Local Newspaper - The Record Searchlight

Local Newspaper - The Record Searchlight

Are appraisers holding back the housing market?

 By David Benda       Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Home values in Shasta County increased 3 percent in 2012 as a tight supply, low interest rates and fewer foreclosures snapped five straight years of declining prices. But are residential appraisers preventing values from going up even higher?

Some real estate agents are frustrated that homes are appraising for less than what their buyer offered, which in this market - especially at the lower end - is often more than the asking price.

 Dennis Morgan, board president of the Shasta Association of Realtors, recounted a recent deal in which a home listed for $165,000 got multiple bids before the seller accepted an offer for $177,000. But the home appraised for $165,000.

 Josh Barker of ReMax Town & Country in Redding believes 2013 will continue to be a struggle between buyers and sellers and their agreed-upon price and the appraiser's value.

 In some areas of Southern California, Barker says, it's become such an issue that some sellers will put appraisal contingencies on their houses. "In other words, we only want cash offers," Barker said.

There are not enough cash buyers in Shasta County to justify that marketing strategy, Barker said.

 "We have been here before," Barker said. "We had appraisal issues from 2002 to 2006 because the purchase price the buyer and seller agreed on was higher than the appraisal justified."

 But a decade ago, Barker says, appraisers could say prices will never get that high. This time it's different.

 "Appraisers who have been here for a while have been exposed to the higher sale prices," Barker said.

 Appraiser Ken Brown agrees that this is not a new phenomenon.  "There is nothing new about this complaint," said Brown, who's been appraising homes in Shasta County for more than 35 years. "No one wants their deal to not work.

 "We are in a very unique market that is improving, but again, throughout my career that is something I have heard before."

 Appraisers interviewed for this story said complaints about values are the exception. "It's more unusual to have a problem than to not," Brown said.

Appraisers look at comparable sales, past sales and the potential for future value increases or decreases when they assess a house.   Location also is important.

"That typically means the immediate subdivision or vicinity (less than 1 mile), or a similar competing subdivision when the subject property is in an area that has limited sales," Diane Friebel of Friebel-Boyd Appraisal Services said.

 Homes that sold the past six months are typically preferred over older sales, she said. "But sometimes older sales are used for bracketing," a strategy that takes into account square footage, age, lot size and/or acreage, Friebel said.

Brown explained that lenders have a process to provide data to the appraiser after he or she judges value.

"We are required to review the information we are given and comment on it if it changes our opinion of value," Brown said. "If there is data that is truly comparable and we missed it, any competent appraiser will consider it and determine if the data warrants a change in the opinion of value."

 Bob Sprenkel of Sprenkel Appraisals said it s not his job to inflate the value of a house, or under value a property.

 Skip Murphy of The Address Realty in Redding said comparable sales "are a trailing indicator in a rapidly rising market like we are experiencing. And appraisals will continue to be problematic until prices level off."

 Friebel will talk to real estate agents so they know what she is looking at. She hasn t heard many complaints from agents because she "hammers" her point when she turns in a value.

 "I will ask them, What did you use for comparable sales, what makes you think the house is worth this? " Friebel said. "They have heard from me before my appraisal comes in."

An appraiser's work is always more challenging coming out of a down market when prices are rising, Friebel said.

"Especially since were coming out of a long slump where banks have seen values drop," said Friebel, who has been an appraiser for more than 30 years. "The last thing they want to become is overaggressive in their lending policies."

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