We are a leading provider of real estate valuations for the mortgage lending marketplace. With many years of experience in the business, we have a proven track record of reducing lenders time, efforts and costs in managing the appraisal process.
We are a leading provider of appraisals for:
•Primary and Secondary Mortgages
•Private Mortgage Insurance Removal
•Estate Planning •Divorce Settlement
•Highest-Quality Appraisal Reports
Every year, countless people in the United States buy, sell or refinance their own slice of the American Dream. Most, if not all, of these transactions include a simple line item for an appraisal. It has become an understood and accepted part of a real estate transaction. ''Let's bring in the expert and make sure we're not spending too much on this property.'' But is this the only reason to get an appraisal? Are there other times when the services of a certified, licensed, independent real estate professional might come in handy?
The loss of a loved one is a difficult time in life. Likewise, a divorce can be a particularly traumatic experience. Sadly, these events are often complicated by difficult decisions regarding the disposition of an estate. Unlike many wealthy individuals, the majority of Americans do not have dedicated estate planners or executors to handle these issues. Also, in most cases, a home or other real property makes up a disproportionate share of the total estate value. Here too, an appraiser can help. Often the first step in fairly disposing of an estate is to understand its true value. Where property is involved, the appraiser can help determine the true value. At this point, equitable arrangements can more easily be arrived at among disputing parties. Everyone walks away knowing they've received a fair deal. There are other uses for real estate appraisals. The highly-trained individuals behind these services are always looking for ways to put their expertise to work for home owners and the people who support them.
Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI is the supplemental insurance that many lenders ask home buyers to purchase when the amount being loaned is more than 80% of the value of the home. Very often, this additional payment is folded into the monthly mortgage payment and is quickly forgotten. This is unfortunate because PMI becomes unnecessary when the remaining balance of the loan - whether through market appreciation or principal paydown - dips below this 80% level. In fact, the United States Congress passed a law in 1998 (the Homeowners Protection Act of 1998) that requires lenders to remove the PMI payments when the loan-to-value ratio conditions have been met. Many appraisers offer a specific service for home owners that believe they have met the 80% loan-to-value metric. For a nominal fee, the appraiser can provide you with a statement regarding the home value. Some will even take the next step and help you file a challenge with your mortgage company. The costs of these services are very often recovered in just a few months of not paying the PMI.
Before someone decides to sell a home, there are several decisions to be made. First and foremost: ''How much should it sell for?'' But first there may be other equally important questions to ask: ''Would it be better to paint the entire house first?'' ''Should I put in that third bathroom?'' ''Should I complete my kitchen remodel?'' Many things which we do to our houses have an effect on their value. Unfortunately, not all of them have an equal effect. While a kitchen remodel may improve the appeal of a home, it may not add nearly enough to the value to justify the expense. Appraisers can step in and help make these decisions. Unlike a Realtor, an appraiser has no vested interest in what amount the house sells for. His fee is based on his efforts, not a percentage of the sales price. So seeking a professional appraisal can often help homeowners make the best decisions on investing in their homes and setting a fair sales price.
It's a running joke that every one has a different perspective of what a house is worth. And it's the tax assessor that seems to always come in at the high end of the scale! Challenging the tax assessment has become an annual ritual in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, most people go into these challenges unarmed. They may pull some information from the internet to support their claims, but have no real basis other than: ''It wasn't worth that much last year.'' A real estate appraiser can help in these situations. While it may not be economical to commission a full appraisals to lop a few hundred off your tax bill, often an appraiser can do a limited appraisal or neighborhood analysis for much less. These documents can carry a lot of weight when you appear before an appeals board
There are three ways to determine the value of anything, and each plays a part in property appraisal. The most widely-used and accepted in residential practice is the sales comparison approach. This approach bases its opinion of value on what similar properties in the vicinity have sold for recently, with appropriate adjustments for time, acreage, living area, amenities and so on. It is these adjustments where the expertise of the professional appraiser becomes necessary -- no computer can tell you how much or little to mark up for a fireplace without knowing the neighborhood or even talking to Realtors and recent buyers in the area about how important that amenity is in that particular location.
Another approach is the cost approach. How much would a property cost to replace, that is, rebuild, minus "accrued depreciation," that is, depreciation that has occurred since the property actually was built? The cost approach includes concepts like "economic life" and "effective age" that are mostly of use in determining the value of special use properties, special purpose properties or properties where subsequent structural improvements greatly impact value.
The third approach to value is called the income approach. Some properties generate income for their owners -- the most obvious examples being rental properties such as apartment buildings, non owner-occupied houses and duplexes and the like. The rental income an owner might reasonably expect from a property is part of its value. For a purely owner-occupied residential property, this may not be applicable, but it can be important if the property is to be rented out or used otherwise to generate income, such as a storage facility, cell tower rental and office building.
Our company is on the FHA Roster of approved residential appraisers. We're qualified and approved to do appraisals for FHA insured loans. We're trained and understand the rules and procedures in FHA's guidance and policy documents. If you're in need of an appraisal for an FHA loan, please contact us and we'll be able to help you right away. An FHA loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The FHA does not loan money to borrowers, rather, it provides lenders protection through mortgage insurance (MIP) in case the borrower defaults on his or her loan obligations. Available to all buyers, FHA loan programs are designed to help creditworthy low-income and moderate-income families who do not meet requirements for conventional loans. Remember, the FHA is different from the VA appraiser panel in that the lender can choose the appraiser. FHA loan programs are particularly beneficial to those buyers with less available cash. The rates on FHA loans are generally market rates, while down payment requirements are lower than for conventional loans.
A manufactured home (also known as a mobile home) is a single or multi-sectional home built on a permanent frame, like a steel undercarriage/chassis, with a removable transportation system (hitch and wheels). The unit is permanently attached to a site-built foundation and is subject to the 1976 federal standards established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A modular home is constructed in a factory using conventional home floor joists and delivered to a site on a trailer or flat bed truck. The delivered home may be in the form of panels that are assembled at the site, may be pre-cut and assembled on site, or may be pre-built and delivered in one piece. The home, panels or pre-cut panels are lifted from the trailer and attached to a foundation. A modular home may be single or multi-storied. Modular homes are not subject to HUD standards, but must be built to state and local Uniform Building Codes.
Lenders and brokers using Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) and homeowners using "free online home values" to determine the value of a property need to know what those results aren't telling them.
Whether the house is really there.
A computer can't so much as drive by a house to see if it's actually located where it's supposed to be, has four walls and a roof, and really is a four bedroom split level and not a one bedroom shack.
Whether unique features of a property might add to or detract from market value.
So a computer returns an estimated value of $150,000. Did it account for the sewage treatment station next door? The railroad tracks nearby with trains that blow their whistles every night? The school district? The desirability of its tree-lined street versus the next street over?
How long ago the property was assessed.
Many AVMs and free online services rely on public assessment records. In many states, for example, assessments may only be required every three years — the value may be nearly three years old in that case. Some states mandate that an assessed value not increase beyond a certain percentage, even if sales activity indicates the property has appreciated far more. When you use an AVM or free online service, you risk a lower value than reality.
What makes the comparables comparable.
A computer might compare your subject property to another property with similar square footage sold three months ago a quarter of a mile away. Even if that "comparable" property is in a different, less desirable school district, fronts a four-lane, 55 M.P.H. street, and is flood-prone. Or even if the property was sold under duress, such as in a divorce situation, or not at arm's length, such as to a family member. A computer simply does not know all the adjustments that might need to be made to a "comparable" property's sales price.
Whether a market is declining. Automated valuations use data from recent, nearby sales. If those sales were completed at the peak of a local housing market, the computer will think the trend is going up. Even if a professional appraiser knows that the overall neighborhood is beginning to experience a downturn. As a lender, don't get stuck with a property that's been overvalued by a computer.
Whether there is a conflict of interest. Free online home values are often farmed out to real estate agents in your area, who use the service to get your listing when you decide to sell. The best way to do that is to impress you with their confidence that they can get a higher price for your property. If they tell you your property is "worth" the high end of what they believe they can sell it for, the theory goes, you're more likely to sign a listing agreement. With most things, it's best to "under promise and over deliver" — but the opposite is true when you use a free online home value service.
What qualifications, designations, experience and education the preparer of the value has.
When you work with an appraiser, you can be confident we're highly qualified, ethical and prepared to complete your assignment professionally and with good judgment. Most of the time, you don't know the qualifications of whoever is behind those free online values, and they couldn't compare to an appraiser's if you did. And if you're relying on an automated valuation, you're cheating yourself out of an appraiser's education, experience and expertise.
Real estate lenders are a funny lot. It seems they're happy to lend anybody money. Assuming a half-way decent credit rating, any potential home buyer can secure a loan for a house. Why? Because these transactions are secured by a very valuable asset: the home itself. If a borrower defaults on a loan, the risk for the lender is often only the difference between the value of the home and the amount outstanding on the loan, less the amount it costs them to foreclose and resell the property. For this reason, lenders are very wary of lending more than a certain percentage of a home's value. Traditionally, this has been 80 percent. The cushion this provides the lender helps ensure that their losses from loan defaults are kept to a minimum. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly more common to see home buyers using down payments of 10, 5 or even 0 percent. Naturally, loaning this much presents the lenders with a lot more risk. To offset this risk, these transactions often require Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI. This supplemental policy protects the lender in case a borrower defaults on the loan, and the value of the house is lower than the loan balance. PMI has been a large money-maker for the mortgage lenders. The amount of the insurance - often $40-$50 per month for a $100,000 house - is commonly rolled into the mortgage payment. Given the size of the overall payment, this additional fee is often overlooked. Homeowners continue to pay the PMI even after their loan balance has dropped below the original 80 percent threshold. This occurs naturally, of course, as the home owner pays down the principal on the loan. On a typical 30-year loan, however, it can take many years to reach that point. Until recently lenders were under no obligation to tell home owners when they had reached a point where the PMI can be dropped. That all changed in 1999, when the Homeowners Protection Act took effect. In most cases, this law now obligates lenders to terminate the PMI when the principal balance of the loan reaches 78 percent of the original loan amount. Savvy homeowners can get off the hook a little earlier. The law stipulates that, upon request of the home owner, the PMI must be dropped when the principal amount reaches only 80 percent! It is important to note that this law only applies to home loans - whether first time or refinances - that closed after July, 1999. Also certain other conditions must be met, such as being current on the loan payments. Buyers that purchased before July 1999 can also have their PMI removed, but they must initiate the process and though the lender is under no obligation to do so, most will. Of course, there is another way that home owner's equity can reach beyond the 80/20 percent ratio. Many areas of the United States have seen significant gains in the value of real estate over the past decade. In fact, certain areas have seen appreciation levels of 100 percent or more. Even those people living in areas with more modest gains may find that the value of their property has quickly grown to the point where the amount of principal they owe on their loan is less than 80 percent of the home's current value. Again, in these cases, the lenders are under no legal obligation to remove the PMI. In most cases, however, as long as the home owner has been prompt on their loan payments and don't represent an exceptional risk, the lenders will agree to remove the extra fees. The hardest thing for most home owners to know is just when does their home equity rise above this magical 20 percent point? A certified, licensed real estate appraiser can certainly help. It is an appraiser's job to know the market dynamics of their area. They know when property values have risen - or declined. Many appraisers offer specific services to help customers find the value of their homes and remove PMI payments. Faced with this data, the mortgage company will most often eliminate the PMI with little trouble. The savings from dropping the PMI pays for the appraisal in a matter of months. At which time, the home owner can enjoy the savings from that point on.
USPAP, which you might hear pronounced like "YOOS-pap," is the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. USPAP is published and maintained by the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) of the Appraisal Foundation, a non-governmental entity charged by Congress with promulgating appraisal standards. USPAP is revised periodically, usually annually, and almost never radically. It includes sections covering rules, such as an Ethics Rule, a Departure Rule, and a Competency Rule. It includes Standards, 10 of them, each covering in detail different functions an appraiser might perform ("Real Property Appraisal, Reporting"; "Business Appraisal, Development"). It includes 10 Statements, some retired, which are used to clarify or supplement the Standards. It also includes Advisory Opinions, such as "When does USPAP apply in valuation services?" and "Clarification of the client in a federally related transaction," which describe real-life problems and how they would be governed under the Rules and Standards of USPAP. Every appraiser is charged with knowing and following USPAP, usually by operation of state law, and must complete Continuing Education periodically to relearn the basics and become familiar with new Advisory Opinions and annual changes to USPAP. USPAP may be considered the Bible of appraisal practice.