Appraisals are the pits. It appears the appraisers are Lord and God of real estate prices. I have been told

Asked by Fed Up, Charles Town, WV Sun Jun 14, 2009

by realtors that no matter of the many upgrades that I have in my home interior and exterior,it will not make a difference when it comes down to how much square feet. So why would I ever upgrade or finish a basement again? If homes don't start selling for more,,,, how will we ever get higher comps?
My home that I have for sale is nicely landscaped,brick and exposed aggregate sidewalks, nice wooded sd,,,I could go on and on. But yet I'm compared to the Dan Ryans,the Gemcrafts etc. etc. Like comparing a BMW to a KIA Geez

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Liz McDonald, Agent, Charles Town, WV
Mon Jul 30, 2012
Hi Fed Up,
I think you would be surprised by what is selling in Charles Town right now. Contrary to what you have been told, a finished basement, nice landscaping, and upgraded interiors ARE making a difference in sales of homes. With inventory in Jefferson County and all over the DC area lower than it has been in 10 years, people are jumping on great houses that are priced right. And a buyer for a Dan Ryan is a different breed than a historic home, etc (like BMW and KIA buyers).

Appraisals are catching up, too. Things have changed significantly in 4 the last 4 months as far as sales and comps go. I blogged about it 2 weeks ago:…

Locally, this has become a mini sellers market, in many expert's opinions. I agree.

Hope that helps a little bit.

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Tom Carpenter, , 26003
Thu Sep 17, 2009
Many good points in the answers given. The appraiser's work is much more tightly scrutinized than previously, and I think it's proper given what's happened. There has always been conflict between the creative work agents do and the scientific work of appraisers. I know there are things I will give value to and know that a buyer will give value to but an appraiser has a formula and whatever the value given in the book is the value he gives to that amenity. Usually it's low for something that's done really well. The bottom line to me is that for a person who has equity and wants to make a move, it's a good time. What you loose on your sale you pick up on your purchase, assuming a move in the same or same type market. Also, interest rates are low right now but as soon as there is some good market news the Fed will raise rates and so will the banks. Unfortunately, for people with no equity, now is not a great time to sell.
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Keith Sorem, Agent, Glendale, CA
Mon Jun 15, 2009
May 1st there were big changes in how appraisers work, We are seeing quite a few issues with appraisals. It appears that Appraisers are being very conservative, and remember, they get paid no matter what they do.

I would recommend discussing options with your listing agent. One of the options may include paying to have an appraisal done yourself. It may help, but it may not. A lender is going to want their own appraisal also.
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Amy Salisbury, , Charles Town, WV
Mon Jun 15, 2009
Dear Fed Up,
I feel your pain and its no different than the pain many of our sellers are also feeling. Putting a home you've not only invested your money in, but also one in which you've made upgrades and maintained beautifully, can be emotionally and financially tough right now.

There are many times I have to tell sellers that while their home may be wonderful, they will most likely will not realize the return on their investment that they might have several years ago. Due to the state of the economy and huge inventory, house prices are significantly down. Add to that the fact that lending institutions across the board are being a lot more careful with the money, and rising values are still some time away.

Appraisals in this area are routinely being reviewed and picked apart by loan underwriters. While an appraiser may believe a particular home should be valued higher than the value given, if she can't find comparables to support that value, she can't put a higher value on the appraisal. The appraiser answers to the loan underwriter, who answers to the higher-ups at the lending institutions. This is regulation we have not seen in quite some time.

Keeping in mind the volume of new construction in this area by builders like those you mention and knowing how many of those homes are currently in some sort of distressed sale situation, its not surprising that your home is being compared to those. That's about all appraisers have to used as comparable home sales.

If you can, you might consider staying in your home for now. The market will rebound, inventory will decrease and prices/values will start leveling off and eventually go back up. I tell folks all the time, if you don't have to sell now, don't. And if you do need to sell now, at least you will pay less than you might have a few years ago for your new home.
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Sun Jun 14, 2009
The Realtors who told you that upgrades don't matter may have been overstating the case somewhat.

It's true that above-grade living space is a primary factor in calculating an appraisal. However, condition does count, and a whizz-bang modern kitchen can help a house appraise for somewhat higher than an original 1960s kitchen. Same with baths, etc. Not a whole lot, but some.

As for the specific you site, yes, nice landscaping, a nicely wooded area, all that helps too. Not too much, if you're talking about a strict appraisal, but it helps a bit.

Having said that, the upgrades you mentioned (and that I mentioned) will help a house sell a lot quicker for more money. That's what buyers are looking for. An appraisal is not always an accurate reflection of a home's market value, and it certainly isn't a reflection of the appeal it offers to a buyer.
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