Recently, the Washington Post and Ken Harney published, "Appraiser's subjective view can kill a deal despite accord by buyer and seller", see link at bottom. In this article, it talks about recent studies of adjustments to comparable sales used in appraisals and categorizes adjustments into two camps: objective and subjective. Dictionary definitions tend to lump objective into "the facts" versus subjective more into an Appraiser's opinion or personal bias.
Image Source: Washington Post
OBJECTIVE ADJUSTMENTS are outlined in pink highlight: living area size, lot size, # of baths and bedrooms, etc. In truth, some objective characteristics (the facts) can be adjusted on an Appraiser's opinion or interpretation of the market. Please note that I'm color blind and highlight could be pink or green or some other color.
SUBJECTIVE ADJUSTMENTS can be these in yellow highlight: location, quality, condition and perhaps age.
My comments below don't excuse Appraisers. We do need to be better, take time to analyze more thoroughly and know how to do so whether using pivot tables, regression, etc.. The "Public Trust" rests upon our valuations as Phil Crawford speaks of on the Voice of Appraisal podcast. However, I hope it exposes some of the challenges Appraisers face in a low inventory market where home building isn't nearly keeping up with demand.
To This Baton Rouge Home Appraiser, This Is What This Is Really About...
It's The Shortage Of Available Inventory In A Market And Buyers Continually Driving Up Prices That Can Be The Problem Appraisers Are Dealing With... Due To Shrinking Inventories, Sometimes a buyer is willing to pay above market in a LOCATION where the deal makes no logical sense to an Appraiser knowing the history of that market and most recent comps and studying current pending listings which don't support it. The deal is in location where home prices have never been in this territory. Sometimes a buyer is willing to pay above market for a DATED CONDITION HOME and the deal makes no logical sense to an Appraiser knowing the most recent comps and studying current pending listings which don't support it. Yet, it's the Appraiser who is to blame for not siding with the buyer and sellers intent. So, of course Appraisers can develop "Subjective Views" re location, condition and quality when they're appraising the first few deals that stretch normal definable market data driven boundaries in a market.
Sometimes, I Call It Alan Greenspan's Coined Phrase "Irrational Exuberance"! Sometimes Appraisers wonder if buyers truly have all the facts about the market they're buying into when they're willing to pay above market. Is the Appraiser there to be believe the possibly out of town buyer does have all the fact and knows what they're doing or should we be protecting the Lender on the deal? For example, after Hurricane Katrina in 09/2015, we had an influx of 200,000 new residents who bought tens of thousands of homes. Some acted without any knowledge at all of local markets and grossly overpaid to the point where they're still upside down 10 years later. And, they kept paying huge premiums when buying homes in Baton Rouge into 2007, over paying at the time. And then the market corrected and banks lost BILLIONS on willing buyers willing to pay agreed upon prices.
APPRAISERS HAVE BEEN UNDER THE MICROSCOPE INTENSELY SINCE POST U.S. FINANCIAL MELTDOWN. This is why Fannie Mae CU Collateral Underwriter was introduced in January 2015.
"Fannie Mae CU was the bravest attempt yet to scare the hell out of Appraisers into playing by their rules BY NOT OVER VALUING HOMES, PERIOD! Fannie Mae is so serious, they're sending out letters monthly to Appraisers and/or underwriting warnings to let us know when our judgments are not on the same side as other local Appraisers or violate their tolerances. Each report is being torn apart, documented and archived for surveillance reasons. Fannie Mae wants to avoid another U.S. financial meltdown led by Appraisers over valuing homes while at the same time American homebuyer wants to continually pay far above current supportable market support for homes! Appraisers are somewhat caught in the middle of a Fannie Mae Deputy and a sometimes totally Irrationally Exuberant Homebuyer, borrowed from the words of Alan Greenspan!"
Bill Cobb Appraiser Baton Rouge
DID YOU KNOW APPRAISERS ARE STILL BEING SUED IN 2015 FOR VALUATIONS AND SOMETIMES PERCEIVED OVER VALUATIONS PERFORMED BEFORE THE U.S. FINANCIAL MELTDOWN?
In case you're not aware, Appraisers nationwide are still being sued monthly for the over valuations between 2006 to 2010 during the bursting of the housing bubble. Llano Group is still going after Appraisers costing the profession millions of dollars to defend appraisals performed 9 years ago.
DID YOU KNOW FANNIE MAE PAID MILLIONS FOR FORENSIC FIELD REVIEWS OF HOME APPRAISALS FROM 2009 TO 2013? WHY?
To determine if fraud was committed, if that Appraiser needed to be added to Fannie Mae's do not use list and to form documented defense cases for loan buy backs by Lenders that made crooked deals, perhaps based on over valuations and perhaps not. I know this because I performed some of those forensic reviews.
Get The Point Yet?! Appraisers are damned if we do and damned if we don't! Damned if we do reach way out to make a deal happen today and then the greatly anticipated correction in the market happens and face possible forensic study and punitive damages for going along with the market wishes. And, in this article by Harney, Appraisers are damned because we didn't.
How do I deal with this?
I SCREEN ORDERS CAREFULLY!
This is why I screen orders very, very carefully before accepting, studying location, quality and condition, the 3 "subjective views" mentioned in article. And, this this is why about 20%+ of the orders I receive I reject and/or refer to other local Appraisers I trust. You won't ever find me applying a $4,000,000 location adjustment in an appraisal as the article references as an error. In fact, it's rare you'll find location adjustments within my reports.
An Appraiser must be able to quantify or support with data location adjustments and that can be difficult to support with data. If I can't, then I don't accept the order.
One method I easily employ is predominant values in 2 subdivisions of like homes I'm using as comps. If homes in Subdivision A have median sales price of $600,000 selling on average at $152/sf and homes in Subdivision B have median sales price of $700,000 and $166/sf, then it's obvious Subdivision B could have a more favorable location. This isn't a "Subjective View" but rather looking at how buyers vote with their pocket books. There's also some other factors between the A & B such as does B have a better clubhouse, HOA, golf course, etc..
I Don't Get Pinned In A Corner and Just Say No To Some Orders!
AND, I don't allow myself to be pinned into a corner by laws that would tend try to do just that based on location! I know of certain subdivisions or neighborhoods that have decades long historically high rates of REO activity or cycles. These micro markets tank, investors scoop up properties rehabbing and selling for TOP DOLLAR using FHA financing only to have the cycles repeat itself about every 6 to 10 years. It's happened in my market now 3 cycles and the reviews begin to capture any fraudulent activity. I refuse these assignments because I'm not playing that game and then face punitive damage after a market correction for over valuations.
FOR QUALITY, AGE AND CONDITION, I DON'T SEE A PROBLEM AND HERE'S WHY!
The Appraiser, if it's a full Fannie Mae 1004 report, has been inside the home property to judge age, quality and condition. And, today's MLS's, at least mine in Baton Rouge, generally supplies Appraisers with ample photos and a long paragraph of explanation to gain an understanding of age, quality of condition. Slab Granite is still a big deal in my market, fairly easy to determine adjustments.
Of course in my MLS as well, the most over used words are "Totally Updated" when in fact some homes are not and the photos reveal such. Some of these FAKE GLOSSY MLS PHOTOS are deceptive and can make dated homes look not so dated. One has to examine very closely for truth. As an investigative Appraiser, you must be able to examine your way through some of the bull-you-know-what in MLS listings to discover reality.
Original Article: Appraiser's subjective view can kill a deal despite accord by buyer and seller - Ken Harney