Category Archives: Solano County

The 5th Annual Northern California Residential Appraiser Conference Recap

Thanks to the Northern Solano County Association of Realtors for hosting us

Thanks to everyone who came to the 5th Northern California Residential Appraiser Conference jointly hosted by the Real Estate Appraisers Association (REAA) and the Northern California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute last week. While attendance was somewhat lighter than in past years, it was great to see so many in person. We had fantastic speakers, starting with Sandra Adomatis, SRA, 2024 National President of the Appraisal Institute.

AI National President Sandy Adomatis

Sandy gave us an update on current industry trends and the Appraisal Institute. I enjoyed hearing about PAREA, the training program alternative to the traditional appraiser apprenticeship, and am hopeful to see younger folks entering the profession. She shared a slide showing most states ready to accept PAREA now or very soon.

Of the 70,000 appraisers in the US at present, 4,000 are SRAs, 8,400 are MAIs, and another 1,400 hold reviewing designations. She also mentioned how the AI will be pushing back on the trend of using property inspectors in appraisals and the misperception of appraisers as mostly biased.

Heather Sullivan, NAA Appraiser of the Year

Next up was Heather Sullivan, head of learning and development for Aloft Appraisal, and the National Association of Appraisers Appraiser of the Year! Congrats Heather!

Heather’s talk was applying the business book classic Who Moved My Cheese? to the current state of the residential appraiser industry. Because of PTSD from my past life working for a rapidly growing music wholesaler, I can’t recommend the book, but I can recommend her talk. She discussed the changes coming and the overall process of accepting change, leaning heavily on WMMC. If you’ve been in the appraisal industry for any length of time, you’ve seen many changes (typewriters, 24-hour photo, MLS books for data, the 1004, UAD, online data availability, etc.). We’re about to see more change with property data collection, new automated tools for analysis, and new appraisal “forms.” Clients are pushing for faster production and if we’re going to serve those clients, we’ll need to adapt.

Heather shared a breakdown of the new appraisal report coming soon to a lender near you. There will be one report instead of the 15 or so different reports we deal with today with options to show sections as they apply. You start by selecting the type of property to be appraised, then the software will display required sections for every report (summary, assignment information, subject property, site, sketch, etc.), with optional sections able to be added by the appraiser as needed (energy efficiency and green features, manufactured home details, rental information, income approach, cost approach, etc.).

Side view of Jeff Bradford

Heather handed over to Jeff Bradford, CEO of Bradford Technologies. Jeff continued the discussion about the new forms coming soon and likened it to filling out your taxes with Turbo Tax. Not the most exciting description. He went into detail about the difficulties developing the new software and some challenges the industry might see. Both Heather and Jeff see the appraiser’s role in this new world to evolving even further into data analysis.

Jeff sees a problem with splitting the data collector role from the duties of the appraiser with a potentially lower income in the future the outcome. His solution-build software to help the appraiser preserve relevance in the residential lending valuation process. We then saw a demonstration of Bradford Technologies solution, NightHawk. Jeff showed us how this tool, in development, would allow for fast analysis with lots of ways to search and analyze competitive sales data, plug into an appraisal, and quickly report the results. I can’t wait to see NightHawk roll out.

From Left: Jon Reiter, Susan Reiter, Stephanie MacLean, and Amy Bolton-Christopherson. The panel was organized by Lou Rusert, standing far right

After lunch, we shifted gears to a panel of local builders. We heard from Amy Bolton-Christopherson, president of Christopherson Builders, Stephanie MacLean, CEO/President of Blue Mountain Enterprises, LLC, and Jon and Susan Reiter, owners of Reiter Fine Home Building.

This panel was especially interesting because each builder occupied a different market segment. Blue Mountain is a production home builder with communities across Northern California. Christopherson Builders is based in Santa Rosa and aims for the custom, higher quality market. I recognized Christopherson because they have rebuilt homes destroyed in the LNU Complex Fires north of Vacaville, one of my prime markets. Reiter Fine Home Building is a top of market spec builder in the Wine Country, with homes starting at $15,000,000 going up to more than $65,000,000.

Amy from Christopherson emphasized the difficulty in building new homes in California because of regulations and high indirect costs. Her example of a 1,200 sf accessory dwelling with a base price of $558,600 was eye-opening.

Stephanie from Blue Mountain reviewed the process her company goes through for developing a subdivision, from conception through feasibility, acquisition, marketing, and selling. She highlighted a new subdivision in Elk Grove with entry-level homes at $400,000, very reasonable and attainable for many in the Sacramento region.

Reiter Fine Home Building is different. Jon Reiter described their model of staying current with the latest trends in the very top tier of new homes in the US, designing and building one at a time. He discussed the importance of site selection for privacy and views for those who can afford a $65,000,000 home and emphasized that home size is less in demand in the top tier. He also discussed evolving tastes and how his company moved from Mediterranean to barndominium to modern.

All three panelists were kind enough to answer questions at the end of their presentations.

Yours truly in the deadliest slot, last

The final section was a discussion of short-term rental properties. Seth Carlsen, a Sacramento-based real estate investor, shared with us an introduction and lessons learned in acquiring and managing his 21 short-term rental properties. He reviewed AirDNA, the primary data source for short-term rentals, and provided comparisons to data provided about his properties by AirDNA and the actual data. He warned us to be careful to compare properties with similar amenities and maximum guest count, and to use multiple data sources.

I wrapped up the day with a comparison of short-term rentals to the standard rental properties residential appraisers deal with on a regular basis and warned about the relatively common request appraisers receive from lenders to provide a “rent survey” for short-term rentals. I encourage everyone interested in the topic to read John Dingeman’s article about the issues regarding lender rent survey requests and short-term rentals.

Thanks to host Northern Solano County Association of Realtors for allowing us to use their excellent facility. Thanks to all of our speakers who traveled near and far to share their wisdom and expertise. Thanks to Lisa Estes from the Appraisal Institute for managing the logistics so well. And thanks especially to my fellow committee members Lou Rusert and Chris Daniels, SRA for their work in planning this event.

Northern Solano County Residential Real Estate Update April 2023

This update is based on a presentation at the Northern Solano County Association of Realtors on April 25. I pulled the data on April 24 from Metrolist/BAREIS.

The key story in residential real estate over the past 18 months has been the rapid rise in interest rates in early 2023. Here’s the picture:

Interest rates 12 months ago were below 4% and are now above 6%, significantly reducing affordability for buyers and buyer demand overall. Sellers locked into low rates have strong motivation to stay in their homes, reducing supply. In Northern California, many markets have reached a new equilibrium of significantly fewer buyers, sellers, and transactions.

Below is a summary for Northern Solano County.

Dixon, Fairfield, Suisun City, and Vacaville are properties reported in Metrolist/BAREIS on less than one acre and reported to be single family residences. Northern Acreage are properties located in unincorporated Solano County with Dixon, Vacaville, and Winters mailing addresses on 1-60 acres and include single family residences, two homes on one lot, manufactured homes, and modular homes. Note that there were 0 sales of acreage properties last month but 3 the month before, low but not unheard of.

Listings are less than homes in contract for the cities, indicative of a stronger market. Sales volume for all five markets are less than March, 2018, and March, 2019 sales volumes.

12 Month Change in sale price is a common metric in residential real estate. All five markets are trending lower than 2022, as expected based on the larger market trends. However, focusing on 12 Month Change can miss when a market changes direction.

Below are scatter plots showing trends in each market area:

Dixon

Dixon Sale Price trendline for homes sold since 1/1/22

Fairfield

Fairfield Sale Price trendline for homes sold since 1/1/22

Suisun City

Suisun City Sale Price trendline for homes sold since 1/1/22

Vacaville

Vacaville Sale Price trendline for homes sold since 1/1/22

The four Northern Solano cities show similar trends. Prices peaked in the spring of 2022, declined for the rest of the year, and hit bottom in late 2022/early 2023. Prices are now relatively stable.

In contrast, take a look at the Northern Solano small acreage residential market:

Northern Solano County small acreage residential sales since 1/1/22

Prices peaked later, in the summer, and declined since. This is a declining market at present. Note that the Northern Solano County small acreage residential market has more uncertainty because of fewer sales and significant differences in property characteristics.

Context

Prices appear to have bottomed out, at least temporarily, in Northern Solano County communities with the exception of small acreage residential properties. Low demand is matching low supply with a new, maybe temporary equilibrium.

This simple analysis shows trends for all homes sold in each market. Each market is made up of a collection of individual submarkets that can trend in different directions. For example, I recently appraised two homes in Woodland with the only real difference between the two was one was 2000 sf and the other was 2800 sf. The 2000 sf home’s submarket was declining like the overall market but the 2800 sf home’s submarket was increasing. Each home requires its own analysis to determine trends and value.

I hope to write more this year. If you have something you would like me to discuss here, please leave a message or email me.

The Dixon Market, April 2017

 

12 Month Change in Mean PSF for Dixon CA Mar 2017

I regularly appraise in Dixon, California, a city of approximately 20,000 located in Northeast Solano County. Dixon is an interesting market because it is on the outer fringes of the San Francisco Bay Area but crosses over into the Sacramento region. Prices fell through the floor during the downturn, hitting bottom in late 2011, but have increased significantly since. The past several months trends have been hidden somewhat by seasonality and a lump of somewhat below average homes selling in the winter. Here’s what I saw this week:

Sale Price Trendline for all homes sold in Dixon, CA since 1/1/16

With a little more data to work with, looks like Dixon is increasing. With about two weeks of inventory at present, expect more increases in the short term.