A very simple question, how does the appraiser measure the contribution of an element such as a fireplace?
Is this a subjective process?
Can I have a simple answer??!!
Eureka, we have arrived! This is what every REALTOR® simply wants to know, the $64,000 question. The REALTORS® want this to be some easy methodology like: fireplace = $2,000, this one has it, this one doesn’t add $2,000 and done. Same for granite, same for finished basement, same for hardwoods, same for garage, same for an acre, give me the numbers, plug them in, done! The gap in understanding between the REALTOR® and the appraiser is the frustrating non-specific specific TRUTH of “IT DEPENDS!”
Back up the truck and realize REALTORS® and the public understand that an appraisal is an “… opinion of value” (The Appraisal Institute, 2008) performed by a licensed appraiser. The misunderstanding starts here in the “…”, and I will go tangential to illustrate and then circle back on topic.
I was involved in a volunteer job help program in the mid 2000’s and the client I was assisting reacted to something I said and he showed me a tattoo on his arm that said, “Money, the root of all Evil.” Being that I am a huge fan of money as an efficient means of transferring manifested energy and investment, I paused for a moment and commented that I think a few words are missing from the phrase skewing the interpretation and possibly your actions in life. Depending on the Bible translation you use, I found it to be, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (The Bible, 2017). I realized that maybe he shortened it for impact and it would otherwise take up too much room, but that is inconsequential to the result. The truth is, when you leave off a few words, or even one, then the whole meaning changes and when the meaning changes, your thoughts change, and when your thoughts change, your actions change and when your actions change, your results change and when your results change, your whole world changes.
Returning to real property valuation, the complete definition of an appraisal is, “The act or process of developing an opinion of value” (The Appraisal Institute, 2008). The “It depends” is due the truth that “It depends”, because the appraiser has to go through the act or process to determine the amount of adjustments, they just can’t count 12 fireplaces in a 3000 GLA area home and make an adjustment of 12 x $2,000 = $24,000 adjustment. The act or process will determine, by repeatable methods, that the collective actions of the market may only value fireplaces in 3000 GLA homes up to 2 fireplaces and after that, additional ones may even detract from value. This is where the Sales Comparison Approach is valuable over the Cost Approach.
By shortening the definition of an appraisal to “an opinion of value”, market participants believe that the appraiser is using a subjective process based on feeling, rather than an objective process based on a processing of data and facts. Many people and REALTORS® use the subjective processing and thereby make mistakes in market valuation estimates. If the REALTOR® uses the accumulation of intuitive knowledge/data collected from 100’s of transactions, then they become a human computer that is going through a complimentary act or process to the appraisers’ work, as long as it is not subjective or based on inaccurately on feeling. This is a noteworthy time for a repeat of my earlier post that “REALTORS® are Market Makers and Appraisers are the Referees!” (Straley, 2017).
As for the technical appraisal answer to this simple question, the appraiser will utilize the act or process called “paired set analysis” to find homes that are exactly the same except that one has a fireplace and one doesn’t. This objective process, based on facts and data, will enable the appraiser to distinguish the appropriate adjustment for the property characteristic. If a paired set is lacking in sales history of the market, the appraiser can also use a sampling process of closely related/similar sales data using a set with fireplaces and a set without fireplaces and averaging the two sets and finding the difference in the averages. The larger the sampling and the larger the differences wash out (Martin, 2013). The smaller the characteristic difference, the harder it is to identify the market value of that characteristic. I find it much easier to explain on larger elements like a 2 car garage vs. a 3 car garage because the collective market valuation is much more evident.
The cold hard truth is that Nemo is not easy to find and there is no fast track to some quick opinion of value. Finding the objective facts is much more difficult than it looks and agreed, it would be much easier, but less accurate, to just have a subjective opinion. To support that view, simply watch the vetting from a Dragnet scene and you will agree, “Just the Facts, Ma’am” is the best method (Dragnet, 1970’s). Sure, you can log into 400 websites to “Find What My Home is Worth” and come up with 400 different values and average them all, but you are much better off if you hire an experienced Appraiser and a well educated REALTOR® to help make sense of this complicated process.
In the REALTOR® category, I suggest you look for a candidate with a degree from REALTOR® University and a certification from the National Association of REALTORS® Pricing Strategy Advisor (PSA) course (National Association of REALTORS® PSA, 2017), there is your Nemo!
Michael Straley | Go Straley Group of eXp Realty | Stafford, VA. | Lic. in VA | 540-834-6263
The Appraisal Institute, (2008). The Appraisal of Real Estate (Thirteenth Edition).
The Bible, (2017). 1 Timothy 6:10. Retrieved from https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=root+of+all+evil&qs_version=NIV
Dragnet, 1970’s. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlGWzAaR03Q
Dragnet, 1970’s. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMIZGrgWOO4
Martin, S. P. (2013) Advanced residential applications and case studies (2nd Ed). Laguna Hills, CA: Ashley Crown Systems, Inc.
National Association of REALTORS®, (2017). Pricing Strategy Advisor Certification (PSA). Retrieved fromhttp://pricingstrategyadvisor.org/about/