The August 2012 issue of Money Magazine on the newsstands now has a nice article penned by Ali Rogers called “Think Like an Appraiser.”

It’s not available online yet but the magazine is always a good read. Although Money Magazine has named me “Best Online Real Estate Expert,” I swear I have offline expertise too.

Ok before you go on with snarky comments about the last appraiser that screwed up your deal, I’ve heard it all before, much of it spoken here on this blog. The article is more about the concept of “contributory value” – how certain modest improvements help provide additional value of your home. In theory, an appraiser is going to walk through your home at time of sale just like your buyer would and place a certain value on things you may have done to improve the property. First impressions are important in building a sense of value for the property.

I’d like to expound on the contract “data” point in the article to provide context (not something I commented on for the article). Appraisers absolutely consider contract data in addition to closed data (and listing data). We can place them in the report but normally are not the sole basis of determining value.

What often happens is that we are told about a home that is under contract nearby but we don’t know the sales price. We will call the listing agent of that “contract” and try to get a sense of the interior condition and the actual price (99% of the time we are NOT successful getting the price) but we sometimes we might get feedback like “sold at list” or “sold very close to ask” etc. This can be a helpful gauge on value but not the key factor in the report presentation, especially since there is a higher probability in today’s market than in year’s past that homes under contract don’t always close.

These bits of info from a little detective work are among the subjective elements to valuation that help “tell the story” of the transaction. It’s not about dropping raw data on a spreadsheet and taking an average.

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