Home market value

home market value
Home Market Value (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

It’s normal for homeowners to wonder about their home market value. After all, home sales and prices have been making headlines for well over a decade.  But you certainly can’t get a home market value from a headline, nor can you assume it from a neighbor’s sale.  The reality is that your home market value could vary depending on whom and when you ask.

A timely and important review article by Michael Sanders recently published in the Appraisal Journal asks the question “what does Market Value Mean?”  (Market Value: What Does It Really Mean?; Appraisal Journal. Summer2018, 86:3, p206-218).  The article correctly points out that determining “market value” can realize different results depending on the scope and purpose of the appraisal.  You can see how this might be problematic if you’re trying to determine a home’s value when divorcing or trying to sell an estate property.  Some mortgage lenders even have different value criteria depending on the loan product and purpose.

Sanders suggests that “market value” undergoes scrutiny when valuations are difficult and appraisals are questioned (e.g., during a recession).  However, having a discussion about the meaning of “market value” now, when there is relative market stability, is probably meaningful for the industry and consumers.  Interestingly, the semantics of “market value” have changed through the years, and ultimately depends on the application.  He points out at least twelve similar but different legal definitions of “market value.”

Sanders suggests that Richard Radcliff, an appraisal pioneer of the 1960’s, was ahead of his time by advocated for most probable price valuations.  An ongoing debate in appraisal circles is whether “market value” is the highest price or probable price.  However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s when appraisal articles academically contemplated the association of “probable sale price” and “market value.”

Sanders quotes Richard Ratcliff saying, “appraisal is largely the predicting of human behavior under given market conditions.”  Sanders quips about an “ideal world”, where “appraisers would apply market value definitions using a relatively consistent and objective standard, and reflect conditions in the market as they exist, rather than how others might wish them to be.

Although the accepted dictionary definition of “market value” is the price a buyer is willing to pay for your home, market value and sale price could be different (and often is).  And according to Sanders, an appraised “market value” isn’t necessarily the price for which your home may sell.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “how much is my home really worth?”  For the answer, you may have to ask a Realtor.

Realtors use market data to prepare comparative market analyses (CMA) that can help buyers and sellers decide on a sale price.  Although a CMA is not an appraisal, it is a technical and methodical professional analysis that provides a snapshot of the market.  The CMA is typically more refined in scope than an appraisal, such that it is usually limited to a neighborhood and home criteria.  Additionally, depending on the location and availability of comparable sales, it can provide a 30, 60, and 90-day probable sale price range based on market trends.

If you’re planning a home sale, a Realtor’s CMA may be your best source of information to decide on a listing price.  Even mortgage lenders have relied on Realtor CMA’s, in the form of Broker Price Opinions, to help decide on sale prices for short sales and bank owned homes.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Next housing crisis and appraisals

next housing crisisAre government agencies setting up the next housing crisis?  A November 20th proposal from the FDIC, the Fed, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has some consumer advocates suggesting just that.  The joint proposal from these agencies would have the threshold for a (1-4 unit) residential mortgage appraisal increased from $250,000 to $400,000.  This means that an appraisal would not be necessary for homes valued less than $400,000.  However, this rule would not apply to mortgages insured or guaranteed by federal agencies, such as FHA or VA mortgages.

Contrary to causing the next housing crisis, the rationale given for the appraisal rule change is to reduce mortgage processing delays.  The change is also supposed to reduce costs to both financial institutions and consumers.  The proposal states:

The agencies believe that the proposed increase to the appraisal threshold for residential real estate transactions would reduce burden in a manner that is consistent with federal public policy interests in real estate-related transactions and the safety and soundness of regulated institutions.”

However, the Appraisal Institute (appraisalinstitute.org) is in strong disagreement.  AI president James L. Murrett, MAI, SRA stated in a press release that the rule change could potentially harm consumers by undermining “crucial risk mitigation services.”  Murrett commented,

The Appraisal Institute anticipates that [the increase] will result in a return to the loan production-driven environment seen during the leadup to the financial crisis, where appraisal and risk management were thrust aside to make more – not better – loans. Apparently, the FDIC has learned nothing from that experience.

The Appraisal Institute is not alone in rejecting the rule change for residential mortgages, as opposition is being voiced from various consumer organizations.  But the proposal should not have been a surprise.  Changing the appraisal thresholds, which has not been adjusted since 1994, has been in the works for several years.  And rumor of an imminent rule change was reported in January by Patrick Rucker for Reuters (U.S. regulators ready to ease check on property values: sources; Reuters.com; January 28, 2018).  Mortgage Bankers Association supported a threshold increase because of appraiser shortages, especially in rural areas.  However, consumer advocates are concerned of triggering a new housing crisis because improperly inflated home values contributed to the last crisis.

Interestingly, although this appraisal rule was considered earlier this year, a threshold change was only made for commercial mortgages.  The final rule dated April 9th raised the threshold for commercial appraisals from $250,000 to $500,000.

Some industry associations, such as the National Association of Realtors, have yet to comment on the recent proposal to increase the residential appraisal threshold.  However, the NAR did issue a statement April 5th supporting the commercial appraisal threshold increase.

Curiously, NAR’s recent support for increasing the commercial appraisal threshold is counter to their 2016 statement in favor of maintaining a $250,000 threshold.  The 2016 letter sent to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council stated:

“NAR believes increasing the appraisal threshold levels would undermine the health of the real estate lending industry as a whole. As NAR states in its Responsible Valuation Policy, a trustworthy valuation of real property ensures the real property value is sufficient to collateralize the mortgage, protect the mortgagor, allow secondary markets to have confidence in the mortgage products and mortgage backed securities, and build public trust in the real estate profession.

It remains to be seen if NAR’s position on “building trust in the real estate profession” will completely change to also support an increased residential appraisal threshold.  Or if not requiring appraisals for homes under $400,000 will cause the next housing crisis.

Original published at https://dankrell.com

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Maintenance free homes

I talk about home maintenance quite a bit. And there is a reason. Maintaining your home is important, not just to keep you comfortable but to also preserve your investment. But many people loath the idea of spending their weekend checking their home’s systems, replacing air filters, mowing the yard, washing the siding, cleaning appliances, ad nauseum. They are called chores for a reason. But maybe sometime in the near future we will eliminate the chores and live in maintenance free homes.

Rapid technological advances are certainly making our lives easier. We can do many things in our homes, even when we’re not home! Our homes can even do things while we’re not home.  So how about increasing the quality of our lives by reducing the time spent maintaining our homes?

Maintenance free homes

maintenance free homes
Home Maintenance (infographic from sunlife.com)

Home design and materials tech are leading us to a home where maintenance is minimal or non-existent. Tech innovations has brought us new materials to enhance our homes’ appearance and decrease maintenance. Many of the new materials not only look good, but they are also green which makes our homes more efficient. Many material improvements have been primarily for your home’s exterior. For example, new no-maintenance or minimal maintenance materials for siding, decking and roofs are aesthetically pleasing and can last decades. However, low or no maintenance materials for your home’s interior are increasing in popularity too. Examples include quartz for counters, and prefinished wood for flooring.

The desire for maintenance free homes is not a new phenomenon and can be directly observed by housing choices. New home buyers like the idea that there will be minimal maintenance for the first year. They like feeling confident that everything in the home will work as expected without spending money on service calls, or expensive emergency repairs. Condo buyers like the idea of not having to deal with exterior home maintenance, especially lawn care. Additionally, active adult communities are designed with low maintenance in mind to make living easy and increase quality of life.

Unfortunately, because of their design, some mechanical systems still require care. For example, experts recommend that HVAC systems be serviced twice a year. The service not only checks and tunes the system to operate efficiently, it can identify potential hazards as well. However, to help keep maintenance at a minimum, many homeowners decide to sign up for a service contract. The service contract may also schedule the maintenance for you, which can also help you with time management. Not all service contracts are the same, and due diligence is recommended before you sign any agreement.

I am not dissing those homeowners who love to work on and around their homes. Don’t get me wrong, there is a satisfaction from doing chores and repairs. But there are many who don’t care for it. And not to mention that there are many homeowners who don’t maintain their homes, because of cost and/or inability. A major benefit to living in maintenance free homes is reducing the value-reducing effects of deferred maintenance.

Tech advances in home design and building materials have eliminated a great deal of the maintenance requirements that was necessary in the past. And although some systems in the home require regular care, newer systems increase in reliability. It’s fascinating that because of maintenance free exteriors many homeowners today don’t know what it’s like to paint the exterior of the house every two to three years. Likewise, maybe sometime in the near future, we won’t remember what it’s like changing air filters.

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Stock market and home buying

stock market
Real estate and the economy (infographic from nar.realtor)

It’s easy to understand why the recent stock market volatility triggered some into proclaiming that the sky is falling.  The potential for losing money can evoke some strong emotional responses.  Interestingly, some experts have speculated how the recent stock market activity would spill over to consumer spending, including the housing market.  Reporting such as Jacob Passy’s recent article titled “Could Stock Market Volatility Cause House Prices to Fall?” (Marketwatch.com; February 8, 2018) makes for good click-bait.  However, the details of the article would suggest otherwise.  The consensus is that the recent Wall Street activity is not likely to impact the housing market.

Passy is trying to make an argument that the housing market will suffer from the recent stock correction, and subsequent interest rate increases.  But Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of communications at Attom Data Solutions [formerly RealtyTrac], was quoted in Passy’s article saying “The strength of the housing market and economy in general is what’s spooking the stock market.”  However, the volatility may make some home buyers wary of making an investment in housing.

The stock correction and increased Wall Street volatility is not a new phenomenon.  The last market correction with lasting volatility occurred in June and August of 2015,through the fall.  The current stock market volatility is part of the cycle of a healthy economy.  Unlike the crash of 2008, current economic fundamentals are positive.

This stock market correction is not unusual, however it is extraordinary.

Seeking Alpha noted that the percentage drop for the two largest Dow losses this year are not even in the top 100 (10 Figures On Historic Dow Correction; seekingalpha.com; February 6, 2018).  And this correction is distinct, according to ZeroHedge, because most individual stocks were left intact (If This Correction Is Over, It Will Be Unique in Leaving Most Individual Stocks Unscathed; zerohedge.com; February 13, 2018).  Many individual stocks actually made gains while the Dow and the S&P stocks “took it on the chin.”  This phenomenon is unique and is said to demonstrate that the economic fundamentals are working.

As for rising interest rates, they are needed to moderate home prices.  If home prices aren’t controlled by market forces, such as interest rates, then homes will become unaffordable for many home buyers.  Mortgage interest are still historically low, even with recent increases.

Homeownership is out of reach for many home buyers because of increasing home prices.  David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, declared in the January 30th S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller  Home Price Index release:

Home prices continue to rise three times faster than the rate of inflation.  The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Index year-over-year increases have been 5% or more for 16 months; the 20-City index has climbed at this pace for 28 months.”

Blitzer pointed out that these increases are not based on home buyer demand, stating, “Given slow population and income growth since the financial crisis, demand is not the primary factor in rising home prices.”  Instead, sharp home price increases are due to the lack of homes for sale and new construction.  And until housing inventory increases, “home prices may continue to substantially outpace inflation.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, remarked that the recent stock market volatility should not impact the housing market.  He stated, “Underlying economic fundamentals remain strong.”  However, he cautioned that if the stock market retreats further, it could affect home buyers who plan to use funds from their 401k’s and other investment vehicles as down payment sources.

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Prime housing move by Amazon

prime housing
Insight into Amazon (infographic from geekyedge.com)

Amazon is about to make a decision on their “HQ2.”  The highly anticipate decision can be a prime housing move not just for the chosen city, but the region.  As you now know, Montgomery County is on the short list.  Some even have it pegged to be in the top five.  Although many local residents are excited at the prospect of increasing home values, many others are anxious how a Montgomery County Amazon HQ2 will affect their quality of life.

If Amazon chooses Montgomery County, the county will likely see a similar impact that Seattle experienced.  However, rather than be purely speculative, let’s look how Amazon has shaped Seattle.  Stephen Cohen offers interesting statistics looking at how Seattle has changed after Amazon (How Seattle Changed After Amazon Came to Town; seattlepi.com; September 22, 2017).  Cohen points out that Amazon has been based in Seattle since the mid 1990’s, and that the major impact on the town happened when the company moved to the South Lake Union campus (SLU) in 2010.  Since the move, Amazon’s stock price skyrocketed and its market cap exceeded (and has since doubled) that of Walmart.

Cohen’s data goes beyond the pros and cons of having the business giant in the community and compares statistics that span from 2010 to 2017.  During that time, Seattle’s population grew 17.3 percent.  However, it remained as the 18th most populous US city.  Although Seattle followed the national trend of becoming more diverse, its African American population slightly decreased (which was counter the national trend).  Cohen describes Seattle’s population as “skews male,” probably because Amazon’s “workforce is 63 percent male.”

housing
Seattle Case-Shiller home price index (graph from businessinsider.com)

But the home values…Seattle has had one of the hottest and prime housing markets in the country. Seattle’s average home price increases are almost double the national average.  Finding housing in Seattle is very difficult, as the town’s vacancy rate significantly decreased to about half that of the national average.  The city’s median gross rent is 47.6 percent higher than the national average.

Other interesting facts from Cohen’s data…one-person households decreased from about 15 percent to slightly more than 10 percent.  There was a 25.2 percent increase in commuters.  And, the city’s mean household income increased 41.3 percent, which is more than double the national average.

Prime housing is not for everyone.  Cohen cites the sharply increased cost of housing and high cost of living for negatively affected the poor, as well as the middle class.  And although Seattle is the 18th largest US city, it has the third largest homeless population (according to a December 7, 2017 Seattle Times expose “King County homeless population third-largest in U.S.”).

But, Lisa Stiffler reported that Amazon’s philanthropic corporate culture has noticeably changed (What gives? Tech giant Amazon finally boosts its philanthropic rep in its hometown; geekwire.com; December 14, 2016).  She notes that it is evident that employees are volunteering and getting involved with such activities as the Amazon “Non-Profit Expo.”

Seattle’s SLU is described by Stephen Cohen as an “Innovation District,” which is a Brookings Institute term for a “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators.”  SLU is similar to Montgomery County’s Technology Corridor.  An Amazon move to MoCo’s Tech Corridor would likely dovetail with a $100 million plan to improve I-270 (the infrastructure plan was reported by the Washington Post last April).  Such infrastructure improvements would open up Maryland’s western real estate market, which would ease some of the upward pressure to MoCo’s already tight prime housing market and already increasing home prices.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.