized California in the 1970s and committed more than 50 rapes and 12 murders before disappearing more than 30 years ago. My friend Ryan Lundquist started a poll and conversation on his blog: What discount would you expect if the East Area Rapist’s house came on the market?

The results are interesting. Most respondents were in the 0-10% and 10-20% brackets. I was in the 0-10% bracket based on the one time I’ve worked on a similar problem.  Several years ago I was completing an appraisal on a house for a purchase in one of my markets and I noticed a weird note in the listing. “Blessed by a deacon.” What the heck did that mean?

I called the listing agent, a friend of mine, and asked her what she meant by that. Turns out there was a murder on the site within the past six months.  Would have been nice if she’d let me know when I scheduled the appointment that, oh, by the way, there was a murder at the subject….

I frantically called the lender to warn them that a murder had occurred at the subject in the past six months, that I would need time to analyze this new evidence, and that I needed more money for the report because of the extra due diligence. I called my mentor to get advice on how to deal with this and to see if he had any data (nope). I then searched MLS over the past 10 years but for some reason, listing agents don’t normally advertise “recent murder here” when trying to sell homes so struck out again. No one at the local Realtor meeting could remember any sales of homes after a murder or similar circumstance either. One of my comparables, however, had a death by natural causes within six months of date of sale.

So after a bunch of due diligence, I had jack squat for data. I took a step back. This was an entry tier home at a time where inventory was low in a relatively safe neighborhood where the murder was unlikely to occur again. Three full-price offers were received for the subject and all three potential buyers were aware of the home’s history. Was there a discount because of the murder? My best evidence, the three full-price offers, showed little to no market reaction from the murder. I discussed my research in my report and concluded no market reaction and sent it in. The purchase closed less than a month later.

This is not the exactly same situation as if the East Area Rapist’s house was on the market. First, no reports to date suggest that crimes were committed at the accused’s house while the house I appraised was the site of a murder. Second, the murder at my subject’s property was one off with little news coverage outside of the community where it occurred.  The East Area Rapist is notoriously known throughout California, if not the US, especially for those of age at the time of his crimes. A better but not perfect model might be Dorothea Puente, the landlord in Sacramento who murdered at least seven people and buried them in the backyard. Ryan plots the sales of her duplex on his poll results post.

Tony Bizjak, the real estate writer for the Sacramento Bee, liked Ryan’s post enough to turn it into an article and quoted me for the story.

p.s. Randall Bell, PhD, MAI is the national expert on diminution in value and determining crime scene discounts. His book Real Estate Damages is highly recommended. He thinks the discount will be closer to 25% if the home of the East Area Rapist hits the market.

 

The Outsize Influence of Sacramento on the Appraisal Industry

Sacramento area appraisers stand large in the appraisal industry. We have much more influence than you would expect from a sleepy state capitol halfway between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. Here are four locals you might know.

Ryan Lundquist might be better known by his website http://sacramentoappraisalblog.com/. He is one of the leading real estate appraiser bloggers in the US and is widely quoted in national media. Here’s a link from quoting Ryan in Ken Harney’s national real estate column from yesterday. Locally, Ryan is famed for his monthly regional market summaries and for being named the 2014 Affiliate of the Year by the Sacramento Association of Realtors. Realtors voting an award for an appraiser? Really? See Ryan speak at the Appraiserfest this November in San Antonio about his expertise in leveraging social media to increase his business.

I’ll be at Appraiserfest too if you want to grab a beer.

Next up is John Brenan. John is the Director of Appraisal Issues for The Appraisal Foundation (TAF). He’s the appraisal point person for the Appraisal Practices Board (APB), Appraisal Standards Board (ASB), and Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB). Or, in English, he’s the guy helping to set the standards, qualifications, and practices for our industry. John was the author of TAF’s letter urging that the Appraisal Subcommittee reject TriStar Bank’s request for a temporary waiver of appraisal certification and licensing requirements. Every appraiser with lender clients should be grateful for the support. Here’s more about how our industry dodged a bullet.

Don Machholz is another local appraisal industry star. When Fannie Mae required the 1004MC form added to residential appraisals in 2009, Don stepped up and created the 1004MC Calculator and released it free of charge. Don created almost 50 different versions for use with different MLS systems around the country. I went from an hour before Don’s spreadsheet to 5 minutes with it. Don went on to create a host of tools for appraisers to use and now that he’s retired, you can download them all on Don’s website for free. Photos from Don’s retirement party below….

Vicki Keeler may not be known as well outside of the region as Ryan, John, and Don but she deserves to be recognized. She’s one of the founders of the Real Estate Appraisers Association (REAA). REAA started in Sacramento as a local appraiser association and has grown to five chapters across California with approximately 300 members. REAA hosts monthly or bimonthly meetings for practicing professionals and is a model for other state appraiser organizations. Vicki has devoted countless hours to providing education to her fellow appraisers and is one of the unsung heroes of our industry.

Not too bad for a sleepy little town in the middle of the Central Valley….

The Role of the Appraisal in Residential Real Estate Lending

I had the opportunity to write an article for my local paper, the Woodland Daily Democrat. Here’s what I came up with:

The Role of the Appraisal in Residential Real Estate Lending

Most of the time when you buy a house or refinance your existing residential loan, the lender will require an appraisal of your house. What is an appraisal? An appraisal is an independent opinion of value about real estate. In this context, the appraisal is a report that describes the subject, the subject’s neighborhood, includes at least one of the three approaches to value used by us appraisers, and includes the market value of the subject home on a given date. The client for an appraisal, even if the borrower pays for the appraisal, is the lender. I write my residential appraisals for lenders, not buyers or borrowers.

Residential real estate lending appraisals use a standard definition of market value from FNMA (https://www.fanniemae.com/content/guide/selling/b4/1.1/01.html for reference).

Key points from the FNMA market value definition:

  • “Most probable price”-My values are not the highest value possible, not the contract price, not the amount you need to complete your refinance. It’s the value supported by evidence in the subject’s competitive market.
  • “Buyer and seller are typically motivated”-Market value assumes no unusual motivations like short sale, foreclosure sale, sale to a relative, etc.

When deciding whether to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars to someone, the lender will evaluate the borrower’s credit history, income, and expenses. My appraisal will be included as part of the lender’s risk assessment. If the lender were to take back the subject home today, how much would the subject be worth? Is the subject worth more than the loan? Are there any issues that would make it difficult to resell? Are there any obvious repairs that might reduce the value of the subject long term? Are there any obvious safety issues that might open the lender up to liability? My appraisal helps the lender with these questions.

Us appraisers serve as a check for over-exuberance in the residential real estate market. The real estate agents and loan officer get commissions only if the loan closes. The lender makes money only if it makes a loan. The seller gets paid only if the home sells. The buyer gets a house only if the loan closes. Since I get paid whether the loan funds or not, the underwriter and I are the only truly independent parties in the typical residential transaction. The lender relies on me to report any issues with the home and to honestly arrive at my opinion of value. If my appraised value is above the amount needed for the loan amount, and there are no other issues, the lender can move forward with the loan with confidence. In those cases where my opinion of market value is lower than needed to fund the loan, my report warns the lender that the loan may be risky.

The independence of the residential real estate appraiser is vital with the housing market crash of the 2000s fresh in mind. We don’t want to go through that again.

Anything to add? What did I miss?

(I’ll add a link to the article once it’s published)

Time Adjustments for Residential Appraisers and Basic Excel for Appraisers in Marysville, WA

Just got back from teaching for Dave Towne’s Appraiser Education Service in Marysville, WA. 32 of my closest appraiser friends spent six hours discussing time adjustments for residential appraisers and how to use excel. Thanks Dave for hosting me and putting together a fun class at a great facility.

Multiple Listing Service Reporting of Private Sales from an Appraisal Perspective

 

Today I was asked to comment on the issue of reporting private sales to my local multiple listing service (MLS) by a friend who works for Metrolist, the MLS for the Sacramento region. Today, Metrolist and most other local MLS systems do not allow for sales not sold through the listing service to be included in the sale databases maintained by these organizations. There’s a push within the residential real estate community to include this data. Here’s my response for why, from an appraiser’s point of view, I think it’s a bad idea:

As appraisers, data is our lives. We want available as much data as possible to help us value properties. By rule, we’re required to consider all competitive sales when valuing a property. The vast majority of assignments are for some version of market value. Here’s FNMA’s definition of market value:

“Market value is the most probable price that a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:

  • buyer and seller are typically motivated;
  • both parties are well informed or well advised, and each acting in what he or she considers his/her own best interest;
  • a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market;
  • payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and
  • the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.” (FNMA Selling Guide, Section B4-1.1-01)

This definition requires us appraisers to confirm some information regarding every sale used as a comparable in our reports. We must analyze each comparable we use in the sales comparison approach, the primary method for determining the market value of single family residential homes in the US. We must understand that both buyers and sellers do not have unusual motivations and that the comparable sale was properly exposed to the market so that all interested parties could bid on the comparable sale. The most widely used marketplaces in most of California are the various multiple listing services. Exposure on the local multiple listing service gives the widest viewing to potential buyers and allows for market mechanisms to arrive at the market value for any given home. Without this exposure, there is significant uncertainty whether the agreed-to price is market value or something else.

In addition to the value of having a central marketplace with mechanisms to arrive at a market value, the multiple listing services serve as a central repository of data. Most of the time, we can look at one central database and see all relevant property characteristics and data. Additionally, we have record of listing agents and buyer representatives who we are required to contact as part of due diligence. Some of the markets we cover have a significant percentage of sales not reported to the local multiple listing service. In general, we do not use these transactions in our appraisals because of the uncertainty of whether they sold at market value or not. For example, the for sale by owner that puts a sign up on his lawn may attract offers from people driving by but most likely he missed all potential buyers and may have sold his home too low. The “pocket listing” of one agent only marketed to agents in his office misses a huge pool of potential buyers. As appraisers, we can’t rely on these sales as primary data-we just don’t know if the sale price was market-derived.

I have worked extensively in Solano County over the past 15+ years. BAREIS, the multiple listing service for this area, has accepted sales data not sold through the MLS and reported it as “Sold Off MLS.” In the handful of years since this data has been offered, I have used it once in approximately 300 appraisals in Solano County. The sale used was included as secondary evidence for a very difficult assignment because this sale was not clearly a market value transaction. In more than 95% of assignments, I do not bother to check the “Sold Off MLS” sales. Even when similar sales are very difficult to find, the “Sold Off MLS” sales are not very helpful.

Does your local MLS system allow for agents to enter non-MLS sales into the database? Is this good or bad in your opinion? Why or why not?

Thanks Don

Don, Michelle, and son Mark

Thanks Don.

I’ve been very fortunate to know Don Machholz over the past 10 years or so. If you’re a residential appraiser, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Don’s 1004MC calculator. In 2009, in a belated response to the housing crash, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac required every residential appraisal going into their pipelines to include the now infamous Market Conditions Addendum-Form 1004MC. The good intention of this form was to force residential appraisers to consider and report market changes. (The form is a disaster. George Dell has a great article about how poor the 1004MC is here). The immediate issue for me was doing the calculations by hand was a major pain and none of our clients were going to pay extra for adding this required form. I did a few by hand and spent an extra hour each time doing the calculations.

Don saw a need to automate this process. He spent a couple of weeks building the first of his Excel workbooks, the 1004MC Calculator, and released it free. Filling out this odious form went from an hour of work to 5 minutes. First version was for my local MLS system and we loved it. As word spread, Don received requests to customize it for other MLS systems across the country. He has 42 different versions on his website.

Don included a couple of sale charts in the workbook to help those who didn’t know how to run a trendline. He built other tools including a scheduler, lot adjustment calculator, PSF adjustment calculator, plus additional market analysis tools. After several years of offering his tools for free, he finally came up with the 1004MC version 5C that packaged a lot of calculators into one workbook for a modest $50.

Word spread last month that Don had retired and was planning to move to the northern Arizona desert with his lovely wife to devote time to astronomy and finding more comets. He’s found 11 so far and is the most successful living visual comet discoverer in the world. Find out more about Don’s astronomy activities on his personal website, http://donmachholz.com/.

I’m so happy for Don and thankful for his generosity. Unsurprisingly to everyone who knows Don, all of the tools he developed are now free on his appraisal website, https://donsappraisals.com/.

Thanks Don for all you have done for our profession.

Below are photos from his retirement party at Moonraker Brewing in Auburn, CA.

Moving from Excel to R-What Software Do I Need?

Everyone knows what Microsoft Excel is, right? Either you have a copy that came with your PC or you’re on the Office 365 subscription model at $69/year for a personal copy $99/year for 5 users (my subscription of choice). Money flows into Microsoft coffers, satisfying shareholders and most of the greater Seattle area given Microsoft’s reach. Make more Seattleites happy by ordering your copy through Amazon!

R is very different (free). It is open source software available under a public license and is maintained by a group of volunteers (free). Get your free copy here.

R on its own is usable. However, it was designed from the ground up to allow for additions to make it more useful.

RStudio, an open source integrated development environment for R, makes using R much easier for folks like me who are not full-time programmers (also free). RStudio sits on top of R and extends usability significantly. RStudio offers the same basic terminal R does but also gives you additional really useful windows and information. I’ll discuss RStudio in the future but if you can’t wait, here’s a link with more information about RStudio.

Here’s an article: 9 Reasons to use RStudio. Or Top 6 Reasons you need to be using RStudio. Get your free copy of RStudio here.

You can extend the usability of R by adding packages. Packages are bundles of R code with explanation and data examples. Data Camp has beginner’s guide for R Packages here. Managing packages is one of RStudio’s strengths, making it easy to install packages. These are free too.

ggplot is a package for creating graphics and should be the first package you download. Two more packages of interest to appraisers just getting into R are tidyverse, a collection of R packages for data science, and rmarkdown, a package for adding R output to documents. You can learn more about all three here.

To summarize, download for free R, RStudio, and the ggplot2, tidyverse, and rmarkdown packages. I’ll talk more about packages in the future as I explore R’s functionality.

Download Pages and Instructions