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Working with appraisers during a pandemic

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Are appraisers still working? This is probably the question I’ve had most over the past week, so I wanted to unpack some thoughts.

1) Yes & No: Most appraisers are working and it seems like the bulk of appraisers working for lenders are still walking through the interior. There are definitely some appraisers who are not inspecting the interior though (myself included). Some sources say appraisers are deemed an “essential” service during the pandemic, though not everyone agrees. 

2) Exterior focus announced: Fannie Mae and various banks have announced a temporary emphasis on exterior-only and desktop appraisals. When hearing this it’s easy to think every future appraisal is going to be a “drive-by”, but that’s not the case. In fact, traditional appraisals are still going to be in play for various types of loans and my guess is they’ll be the product of choice as long as they’re available. There is lots of conversation too about appraisers technically focusing on the outside but also getting information about the inside of the home through photos and video. Here is a table Fannie Mae published on Monday show what is possible, but we’ll have to wait and see how it all unfolds in the local market. 

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Keep in mind the lender sets the tone here and it’s not up to the appraiser to decide whether to do an exterior-only appraisal or not. However, an appraiser needs to believe a credible value can happen with a more limited scope of work, so appraisers won’t blindly say YES to an exterior-only appraisal if there’s not enough information. Lastly, just because a lender or AMC asks an appraiser to do something doesn’t mean the appraiser has to say yes.

3) Time: It’s going to take some time to see how this all shakes out. We’ll know much more in coming weeks. For instance, we haven’t heard from FHA yet.

4) Practical tips for real estate agents: It might help to take extra photos or video of a home before you list just in case it comes in handy for the appraiser. You might also consider being ready to talk with the appraiser about things such as layout, interior charm, age of improvements, quality of finish work, or anything you might understand more fully by actually walking through a home. If an appraiser is doing a desktop appraisal, I’m not certain the appraiser will call you or not, so you may want to include extra details in your MLS descriptions. This of course isn’t anything new because sharing property details is useful in any market. Please consider using my Appraiser Info Sheet to help tell the story of the property.

5) Private appraisals: If you are looking for a private appraisal, I can’t recommend enough being willing to color outside the lines. Would it be ideal to have the appraiser observe the interior in person? Yes. But during this pandemic it’s important to work with what we have and keep everyone safe. I have private clients who are working with me to use FaceTime to walk through a property (or the Google Duo app for an Android). I also have clients who have sent me 50+ photos of the interior and a very detailed written or verbal description of the property. Of course some appraisals for complex properties or geared toward court might need to wait.

6) Questions for appraisers: I’m not trying to ruffle feathers, but I think we’re at a place where it’s critical for appraisers to strongly consider whether they should be going into homes. I have the utmost respect for peers, and that’s why I want to bring this up. So I ask, where is the line for us? At what point would you personally begin to pull back? How bad would it have to get? When is it deemed too risky for you and others? If you aren’t visiting your friends and family right now out of precaution, is it okay to go into homes of other people’s friends and family? I realize these questions are direct and there is also a cost to saying NO, but we have a serious situation going on right now. I have definitely lost business lately in light of saying NO to private clients, but that’s okay for this season. I don’t mention this to be combative and I hope to not be fielding angry emails all day. I love my peers and I’m concerned that we’re being asked to go inside homes right now. My strong opinion is we need to stop inspecting the interior. But put more lightly I’d say I think we’re at a place where appraisers need to show resistance to lenders for the sake of public health. Lastly, I realize not all areas of the country are the same in terms of COVID-19 cases too (just in case you were ready to destroy me).

A few closing things.

Zoom session: If you want some background noise while quarantining, here’s a Zoom session I did yesterday hosted by KW Elk Grove. We talked about market stats, trends, and then fielded questions. It seemed like most questions were about how to see the current market and choosing comps. This is 100% off the cuff. Enjoy if you wish. Watch below or here.

New market update video: Here is a new market update video from two days ago. This is 20 minutes. Watch below or here.

Fresh daily visuals: During this pandemic I’ve upped my stats game and I’m finding new ways to visualize how the market is moving. Here are four images I’m updating every single day. If you have ideas for images too, I’m open ears. Remember, it’s tempting to focus on prices, but we see change happen first in the listings and pendings.

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I hope this was interesting or helpful. Thanks for being here.

Questions: If you work in real estate, what types of appraisals are you seeing happen? If you are an appraiser, what’s your take on interior inspections?

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