Home Selling in Herndon>Question Details

Chelsea Sutu…, Home Seller in Herndon, VA

How can I appeal an unfair appraisal? We put an addition onto our house making it a 4BR/3BA. The tax records

Asked by Chelsea Sutula, Herndon, VA Wed Jul 8, 2009

were never updated (huge backlog to get someone out)... and the appraiser said they only look at above-grade rooms? When we bought the house it was listed as 4BR/2BA although the 4th bedroom had no closet and is in the same location as it is now, only now it has a closet and a walk-out to the yard. All the comps were for 3/2 and the appraisal is $25K lower than our lowest acceptable sales price. Any advice? We put an upscale $180,000 addition onto our house and it's like we did nothing.

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You have received some great answers from Jimmy Mulhern, Glenda Cherry and Mary Margaret Gates. One additional comment I have to add with this HVCC, appraisers seem to be taking a bit of advantage of the situation, and to some extent, lenders seem to be encouraging them to be overly conservative on values. I know you say your listing when you bought the home said 4BR/2BA, but I doubt your original appraisal did, especially if there was no closet. Even now, with a closet, it is still below grade, and not counted for appraisals. Where is the third bath? Unfortunately, it sounds like you are going to get credit for finishing a basement with a bath, not adding a bedroom. If other comp sales have finished basements, you could line the walls with gold, and not get much credit for it. Another problem is over improving a home. If your home is now substantially larger than the other homes in your development, unless you have other homes that are also substantially improved and they have sold recently, getting that value added is going to be very problematic. I am sorry to be the messenger, and wish I could be more upbeat for you. Hopefully, you love the house, and its value will increase soon, but for the time being, as long as you do not have to sell, enjoy and try not to lose any sleep over it. Jim
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 14, 2009
Two things - just because you have a room in the basement that can be used as a "Legal" bedroom does not make it a bedroom. That is why your home will not be classified as a bedroom. Finished basements do not comp out on an appraisal at the same price point as finished space on a "Living" level meaning that the value of 1,000 sq. ft. of finished basement is not the same as the value of 1,000 sq. ft. on the main level.

Second point - if the addition is not in the tax record then was it constructed with a permit? If it was, then you need to get that fixed from the county. It will change your assessment and you will pay higher taxes, but that tax value is what buyers are looking at...even though it is not he value of your home.

Don't try to figure out appraisers right now - the new HVCC law is screwing up the market. Appraisals are coming in low across the board - hard to build prices back up when appraisals are coming in for less than what the last home sold for.

Jimmy Mulhern
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 8, 2009
Hello Home Seller,

For tax appeals in Fairfax County, you can go online to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dta/realestatetax_home.htm. Follow the links to the form for an appeal. Complete the form and submit it as directed. My question to you is are you talking about a refinance appraisal or a tax assessment?

It is interesting to read (in that same site) how assessments (the value used for taxes) are calculated on the previous year's sales prices of homes in the area. The Herndon area has had a lot of distressed sales and that may or may not have affected the comps used by the appraiser. It is not supposed to, nor is it supposed to affect the assessments.

As noted previously, you should not hope to recoup the cost of an addition in the value of your house. A good report to read about this is the annual Cost vs Value report in Remodeling magazine. You can find it at www. remodelingmagazine.com.

Without looking at the house and the comps, I cannot offer an opinion about sales price or value.

Good luck.

Mary Margaret Gates
Web Reference: http://www.mmgates.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 8, 2009
Unfortunately, the appraiser was correct - only above-grade rooms are counted for comparison purposes. However, finished square footage below-grade will add value to the home, just not in the form of a room count. Annmarie is correct in that spending $180K on your house doesn't make it worth that much more.

If the comps all have 3 bedrooms and 2 baths above grade (like yours), it really makes no difference if there is a bedroom in the basement. But if the comps have unfinished basements or if they're not walk-outs, your home's value should be adjusted accordingly. If you really feel that your house is worth more, it's up to your agent to find and adjust comps to support a higher price.

By the way, the tax records have nothing to do with the appraisal - and the last thing you want to do is have a higher assessment for purposes of calculating your real estate tax. Also, whether or not the bedroom has a walk-out or a closet makes no difference - under the Virginia building code, it simply needs a window or door large enough and low enough to provide egress.
Web Reference: http://www.GlendaCherry.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 8, 2009

First you can go to the township and ask them to update their records. You can also have a Realtor do a Comparative Market Analysis to challange the appraisal. However, keep in mind that because the addition cost you 180,000 does not mean that your home is now worth 180,000 more. Also,a bedroom should not have a walk out to the yard to be considered a bedroom. I hope this helps you. Good luck.

Annmarie Howley
Coldwell Banker Flanagan Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 8, 2009
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