Friday, September 9, 2011

Let's Appraise The Real Estate Market

Just within the past two weeks I have had some mortgage lenders from different parts of the country tell me that they are not able to close loans or refinances because of low appraisals, even after miles of paperwork had been executed. Yet, none of them could explain it in detail.

Certainly, I’m not here to attack real estate appraisers. They have a job to do, and I don’t know the first thing about how to do the hard work they do. However, it looks like they (appraisers) are just as caught up in this mess of a real estate market as the realty agents, hopeful sellers, and frustrated buyers.

My displeasure with how the realty associations and many agents continue to toss out negative statistics by comparing home sales figures is well documented over the past two years. Many of the banks contributed to the fallout on the mortgage side. And so it goes.

Sure, the appraisers have to go buy comps and other local market information. But wait a minute. A home sold via foreclosure is, or maybe I make that “should be”, considered a special circumstance and not a determining factor.

Suppose there is a development of 10 homes which sold more than two years ago for an average of $300,000. Then suppose two of those homes went into foreclosure and sold for an average of $200,000 within the past six months. I would prefer to think that since the only two homes in that development which sold were due to foreclosure, that it would NOT mean that the other eight homes are no longer valued at $300,000. Yet, that’s what’s happening.

Yet, it’s not only the appraisers taking this path, although it appears that this is what is causing purchases and refinances to be blocked. The realty agents and associations are going along with this trend. And many potential buyers and sellers, along with mortgage lenders and those related to a transaction, are being, well, screwed, because of it.

Here is my solution. Stop the madness. Why can’t the National Assn. of Realtors create a separate category for “Non-foreclosed homes”?

Using the ten home development as an example, comps would show that the eight “Non-foreclosed homes” are valued at an average of $300,000. The fact that two homes sold for a lot less due to special circumstances should not impact the value of the others.

Even if the “special circumstance” properties were factored in for “weighted” statistics, the impact would not be as draining for all concerned. If the $300,000 homes development was only reduced to a value of $280,000 due to “special circumstances”, it would most likely open up for more loans than appraisers coming in closer to $200,000 (based on current comps) and the realty professionals going along with that.

Let me put this another way. Suppose another national electronics retailer is about to go under and has a “Going Out of Business” sale including laptops. Let’s say they have an inventory of 5,000 laptops which retail for $800 each. And, due to court order, they sell them all for $450 as a final sale.

Would that mean that every comparable laptop for sale via other retailers still in business would now be priced at $450 permanently? After all, 5,000 people bought that brand and model for $450!!

A foreclosure is a court order. The property owner(s) could not or did not pay their money, and lost the property, and it was sold in this manner.

How are these situations different?

Instead of coming up with more negative statistics to show why people aren’t buying and selling homes in most cities, it would be nice to have the people who shape the industry working on some serious and immediate solutions to this crisis. Before it's too late and thousands more hard working people lose their homes, too.

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