When listing a home in MLS, what is your source for determining the Living Area square footage?
Most real estate agents tell me they use the living area square footage stated in the county tax assessor public records. If this sounds like something you do, you are not alone.
In our office, we often notice, a couple times a week that our hand or laser measured living area square footage of homes may not match the public records living areas. It is not uncommon to hear an appraiser state out loud, “oh my goodness, the
living area stated in MLS and public records is significantly different than what I measured!”. After measuring we are able calculate the monetary losses, which may often range in the tens of thousands to hundred thousands of dollars loss on the sale price,
neighborhood property values, and commission. For a mere fee of around $200 to have an appraiser hand-measure the subject property, the seller and agent could have made an extra $XXX,XXX!
Last week I appraised a home that was under contract, and the stated living area was 1,625 sf and my hand measured sketch was 1,890 sf. The difference between the two is about 265 sf larger than what was stated in MLS. My office measures homes per
the American National Standards Institute “Square Footage – Measure for Calculating” or ANSI. This is a guide that many appraisers, architects, and insurance adjusters refer to for home measurement. When I calculated the extra 265sf of living area and multiplied
it by the $190/price per sf stated in MLS it resulted in a $50,350 loss to the Seller. Avoidable mistakes such as this make me feel sorry for the Seller who unknowingly suffered a significant loss on their nest egg or retirement equity. Additionally, the unnecessary
decrease in neighborhood home values, and the agent’s lower commission which is a missed opportunity to offer professional guidance to have the home pre-measured to verify the living area and to prevent such a monetary loss for all parties involved.
Another example: I appraised a large home for dissolution of marriage. When I hand-measured the home, it was 600 sf smaller than the living area stated in public records and the previous MLS listing. The homeowner told me that my stated living area
was incorrect and requested that I needed to remeasure the property. I asked the homeowner if he had a floor plan from a previous appraisal which he had and forwarded along to me. Unfortunately, when comparing the previous appraiser’s sketch to the sketch
provided on public record it was easy to see that the appraiser did not hand-measure the property, as it perfectly matched the sketch in public records. The garage in public records and on the previous appraiser’s sketch was square shaped, but in actuality
and on my sketch, it had an angled wall and was not square shaped at all. In addition, the second floor in the county public records and the appraiser’s sketch included an unfinished attic. My sketch did not include the attic due to it having no A/C. My client
became upset at the previous lender appraiser for not measuring or verifying the actual living area. This resulted in the homeowner paying significantly more for the home. In this case, the listing agent and the previous lender appraiser used the public records
sketch and did not measure the home. Since the current owner paid for 600sf more than actual living area, this was $140,000 loss for the homeowner/Buyer.
It is a job requirement that appraisers verify the living area of the subject due to the inaccuracy of public records. This is required by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, Lenders, underwriters.
I have had a few discussions with county appraisers who work for different counties, and they will tell you that public records are not an accurate source for living areas. To best explain the severity of not measuring, if an appraiser is reported
for not measuring the living area of their properties they could possibly be sued or have their license suspended.
We can appreciate that most agents state in MLS for prospective buyers to verify the living areas of the homes, but what about the Sellers? Who is looking out for them? Again, for a mere (average $200) fee, to have the house measured you can ensure
that they are not under selling their home.
I encourage all Realtors to recommend to their sellers to get their home measured prior to listing in order to accurately price their homes to sell for the most the market will bear.
Additionally, I recommend that Realtors look up “ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Square Footage – Measure for Calculating”. This guide is a quick read that will share how homes are measured and what spaces are considered living area.
By Kelly Kellogg
Appraisal Experts, Inc.
CERT RES RD2727
Author, “ABC’s of a CMA, Comparative Market Analysis”
I have received many questions regarding the new appraisal guidelines that have recently come about due to the COVID-19 virus. Specifically, lenders are ordering more and more drive-by and desktop appraisals to prevent appraisers entering peoples’
Now, what does this mean for you? As a real estate professional or seller this means you will need to be even more vigilant when it comes to the appraisal process. If you discover that your buyer’s bank has ordered a drive-by or desktop appraisal,
there are a few things you can do to make sure the details of your listing or home are not overlooked.
First, I highly recommend to listing agents and sellers to state as much information about the property in their MLS listings. State the exact age of the roof, exact age of the kitchens and bathrooms, and exact age of updates that have been completed
on the property (do not just say “recently updated” or “new”). It is here that I recommend stating any updates or renovations you would want the appraiser to take note of, (additions, built-ins, quartz counters, double paned windows, solar panels, etc.).
Second, I recommend having a PDF or Word document prepared of all the updates and renovations with the year they were completed ready to email to the appraiser when they call you for information regarding your listing or home. The reason I recommend
emailing this list is because things can get lost in text messages. Appraisers receive many text messages all day long from unknown numbers and texts easily get lost in the shuffle of the day. Emails are easily marked and placed into the appraisal reports
Work File (or storage center) in the report. *As a side-note, for those of you who do not know, appraisers are required to save all information they gather regarding the subject property into their reports Work File.
Third, MLS has an attachment feature in which listing agents can attach files to their listing. Using this feature, I would recommend attaching your list of updates/renovations with their dates, a previous appraiser
hand measured floor plan that shows the actual sq ft of living area, seller disclosures, and a survey of the property, if available.
Additionally, when the appraiser calls you for clarification or more information about your listing ask them for their email address and email them all of the above-mentioned documents before they start their research. This way you are ensuring
that the appraiser is using the most accurate information regarding the subject property when searching for comparable properties.
In my office, we have always prided ourselves on being proactive by making sure we get in touch with the listing agents and confirm any information we see in their MLS listings. This also gives them a chance to provide us with any new information
or comparables they feel are a good representation of the subject property.
In summary, the above advice is to encourage you to be proactive, to ensure a smooth appraisal transaction, and that the property will sell for the most the market will bear.
Stay safe out there!
Kelly Kellogg, The Appraisal Expert!
The Appraisal Expert
Cert Res RD2727
If you are a Realtor, investor, buyer, or seller you may be asking yourself, what is “bracketing”? When developing a sales comparison analysis, “bracketing” refers to selecting comparable properties with features that are inferior, similar, and
superior to the subject’s features. Most lenders require that appraiser’s “bracket” the comparables included in the appraisal analysis. Realtors are encouraged to bracket their comparables when developing their Comparative Market Analysis’ (CMA). Features
in an appraisal or CMA that are bracketed may include, living area, amenities (i.e. pools and garages), updates, condition, lot size, view and location, just to name a few.
Most lenders require that the appraiser “bracket” the market value in an appraisal. Meaning, that the opinion of market value stated in the appraisal must be “bracketed” by the sales prices and the adjusted sales prices of the comparables.
For example, if an opinion of market value stated in an appraisal is $300,000, then the appraiser should include comparables with sales prices that are below, similar to, and above the market value stated in the appraisal, which means that the comparables
sales prices should range below, similar to, or above $300,000 value.
Adjusted Sales Prices
The sales prices of the three comparable sales listed above are $321,000, $315,000, and $282,000. Additionally, their adjusted sales prices are $300,500, $301,000, and $302,600.
In this example one can see that the market value of $300,000 is indeed “bracketed” by the sales prices of the comparables which range from $282,000 to $321,000. Also, the market value of the $300,000 is “bracketed” by the adjusted sales prices
of the comparables which range from $300,500 to $302,600.
To summarize, the opinion of market value should fall or be “bracketed” within the price range of the comparables. Contrary to popular belief, appraisers do not “average” the adjusted sales prices of the comparables. Appraisers use a weighted sales
Another example is appraisers’ “bracket” the living areas of the comparable sales. If the subject is 2,000sqft, then an appraiser may include a comparable with square footage that is smaller than the subject, perhaps 1,800sqft, square footage that
is similar to the subject, perhaps 2,100sfqt, and square footage that is larger than the subject, perhaps 2,300sqft.
Another item that appraisers’ “bracket” is the lot size of the subject. The appraiser may include a comparable with a smaller parcel size, a similar parcel size, and a larger parcel size than the subject. Ideally the comparables lot sizes would
be smaller, similar, and larger than the subjects lot size. Always keep in mind that “comparable” homes must be utilized. In other words, a comparable is what a prospective buyer of a subject property would consider when looking at similar homes.
As we already learned, “bracketing” is not required; however, most lenders require that the appraiser use this technique in their appraisal reports. This ensures that the appraiser is providing a fair valuation analysis by selecting comparables
that “bracket” the subject. My advice to the rest of the real estate community is, try implementing this on your next CMA and see how much closer your analysis is to the appraised value.
By: Kelly Kellogg, The Appraisal Expert!
Appraisal Experts, Inc. Cert Res RD2727
Dear Kelly Kellogg, The Appraisal Expert, 407-644-8885
How do appraisers adjust for energy efficient amenities including solar power in a home?
Answer: Energy efficient amenities may include various items such as solar power, energy efficient windows, spray foam insulation,
energy saving appliances, LED lights, tankless water heaters and heat pump systems. The Appraisal Institute announced on October 31, 2013, that solar photovoltaic systems (solar power) typically increase market value and decrease marketing time of single-family
homes in the Denver metropolitan area, a conclusion from a study performed in Denver, Colorado. The value given by local appraisers for the energy efficient items may depend on the cost of the energy efficient items, age of the energy efficient items, depreciation
or wear and tear on the items, and most of all, the market reaction to those amenities. How much would a typical prospective buyer of that home be willing to pay for the "energy efficient package" or solar panels amenity? One should consider the actual cost
of the solar power installation and depreciation (age, wear and tear).
In other words, if a seller did a solar installation five years ago for a cost of $20,000, one could consider its maximum
life span (remaining economic life), the wear and tear during the past five years (depreciation), the monthly savings the solar system provides, and most importantly, the market reaction, or perspective buyer's reaction to the solar amenity. If the solar panel
system has a 25-year economic life, then it would be safe to say that it has 20 years remaining economic life which would be 20% of its original value. Therefore, the current approximate depreciated value would be approximately $16,000. The interesting thing
about a solar installation is that, once installed, the homeowner begins saving money immediately. Now if we add the savings into the equation, then potentially, that solar amenity could be worth more. I have been told that the average savings for homes with
solar installation saves homeowners approximately $150-$300 per month on an average size home. It would be safe to say that a typical homeowner of an average size home may save $1200-$3600 per year in energy bills. In 25 years, that would be a $30,000-$90,000
savings which evens out or may significantly increase your savings in the end. In addition, let's keep in mind that as energy costs typically rise, the homeowner will save even more money on their solar panels. The question remains, how does an appraiser adjust
for energy efficient amenities or how much would a prospective buyer be willing to pay extra for the energy efficient items package amenity? Regarding adjustments, if the home is "new" construction, then it would be safe to use local builder's prices of the
energy efficient package that they charge to the buyer.
Keep in mind that that cost should not exceed 10% of the value of the home. For example, if the value of the home is $300,000
then the appraiser's maximum allowable adjustment for solar could be a maximum of $30,000 as long as the market or buyers support that. If a builder charges a buyer $25,000 for the solar installation on a new home, then an appraiser may adjust up to a maximum
of $25,000 for a Comp that does not have the solar amenity. However, if a builder charges $25,000 for solar for a home that has a $200,000 value, the appraiser is capped at the 10% maximum adjustment of $20,000. On a re-sale, when the subject has an energy
efficient package, the appraiser should include comparables with energy efficient amenities. However, if the appraiser includes a comparable that does not have the energy efficient package, if an adjustment is warranted, it is supported by buyers or market
For a hypothetical example of a paired sales analysis, let's assume that two homes sell in the same neighborhood and they
have the same floor plan, are similar in quality and have similar locations and views, and the only difference is that one of them has an energy efficient package. A market derived adjustment could be extracted from the following equation: House A (no energy
efficient package) sold for $300,000 and House B (with energy efficient package) sold for $310,000. The difference between the two sales prices would be the adjustment for the energy efficient package. The energy efficient package adjustment in this scenario
is $10,000. That is a hypothetical market derived adjustment. In other words, buyers of similar properties paid an extra $10,000 for the energy efficient package amenity in this hypothetical example. That being said, appraisers may adjust for energy efficient
amenities if the market or buyers are paying a premium for those amenities. The appraiser's adjustments are based on what recent buyers have paid for those items. When providing an appraisal, the best scenario is for the appraiser to include comparables that
have similar energy efficient or solar power amenities in order to avoid making an adjustment.
Due to the newness of solar panels in the real estate industry and the lack of resales and comparables on the market, market
derived adjustment can be complicated. Therefore, I recommend always having homes with solar panels appraised by an appraiser who has experience and is well-versed with these amenities.
Dear Kelly Kellogg, The Appraisal Expert,
Is concrete flooring or exposed concrete acceptable to FHA?
Exposed concrete, concrete flooring or concrete floor that is acid stained or painted is no longer acceptable flooring. It is considered to be exposed foundation to FHA and must be covered with a finished, marketable flooring. This issue is not clear because
at one time FHA deemed it as an acceptable floor. However, it is no longer allowed for FHA financing.
Kelly Kellogg, The Appraisal Expert
We are getting ready to put our home on the market and have a porch that was enclosed and want to know if the enclosed porch can be included in the main living area under AC. What qualifies the enclosed porch to be part of the main living area of the house?
In order to be considered living area, a finished enclosed porch must have air conditioning, be located under the main roof of dwelling or have a similar quality roof, and have finishes (floor, ceiling, walls, electrical) that are similar or better in quality
compared to the main living area. To further clarify, an "AC" means an AC vent or an AC unit with a vent that blows cooled air and hot air into the finished enclosed porch or room must be located in the finished enclosed porch/room.
Appraisers define the porch as finished or unfinished. A finished enclosed porch can be counted or included in the main living area of the house. An unfinished enclosed porch is not considered in the main living area of dwelling. For example, an enclosed
porch that has vinyl windows and an aluminum patio style roof is considered “unfinished”. Another example of an “unfinished enclosed porch” is a porch that has thin glass windows, aluminum patio style exterior wall siding and no finished flooring.
A finished enclosed porch has good air conditioning vents where the temperature stays the same on a very hot or cold day when you walk from the main living area into the finished enclosed porch area. The floor, walls and ceiling are finished with quality
and workmanship that are similar to the main dwelling. The finished enclosed porch must have good flow and good functional utility.
If your porch is an unfinished enclosed porch, it will not be included in the main living area, however, an appraiser may give it value, assuming it is considered a usable feature or amenity and has positive market appeal.
When an appraiser has knowledge of a contract/offer price, does it influence their opinion of market value?
Did you know that when an appraisal is completed for lender loan purposes, the appraiser is required to review the sales contract? Complete impartiality is not out the window for a seasoned, well-trained appraiser. It is my professional opinion that we should
be aware of and consider what prospective buyers are willing to pay for a home. An appraiser is to remain objective and utilize the most recent closed sales and active/pending comps in close proximity to the subject. A well-trained professional appraiser should
keep in mind that a "Comparable" is what a typical prospective buyer of the subject would consider as an alternative purchase. As an appraiser, I must be able to substantiate and support my opinion of market value utilizing the most recent, similar comparable
sales that are available in the subject's neighborhood while remaining impartial. It is rare that my estimate of market value is the same as an offer or contract price. My opinion of market value is typically above or below a contract price. Additionally,
a good appraiser is aware that some buyers may submit offers above market to beat out other offers just to get their contract/offer accepted. Many of my cash buyer clients and Realtors have stated that they put in a contingency in the contract/offer that states
that the contract is subject to the appraised value coming in at or above the contract price. They rely on the fact that an appraisal is an unbiased opinion of market value.
Why should seller get an appraisal for listing purposes?
Dear Kelly Kellogg, Appraisal Experts, Inc.,
QUESTION: I sometimes think it may be an advantage to get an appraisal done prior to the listing. How would you explain this to your seller, why I would recommend an appraisal prior to listing the house, since I'm supposed to be the expert?
Nikki, Prudential Realty
You are not alone. I often get asked this question! Here are the best reasons for your client to obtain an appraisal prior to listing:
1. Undoubtedly, the number one reason is to price their home strategically so it sells before the competition at the highest sales price the market will bear.
2. The current market and underwriter/lender requirements are constantly changing. An investment up front in an appraisal to learn about the appraisal process, how prooperties are valued, what an appraiser considers is most comparable, how the adjustments
are calculated/applied will give you and your seller considerable knowledge about their market. This will assist you and your client in strategically pricing their home to sell and not sit on the market.
3. Recommending to your seller that he/she order an appraisal prior to listing lends credibility to your presentation. After presenting your CMA, recommend they get their home appraised to doublle check your analysis. You might suggest the seller pay for
the appraisal fee up front and then offer a credit for the fee at closing. It ends up not costing the seller anything, but creates a commitment to you, helps you get the listing and more importantly helps you sell the house.
4. An accurate, current appraisal can give your client confidence and peace of mind while negotiating a sales price. Recommend one or two well-trained appraisers with knowledge and experience of the subject's market area who will complete a thorough, supported
analysis. This prevents any surprises on the back end!
Thank you for your inquiry. I'm confident this information will assist you in helping your clients.