Baton Rouge Appraiser Responds: Subjective Views can kill a deal

Real Estate Appraiser with Accurate Valuations Group, LLC LA St Certified 851

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.

baton rouge appraiser responds subjective views can kill a deal

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 

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. 

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? 


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. 


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 


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Tom Horn
Thomas Horn, Real Estate Appraiser - Alabaster, AL
Appraising The American Dream

Great article Bill. You've done a great job at illustrating the land mines that appraisers have to navigate through these days.

Nov 04, 2015 10:23 PM #1
Mary Thompson
Lanier Appraisal Service - Flowery Branch, GA
Lake Lanier Appraiser in North Georgia

Love your photo of the Granite over Dated Cabinets. I am working on one now and I see this alot in our area. I do not understand why someone would do this because if you want to update those cabinets you have to rip out the nice new granite. Lipstick on a Pig maybe?  I agree with Tom, great article and yes those photos that are professionally done, you really have to look closely to make sure you are not "dazzled" by how nice everything APPEARS to be. Trickery at work here. :) 

With the new HUD changes and FANNIE CU, you bet many Appraisers are looking very closely at which orders whey will accept or reject. I do the same thing. You cannot pay me enough to touch some of these landmine properties that you know will be scrutinized very heavily because you know there is NO support for the price someone is willing to pay.  

I had one Realtor ask me during my last class. Don't the banks pay you for your expertise, so why would Lenders impact how Appraisers do things!! My reply was THANK YOU! It should be that way but we all know we have the big arm of the law looking over us and we must comply with all of the Lenders Special requirements they impose upon us. I wish we could just do the job we are highly trained for and supply our experienced opinions of value with no pressure from either side.

One thing is for sure....When a loan is involved our mission is to Protect the Banks from over lending and the resulting risks that over lending poses. Now if they would not forget that fact, we would all be in a better place. While Fannie does not want us to over-value property, the lenders....well that is another story. We are truly between a rock and a hard spot each and every day. 

Thanks Bill....Hope you had a nice Birthday!!! 



Nov 05, 2015 03:36 AM #2
Shannon Slater
DW Slater Company - Pilot Point, TX
Residential Appraisals -North Texas

Thanks Bill, I like the way you highlighted the different subjective and objective data points.   I wonder what the percentage of the forensic appraisals that were reviewed were found to be fraudulent.  It seems that we have challenges everywhere we turn.  

Nov 05, 2015 03:54 AM #3
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Bill Cobb

Greater Baton Rouge's Home Appraiser
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