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

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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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Home buyer fatigue

Home Buyer Fatigue or Housing Derangement Syndrome?

home buyer fatigue
June Housing Stats (infographic from nar.realtor)

Although home prices remain strong, the volume of home sales has dropped off during June.  This is causing some in the media to exhibit “housing derangement syndrome” by reporting a pending housing collapse.   However, there is a more sensible answer and that may be “home buyer fatigue.”  Buyer fatigue is not solely used in real estate, rather it’s a term to describe consumers who do not engage in a market sector for a short duration for various reasons.  Home buyer fatigue has occurred multiple times since 2013 after a period of sustained home price increases.

Let’s look at the facts.

The National Association Realtors (nar.realtor) reported in a July 23rd press release that the total existing home sales for June decreased 0.6 percent, and is down 2.2 percent from the same time last year.  Home sales in Montgomery County have also been retreating.  The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) reported sales declines for single-family and condos during June (-3.4 percent and -13.9 percent respectively).  Year-to-date sales are also below last year’s transactions for the same time period.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun observed:

There continues to be a mismatch since the spring between the growing level of homebuyer demand in most of the country in relation to the actual pace of home sales, which are declining.

However, his explanation for the home sales retreat sounds like home buyer fatigue:

“The root cause is without a doubt the severe housing shortage that is not releasing its grip on the nation’s housing market. What is for sale in most areas is going under contract very fast and in many cases, has multiple offers. This dynamic is keeping home price growth elevated, pricing out would-be buyers and ultimately slowing sales.”

Although national home prices are increasing, the gains remain steady.  The latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index reported on July 31st (spice-indices.com) indicated a 6.4 percent annual gain during May, which is the same as the previous month.  However, the 20 City Index showed a slight decline to 6.5 percent (from 6.7 percent).  Seattle, Las Vegas and San Francisco continue to lead the nation with double digit gains (13.6, 12.6 and 10.9 percent respectively). The Washington DC region, however, showed a modest annual home price growth of 3.06 percent.

As home sales decline, many contribute home buyer fatigue to increasing home prices and mortgage interest rates.  A few have already begun to ring the warning bells of bubble popping home price deflation citing Seattle and San Francisco’s housing woes.

However, those exhibiting housing derangement syndrome need to take a deep breath and look at the facts.  Most of the country’s home values are increasing at a sustainable rate.  Additionally, contrary to reports of inventory surpluses, home sale inventory continues to be low in most of the country (Montgomery County single-family and condo listings are below last year’s level by -9.3 and -12.8 percent respectively).

It’s also important to look deeper into what may be driving those overheated housing markets to experience the sharp price spikes and recent sale declines.  For example, Seattle’s housing juggernaut may be tied to Amazon’s nine years of a seemingly hiring frenzy.  According to reporting by Matt Day for The Seattle Times (Amazon’s employee count declines for first time since 2009; seattletimes.com; April 26, 2018), Amazon begun corporate layoffs, as well as a possible hiring freeze, earlier this year.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/08/02/home-buyer-fatigue/

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Housing market bubble hyperbole

housing market bubble
Housing Market Snapshot (infographic from nar.realtor)

Timing, as they say, is “everything.”  Predicting the housing market is tricky.  Even the best economists can get it wrong.  Aptly, however, there is that group of naysayers who always believe the homes are overpriced and we are in a housing market bubble status.  And you know what they say about a broken clock, it’s correct twice a day.

There’s no way around it, housing market trends are cyclical.  Eventually, the housing market will crash and home prices will recede.  But, like the phoenix, will again be reborn to go through it’s life cycle.  According to Harvard’s Teo Nicolais (extension.harvard.edu/faculty-directory/teo-nicolais), there are four phases to the housing cycle.  The cycles were described in 1876 by economist Henry George and modernized by Glenn R. Mueller to include recovery, expansion, hypersupply, and recession.  Nicolais predicts that, aside from the occasional slowdown, there won’t be an honest to goodness housing crash until 2024.

You may be saying, “But Dan, the market feels just like the housing market bubble before the last crash.”  And in some respect, you may be correct.  At that time, home sale inventory was low, and home prices seemed on a never-ending climb. However, even though we have similar conditions, the current housing market is in a different cycle than where we were thirteen years ago.

Back in 2005 I reported that the active inventory of Montgomery County single family homes for sale for June 2005 increased to 2,004 units.  Homes were selling at rapid rate, as the number of contracts increase 2.5 percent during June 2005 compared to 2004.  And there was almost a 13 percent price appreciation from the previous year.  The 2005 housing market was clearly in a rapid expansion phase. Oversupply began in late 2006 when Montgomery County single family home inventory hovered around 4,000 units for the better part of the summer and fall.  And of course, the rest is history.

There is some disagreement about the current phase of the housing market.  Some say the market is in the beginning of an expansion cycle, while others (like me) believe we are still in the recovery cycle.  Yes, Inventory is tight.  But as I reported recently, not all homes are selling.  Which is contrary to the expansion of 2005, when it seemed as if all homes sold quickly regardless of condition.  Home prices are increasing, but at a more reasonable rate than they did thirteen years ago.  Although it may feel that houses sell in less than a week, the average days on market for homes that sell is currently 33 days in Montgomery County (according to MLS stats), and 78 days nationwide according to Zillow.

Another factor that is playing into current housing market conditions is mortgage interest rates.  Unlike the housing market bubble of thirteen years ago, interest rates are increasing and is anticipated to help mitigate the home price spikes.

Sure, there are regional markets, such as Seattle and Denver, that lead the country in home price gains (typically double digits).  But most everywhere else, real estate prices are improving gradually.  Moreover, regional markets each have their own hot neighborhoods that grab the headlines too.  Hot neighborhoods tend to be where investors, flippers and first-time home buyers converge.

Is there a housing market bubble?  Are we headed to a market crash like we experienced in 2007? No, at least not in the short term.  More likely, the market may be affected in the near future by a mild (and overdue) economic slowdown.  Unfettered, the housing market will continue its herky-jerky pace.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/06/28/housing-market-bubble-talk/

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Home pricing psychology

home pricing psychologyPricing your home correctly is the foundation of a successful sale.  I have often talked about the science and art of pricing a home in various market conditions, but did you know home pricing psychology also plays a role?

With vast amounts of public data available on the internet, you may be tempted to price your home on your own.  However, keep in mind that unverified internet data can be inaccurate or outdated.  Moreover, the most recent sales data may not yet be available on your favorite real estate sites.  Asking a Realtor to help you analyze relevant comparables from the MLS can help you decide on a sales price that is in line with home buying trends.

The science of pricing a home is a straight forward method of analyzing the sale prices of similar neighborhood homes.  The analysis will provide you with a potential sales price range.  When selecting comparable homes, make sure that the homes are similar in style (colonial, split level, rambler, etc.).  Select comparable homes that are similar in size (usually within 15 to 20 percent of your home’s living area).  Also, try to find comparable sales that sold within the last six months to be relevant to current market trends.

The “art” of pricing your home is a process of fine tuning the sale price range derived from comparable homes.  Looking at various factors for each home, you can make adjustments on your calculated sale price range.  Interior differences, such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, or having a finished basement, can change a sale price significantly.  Likewise, exterior features, such as a deck or fence, can also affect the price.

Let’s talk about your home’s condition.  Whether you like it or not, your home’s condition should be a major factor in determining a sale price.  You should be honest and objective when it comes to your home’s condition.  Have others offer their opinions about necessary updates and repairs.  Are there any comparables that are in similar condition?  You may have to make adjustments to correspond to deferred maintenance and lack of updates.

Home Pricing Psychology

To attract home buyers while trying to get top dollar, you may also have to apply home pricing psychology.  Of course, many of these home pricing psychology strategies are not sound or based on facts.  An example of this is the use of a “totem” price.  A totem price is when the second half of the number is a mirror of the first (e.g., 543,345).  This was a strategy that was highly touted during the “go-go” market of 2005-2006.

Until recently, there hasn’t been much research into the psychological effects of real estate pricing strategies.  An empirical study by Eli Beracha and Michael J. Seiler revealed how sellers can ask for a higher price without turning off buyers (The Effect of Pricing Strategy on Home Selection and Transaction Prices: An Investigation of the Left-Most Digit Effect; Journal of Housing Research; 2015; Vol. 24, No. 2, pp.147-161).  Their study revealed that “just-below” pricing can help you sell your home faster and get a higher price.  Just-below pricing is a strategy that lowers the price by reducing the left most digit by “1.”  However, they suggest that when using the just-below strategy in real estate, it should be rounded to the nearest hundred or thousand.  For example, if you decide on a list price of $450,000, then the rounded-just-below price will be $449,900.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/06/05/home-pricing-psychology/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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