An appraisal is an important part of many real estate transactions. An appraisal is typically done if a buyer requires a mortgage loan to purchase a property. The appraisal is done by an appraiser (who is licensed), and it's based on multiple data gathered during an inspection by the appraiser. When it comes to appraisals, there are many myths or misconceptions around them. Whether you're looking to buy a home, looking to refinance a current mortgage, or you're looking for more information about all that goes into real estate transactions, here are some of the most common myths when it comes to appraisals.
Assessed Value, Appraised Value and Market Value are all the Same
For many properties and in many states, the idea that the assessed value, appraised value and the market value are equal is understandable. But, in many areas and instances, this isn't the case. Assessed value is determined by an assessor (who works for a city, town or county) and is usually used to levy taxes; if the assessor doesn't actually physically inspect the property, s/he won't know if any improvements (remodeling projects, interior updates, additions, etc.) have been done. The same can also be said if nearby properties have not been reassessed for a long period of time or they don't reflect the area's current real estate market. Appraised value is determined by an appraiser, and is a result of a detailed physical inspection of a property and research done on the neighborhood and any nearby recently sold properties. Market values are consumer-driven and can be influenced by a buyer - if a buyer is willing and able to pay more for a property, then the market value is what the buyer is willing to pay. While all three values can be similar, all three also have the chance of being vastly different.
The Appraisal Varies Whether it's For the Buyer or Seller
Typically, an appraiser has no vested interest in the price of a property - s/he doesn't represent any particular person. The appraiser should complete an independent and objective appraisal, simply performing the service of determining a property's appraised value. Appraisals can be done for a number of reasons: insurance, home loans, tax losses, estates, liquidation and net worth. Because of this, depending upon the purpose of the appraisal, the market value and appraised value can vary, but the appraiser does not complete an appraisal in favor of the seller or the buyer.
In today’s market, with home prices rising and a lack of inventory, some homeowners may consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons why this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.
Here are the top five reasons:
Recent studies have shown that 95% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 17% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?
Where did buyers find the home they actually purchased?
The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.
Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale By Owner:
The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.
The 8% share represents the lowest recorded figure since NAR began collecting data in 1981.
Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.
A study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs don’t actually save anything, and in some cases, may be costing themselves more, by not listing with an agent. One of the main reasons for the price difference at the time of sale is:
“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”
If more buyers see a home, the greater the chances are that there could be a bidding war for the property. The study showed that the difference in price between comparable homes of size and location is currently at an average of 6% this year.
Why would you choose to list on your own and manage the entire transaction when you can hire an agent and not have to pay anything more?
Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.
How Much Do I Need to Put Down?
Do you have plans to buy a new home this year? If so, you're probably thinking and saving for a down payment, but how much do you need? There are many loan options, and you may not need 20%.
If you’re working with a couple interested in buying a second home as an investment property, you might suggest they talk to a lawyer about setting up a limited liability corporation or other legal entity before they buy. That way, if they’re sued by someone who was on the property after they bought it, they can limit their damages and protect their personal assets against losses.
Suppose a contractor they hire makes negligent repairs to a deck and it collapses while tenants and guests are having a barbecue. The judgment in a case like this could easily exceed the equity the owners have in the property and even the coverage limits on their insurance policy.
Or perhaps they rent the property to a person who owns a dog not covered in a typical landlord policy and the dog bites someone on the property. State Farm, for example, determines risk based on a dog's bite history not its breed. The company paid $121 million in dog bite claims in 2016 at an average of $33,000 a claim. A claim of that amount might exceed the equity the homeowners have in their property. That could make their personal assets vulnerable to the judgment.
Or let’s say the carbon monoxide detector is faulty and the property has a 20-year-old furnace that develops cracks, releasing gas indoors. Tragically, a family of four staying in the property is killed. The owners could face four wrongful death actions caused by negligence.
These are rare occurrences, to be sure, but they point to the gravity of risks that investment property owners can face. In fact, the scenarios illustrate one of the main differences between real estate and other types of investments like stocks or bonds: real estate can carry risks that exceed the investment in the asset.
Of course, an owner’s first layer of protection is insurance, but owners might fail to recognize that their losses can exceed coverage limits. Or there may be exceptions or carve-outs in the coverage that exclude or limit the losses. These gaps in coverage might expose the owner to unlimited liability. In today’s litigious world, $100,000, $300,000, or even $500,000 liability coverage may be inadequate. Also, owners converting their home to an investment property might not think to take out landlord or vacant property coverage.
To get the right amount of protection, buyers should strongly consider a personal liability umbrella policy with $1 million to $2 million in coverage. But they should also consider forming and running a corporation or LLC. The type of entity they can form varies and is governed by state law, but nearly all states allow incorporated entities like limited liability corporations, partnerships, C corporations, and subchapter S corporations.
Deciding which type of entity to set up and how to structure it should be done with advice of counsel. The process may not be expensive. Depending on the area and particularities of the household, the legal work can be done for a few hundred dollars. There are also do-it-yourself forms online, but self-help isn’t recommended; these entities, whether for your own investments or your clients’, have to be set up correctly to get the maximum protection.
Investing in real estate can be a smart decision. The right property can outperform other investment vehicles. But because real estate investment comes with potential pitfalls, it makes sense to have sufficient insurance and for investors to consider setting up an LLC or other type of entity to separate their liability from their personal assets.
Two often confused terms in the home buying process are a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a home loan pre-approval. Even some loan officers and real estate agents will use the terms incorrectly, so here's what you really need to know about each one.
A mortgage loan pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much house you can afford and how much money a lender would be willing to loan you. The best time to get a pre-qualification is right at the beginning of your home buying process, before you even start looking at houses. This involves either sitting down with a lender or talking with one on the phone, and providing information on your income, assets, debts, and a potential down payment amount. The lender would then provide you with a ballpark figure in writing of how much he thinks you could afford to pay for a monthly mortgage. There is no cost involved and there is no commitment on either side. This estimate is just helpful in helping you figure out if buying a home is a viable option, and if so, what your price range would probably be.
Getting pre-approved means that you have a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. In this case, you provide a home loan lender with actual documentation of your income, assets, and debts. This process typically requires an application fee as well, since the bank will run a credit check and work to verify all your employment and financial information. Once you are approved, the lender will give you a letter of commitment, stating how much money her bank is willing to loan you for a home purchase. With a pre-approval in hand you can start your shopping - real estate agents and sellers will take you much more seriously when they see you have your mortgage funding in place.
It is important to understand, however, that even a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan. The funding will only be given when the property appraisal, title search, and other verifications check out on the home you have chosen to buy. Neither is the pre-approval binding; you can still obtain a mortgage from a different lender. If you do stick with the same company that pre-approved you though, the application process will be much shorter once you find the right house.
Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell
Before you pour your savings into a new kitchen and a rainforest shower for the master, think about whether or not you'll be able to recoup your investment when it comes time to sell.
If you have equity in your home, you can make improvements, but don't go over the limit of what other buyers can spend for a home similar to yours in your neighborhood.
While it's tempting to make your home more beautiful, you have to consider the rest of your neighborhood. If most residences in your neighborhood are three-bedroom single-story homes, buyers are unlikely to shop in your area for two-story four-bedroom homes.
Buyers want to shop for a home where there is the most selection of homes that fit their criteria. If they want a swimming pool, they're going to look in neighborhoods where many homes have pools. They won't be aware of your home if you have the only pool in your subdivision.
That's why over-improving for the neighborhood is a bad idea. Not only will you not get your money back for some updates, your home my be harder to sell because of them.
Another reason buyers don't tend to pay as much for updates as you might think is broad differences in taste. Your updates may include choices your buyer wouldn't have made because of several reasons:
You only improved one or two rooms, leaving the rest of the home looking unfinished.
Your updates were too radical, such as cold minimalism in a traditional setting.
Your updates masked a problem but didn't solve it, such as a kitchen that's too small. If the kitchen is still too small after you've put in granite counters, don't expect buyers to care.
You failed to do necessary repairs and updates that were less visible than the new décor but buyers noticed anyway.
Your updates are beautiful but require a lot of cost and upkeep.
Buyers want to make a home their own, and don't want to be distracted or confused by design statements that they don't agree with. Enjoy your home while you can, but make sure your new look can be easily depersonalized when it comes time to sell.
Don't expect to set a listing price based on what you've put into your home no matter how long you own it. Your home will be worth market value no matter when you sell, whatever the value is for that point in time.
All the improvements in the world won't change that basic fact. Your home and the improvements you make are only worth what willing buyers say they will pay.
Before you begin renovations, talk to your Realtor and your lender. They will help you develop a reasonable plan for updates that will add value to your home.
You don't need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person. For the most part, they all cost roughly the same. Why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We're all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.
Agents take the spam out of your property showings and visits. If you're a buyer of new homes, your agent will whip out her sword and keep the builder's agents at bay, preventing them from biting or nipping at your heels. If you're a seller, your agent will filter all those phone calls that lead to nowhere from lookie loos and try to induce serious buyers to immediately write an offer.