An Appraiser's View

September 20th, 2023 2:49 AM
Logic can be enlightening.
If taxes on fossil fuels and fees on the manufacturing of fossil fuel vehicles have been raised in order to make electric vehicles more competitive, then was the purpose of raising the wage of fast food workers to make the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in lieu of humans more competitive?
Truckers have a bill before the governor of California that would ban the use of AI in trucking for 6 years unless a human was behind the wheel. The stated purpose is "to save jobs with a possible side benefit of public safety." Would truckers still support this bill if there was added language that prohibits truckers from pumping their own gas or patronizing establishments that use AI until 2029?
Hollywood writers are on strike in part due to fear of being replaced by AI and want the studio's to agree not to use AI to replace them. By going on strike they have forced the studio's to seek a way to replace them. In my opinion, AI driven scripts will look a lot like early CGI and patrons will demand better, and studios will be forced to bring back good and great writers, who will be in a more powerful position.
And, my self serving point, if you don't want AI to drive a truck, write a movie, or make your happy meal, is it ok for AI to decide if you can refinance or buy a home? I get it, technology is awesome and AI is here to stay. AI is currently and will continue to replace humans in the workforce, however those who are good to great at what they do will always be in demand, because AI can't come up with new ideas for entertaining scripts, make an amazing tasting burger, drive a truck through outside the normal conditions, or provide an accurate opinion of value on a property with complexities.

Posted by Jeff Pickerel on September 20th, 2023 2:49 AMLeave a Comment

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April 8th, 2023 5:24 AM
Lamar Jackson's inability to get a contract negotiated is the 2nd biggest story of this NFL offseason, and the rhetoric has me wondering if anyone really understands how this (and home sales/appraisals) actually work? Let me try and summarize it. 
The work that goes into determining the right deal for an NFL contract is enormous. Each potential signee is individually assessed by 32 different teams for their weaknesses and strengths on the field, in the locker room, off the field, in the off season, potential income they will generate, injury risks, estimated number of years left contributing at current rate, and an estimate of contribution at a either an increased or declining rate as the contract ages, depending on the players projection. The team then looks at the entirety of the market, comparable available players, what they are asking for, comparable unavailable players that have recently signed a deal, what were the terms of that deal, and what the team has available to spend. Because each team performs their own analysis each will have their own opinion of a players value. The work and analysis that needs to be done is similar to an appraisal of your home for a mortgage, but differs in that it only takes into consideration what the value is for a specific buyer, which is why some teams are willing to pay more than others. 
Lets look at the contract negotiations from the players side. Most players are represented by a sports agent that either has a long history of successful contract negotiations or works with an agency that does. These agents and agencies do their own research on exactly the same thing the teams do, discuss their results including how they players value may be higher for which teams and why, and come to an agreement on how much they are going to ask for prior to taking calls and offers. Once they have agreed on what they feel is their market price, the agent brings the player to the market. The analysis and agent/player agreement is similar to what an appraiser and real estate agent would do if the property had unique features that would be best marketed to a specific clientele.
  But if all sides have done their homework, why doesn't Lamar have a contract yet? From an outside point of view, it appears to be because Lamar is his own agent, and the valuation of himself done by himself, is at above current market due to his own bias (sound familiar agents?). Although it is possible race may play into some owners or general managers decisions, it certainly does not apply to all of them. The owners are in the NFL business for 3 reasons. Money, glory, and  power. If a player can bring them either of the 1st two on the list, they will be signed. Period. But despite being available for an amount less than what Lamar is asking the Ravens to pay him, not one team has made an offer. That is the fact of the market for Lamar today, and the market is what determines his NFL value. 

Posted by Jeff Pickerel on April 8th, 2023 5:24 AMLeave a Comment

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As a long time die hard 49er fan I have spent a lot of time watching games both in person and at home. I also enjoy preparing to watch games as if I am the coach, breaking down the opposing teams strengths and weaknesses, how they match up with my team, how my team should adjust, and how their team may adjust. The last two years I have added in how the assigned refs will influence the way the game is played. As an expert in both fields, my honest assessment is NFL officials are nowhere near the standard of excellence required of real estate appraisers. 
For instance.
A real estate appraiser provides an unbiased opinion whereas NFL refs are influenced by the home crowd.
A real estate appraiser does their due diligence on each aspect of the appraisal. NFL officials make the customer (the coach) request someone else look at it in order to ensure it was correct. And they limit them to requesting accuracy twice a game. 
A real estate appraiser reports everything they see. An NFL ref "let's them play" which alters the result. and  
A real estate appraiser can take as much time as needed to be accurate, whereas an NFL official has to keep the pace of the game. 

Wow, in looking over the list, it appears NFL officiating is similar to an online valuation of your home, quick, but not very accurate.
To be fair, it's the speed at which the decision is required that affects the accuracy, not the integrity of the appraiser or ref. So the next time you get impatient with how long an accurate, unbiased appraisal takes remember, the alternative is a poorly called game that has a 50% chance of altering the result against you. 

It's been one heck of a season, 

Posted by Jeff Pickerel on January 30th, 2023 3:54 AMLeave a Comment

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January 27th, 2023 4:34 AM
It's been documented that a business that puts forth an opinion on a political hot topic is committing suicide. I believe that CAN be the case, but I also believe being silent on an important issue that is within your area of expertise can also be detrimental to that business. For me, racial bias in appraising falls in the latter category. So lets dive in. 
First of all, let me be transparent. I have not yet taken the course on racial bias that I will need to take before I can renew my license. I am purposely venturing an opinion prior to taking the course, because I am curious if my opinion and approach will differ once I have the required education? I am open minded but as of now cannot see how it could change. Here's why. 
Appraised values have been required by federal law to be unbiased since 1983.  Additionally appraisers are required to use the most relevant comparable sales or they are also in violation of both appraiser bylaws and federal law. The State of California also has laws against appraiser bias. Yes, I realize that just because there is a law doesn't mean everyone abides by it and that bias doesn't exist. It just means that a biased appraiser would need to be diligent in preparing a biased appraisal that would not raise red flags so as not to get caught. I'm sure bias happens, but not in my reports. I always report my opinion of MARKET VALUE which ensures I do not have bias or prejudice. What do I mean by "Market Value" and how does that keep me from being biased? 
Market value, as defined for federally related transactions, is what a TYPICAL buyer would pay for a home. The determination of a typical buyer includes location, size of home, size of site, age and condition of home, quality of home, etc.. Market value does not include a neighborhoods make up of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. . Think "If I found a house I wanted to buy, who else would be looking to buy that home?" Those are the typical buyers for that house. Using comparable sales from outside the defined "typical buyer" market throws up a red flag that the appraisal needs to be reviewed which cause the appraiser more work. I think it's important to also understand what exactly is a comparable sales. 
A comparable sale is just what it sounds like. It is a sale of a home that you and other typical buyers would considered similar to the home you are wanting to refinance or buy. It is rarely an exact match, but should be similar in some of the following. Location (think things like School district, near freeway, rural area, etc), living area, bedroom count, bath count, stories, amenities, and site size. ie; If you are buying a 2500 square foot, 5 bedroom, 3 bath home, would you pay the same price as you would for a 1500 square foot 3 bedroom 2 bath home on a similar sized lot in the same neighborhood? Of course not. Similarly, you probably would not pay the same price for a home that is located in an neighborhood that has industrial and commercial uses as you would for one that is in a quieter neighborhood. Basically, comparable sales are sales that have the features most similar to the the home you are wanting to buy or refinance. A neighborhoods racial or religious profile should have no influence on which comparable sales an appraiser uses. In fact, I believe it has no place in any industry.  
I am not racist or prejudice. I have seen it and it's both disgusting and confusing. I like talking to people, especially those who have culture. How can someone judge a person without getting to know them? Do they not realize what they are missing out on? I have been invited to many family Bbq's of people I have just met and the celebration itself is the only reason I remember what race or religion they were. 
Anyway, I digress from the point of the post. (Climbs down off soap box) The point is, I understand racial bias exists in appraising, it just doesn't exist in mine. 
Have a great day everyone, talk to people you don't know, and enjoy life! 


Posted by Jeff Pickerel on January 27th, 2023 4:34 AMLeave a Comment

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September 27th, 2022 3:31 AM
A recent price shopper asked me "If online valuations are free, why does an appraisal cost so much?" The reason is both simple and complex. The simple is, online valuations aren't required to be unbiased or accurate. Providing an accurate opinion of value requires an inspection not only of your property, but a neighborhood inspection, and a street inspection of all sales deemed relevant. This takes extensive time, gas, and unbiased reasoning. If you don't need an unbiased accurate opinion of value, I will tell you. But first I must know the reason you want an appraisal. That's where it gets a little complex.
In every appraisal request I determine the scope of work before I provide a fee quote. It is as important for me to understand the reason you need an appraisal as it is to have the details on what is being appraised, because the time needed to inspect and complete an appraisal depends on the purpose of the appraisal. The fee is based on the time needed to provide an accurate opinion of value. Although there are typically only 3 or 4 sales plus a listing or two in the reports I complete, those sales are selected after extensive research into 20 to 30 sales from within the market.  Rarely are the 3 sales you see the "easiest" sales, which is what online valuations use. The average time to complete an appraisal today is 10 hours. Add in the cost of a vehicle, gas, yearly schooling, tools needed, mls access, insurances, software, etc. and the cost per appraisal easily exceeds $500. It's possible that you can hire an appraiser for less, but based on the math, you may end up with the equivalent of an expensive online valuation.
When shopping around remember, your are getting an appraisal because you need an accurate opinion of value, so you might want to hire an appraiser who is good at math.      


Posted by Jeff Pickerel on September 27th, 2022 3:31 AMLeave a Comment

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Ok, now that I have your attention, no, the market is not declining in most areas, but I guarantee you it will. When? Well, if I knew the answer to that I would be sipping a beverage on the beach of a tropical island instead of trying to help people prepare for the coming market decline. That said, when asked, my magic 8 ball responds with "Without a Doubt" and "You may rely on it" instead of the  "Cannot predict now" it was coming up with just a few months ago. Given the accuracy of the 8 ball I myself have decided to prepare for the decline. I recommend you do the same. 
But how do I "prepare" for a market decline? I recommend three things. #1 Refinance out of a variable rate 1st mortgage. #2. If you have a HELOC balance either pay it off or refinance it into your 1st *Note* If when refinanced you will not be able to afford payment do not refinance. and #3. If you are considering investing in distressed sales by tapping into your home equity, increase the value of your home so you can get the lowest rate possible on monies borrowed. 
Which brings us to the meat and potatoes. How do you increase the value of your home in a declining market when with a few exceptions, remodeling currently  increases home value by only 70%-85% of the cost? Yes, I have seen all the tv shows and even know a few contractors who specialize in flipping properties. They have a spreadsheet that shows what they paid, what their costs were, and how much they sold it for, usually showing a 15-20% flip profit. But they are leaving out two important parts of the formula, their own labor costs and the time factor of an increasing market. (The home would have increased in value during the time they were remodeling whether they remodeled or not). Plus, if they are acting as the real estate agent they leave their 3-6% sales commission out as well! When these are added profit usually drops down below 10%. Which means the exception is, if your home is in need of repairs and/or significant updating, taking care of your home maintenance, finishing those projects, and updating your home can increase the value by as much as 10% in a declining market!  
My magic 8 ball says the market decline is coming "Without a doubt" so my advice is don't wait. Prepare your home today. 

Posted by Jeff Pickerel on September 21st, 2022 3:25 AMLeave a Comment

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August 25th, 2022 4:57 AM

Will appraisers be replaced next year with big data provided by companies like Corelogic, Zillow, Cubicasa, and Open Door? 
?            Well, no. And yes. I entered the profession in 2001, and one week after starting my new career I was stunned to find a front page article that laid out the end of the appraisal industry within a year. The culprit? Big data and appraisers who unknowingly allowed companies to data mine their appraisals, (The content once belonged solely to the appraiser and use of the content for anything but the purpose stated by the appraiser was prohibited) but that's a story for another day. Today I want to talk about why does big data and algorithms continue to fail to be accurate?
            First a simplified explanation of what big data is and where it comes from. Big data in the appraisal industry is a compilation of everything real estate. It is data mined appraisals uploaded through software companies, the entirety of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's appraisal portfolio, current and past mls data, county records, national real estate trends, local trends, and more recently, third party property data such as building sketches, all input into an AI system that analyzes it in seconds and spits out a current market value. The key to accuracy is the algorithm(s) it uses. And in a subdivision of similar quality and condition homes, it can be accurate. But it isn't always. Why?
            I have explained for 21 years why online valuations aren't accurate on properties with non standard amenities, the easiest explanation being that if an appraiser failed to consider non standard amenities in developing an an opinion of value for a property they wouldn't be accurate either. But the losses incurred by Open Door this year and my direct knowledge of homes they overpaid for last year when the market was increasing had me wondering how their model is so far off on a simple tract home. The answer is they have a faulty algorithm. It may be as simple as they built their algorithm during a historic market increase and the AI determined the increase would continue, or the human component influenced the AI by buying properties above the suggested value. In any case, like the platforms before, it failed to be accurate on a large scale.  Imagine big data, algorithms, and private enterprise as the only means of valuation in a declining market and how that would affect lending abilities and home prices? Yikes!  
            Markets change, neighborhoods change, buyers preferences change. What increased the sales price by 5% in 2010 may not affect the sales price today. Algorithms and AI can only consider data after enough of it has been compiled to affect the algorithm. Any change to that and you end up with home values being based on the last house that sold. As appraisers we analyze the last hold sold, contact the selling agent, look through photo's, drive by the property, etc. and incorporate the result in developing their opinion of value of your home.  
            The appraisal industry isn't the only one experiencing big data pains, and certainly isn't the 1st. In fact, big data has been around since the early 1980's. I embrace big data fully, and even wrote a big data program in the mid 1980's (DB3 anyone?). But big data has it's faults, and those faults haven't changed much in 40 years. You ever wonder why your local hardware or big box store is always out of something? It may be because they use big data to order for them. Big data orders based on what is selling, and if at the time of inception there wasn't much inventory on an item, sales would therefor be low, and big data can only order off that data. Example. An electrical supply house installed a big data ordering system. At the time they had just sold all of the most popular romex wire they had in stock, 14-2 with ground. The computer didn't order any because it had no record of selling it and it took a couple months before a human was able to override the system. It was 1988 and they lost over 3 million dollars in sales, as well as several customers. Today we have algorithms all over the world basing what is needed on data acquired during the pandemic. Inventories are undersupplied and staffing is shorted today because a computer is telling humans what is needed and humans aren't being allowed to override the systems.        
            There is a place for big data. The more data we have the more accurate an appraiser can be when comparing properties and market influences. When I started in this industry all the data was obtained in a printed book, on a black computer screen with green writing, driving by a property, and calling the listing agent. Today we have multiple sources of photo's, permit records, assessor records, etc. at our fingertips which help, but big data cannot (yet) replace a physical inspection by a knowledgeable appraiser who can consider the quality of materials, condition of the improvements, location influences (does it really have a view?), and functionality of your home.  
            So no, big data is not replacing your trusted appraiser next year. But yes, if appraisers stop providing more accurate opinions of value than big data does, then they will be replaced.  

Posted by Jeff Pickerel on August 25th, 2022 4:57 AMLeave a Comment

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Do mortgage interest rates affect or effect appraised values? The simple answer is no, and yes. Confused? Let me explain. 
Assuming you are aware of how an appraiser arrives at his or her opinion of value, lets take a look to see if interest rates "affect" appraisal values. Affect is a verb and describes current action, which means something that AFFECTS the appraiser's selection of comparable properties, ie; the presence of a pool, the size of the house, number of baths, location, condition, etc., the appraisers reconciliation of the cost to build a similar home, or the appraisers selection of comparable rental properties. And although changes in the market can make the selection of more recent sales important, that is due to the price they sold at, which may or may not be from the interest rate the buyer received.
But do interest rates EFFECT appraised values? You bet they do. EFFECT is a noun, descriptive after the fact, so current mortgage interest rates AFFECT how much a buyer can afford to borrow, which EFFECTED how much they were able to pay for a home. This is similar to the current job market in a an area. A borrowers employment status AFFECTS how much they borrow, so if an area is depressed, this will EFFECT the values in the area. Understand? No?
Hmmm. That's ok, just try and think of it this way. Appraisers do not determine how much you will buy or sell your house for, or how much the bank will loan you against your house. We report current market conditions like increasing or decreasing values, supply, and demand, which AFFECTS the banks lending decision, and EFFECTS your buying decision.
One last thought. Did you know yo can get an appraised value based on what a property will be worth at a selected future date? It's called a *Prospective Appraisal. It's a handy tool when you are looking at flipping, renting for market appreciation, subdividing, spec building, or holding paper on a loan. One aspect of prospective appraising is determining where the market will be on the chosen prospective date, and historical interest rate trends are part of that equation. So as in all things involving the English language, prospective appraisals are the exception to rule. 

Up next. Math, the English method. 

*If interested in a prospective appraisal or you would like prospective appraising explained, feel free to contact me directly. 


Posted by Jeff Pickerel on August 6th, 2022 6:00 AMLeave a Comment

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Home prices are cooling, does this mean values are declining? No, it does not. Home price cooling can mean many things, the list price vs. sell price to be dropping, the percentage increase in values to be slowing, the median home price is lower than it was, or, in some cases, homes selling for less than comparable homes sold for recently (a.k.a. "declining values"). Typically when you hear in the media that home prices are cooling only one or two of the above circumstances are happening in your specific market, verses when market values are actually declining all four are present. 

The issue with broad statements of increasing, declining, or stable values is they are not specific to individual properties. The data the media, home owners, government agencies, etc. presented is based on National, State, county, and city wide market data and may vary significantly from what individual neighborhoods are experiencing. And even within neighborhoods fixer homes, move up homes, move down homes, etc. can experience significant differences in percentage of increase or decline.  Even when all housing markets are headed in the same direction, the percentage of increase or decrease differences between individual markets can be as much as 50%!      

Given the lack of information on all of these indicators specific to your market, how can you find out if your homes value is going up or down? The answer depends on the reason for the question.
If you need to know because you are considering selling, interview 2-3 experienced real estate agents. They are your best resource for the direction of market price. If you have a unique property, find an agent who deals in those properties. If you do end up selling, they provide the most likely route to top dollar for your property.
If you are planning on selling the property yourself, considering buying a property to flip, or considering building on vacant land to sell, hire an experienced real estate appraiser, one that has experience in the type of property you are needing the data on. You might even ask for a prospective opinion of value, but make sure you fully understand what it is based on before doing so. 
And if you want to know before taking out a loan against your home for some home improvement projects, why? You can either afford to make the payments or not, what your home is worth only matters for your LTV, and that will determined by the appraiser the bank hires, not your loan officer, a real estate agent, or even another appraiser you hired. For more on my opinion of home values for reasons other than buying or selling, subscribe to my blog.               

July 12th, 2022 10:11 AM
Did you know? In mortgage lending you are never the appraiser's client? That doesn't mean that you are not someone's client. You are the client of your lender/loan officer, the lender/loan officer is the client of a 3rd party, and the 3rd party is the appraisers client. Confused? Wait until I get into intended users! Maybe I'll save that for another day.... 

My point is, even though you are not our client, you are the client of a client, and without you we would not have the income from appraising your house, nor the pleasure of meeting you. So even though you are not OUR client, we want you to know we will treat you and your property as if you were our client, to the extent the law allows, and that we appreciate you . ??

Posted in:Lending and tagged: appraisallending
Posted by Jeff Pickerel on July 12th, 2022 10:11 AMLeave a Comment

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