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April 24th, 2010 1:31 AM

In our current market, a lot of homeowners in Hampton Roads feel that the city assessment of their home's value is too high.  This of course means they could be paying more in property taxes than they should be.  Are your property taxes too high?  If you think they are, you may be able to get them lowered.

If you noticed the home across the street from you just sold significantly lower than your home's assessed value, call your city's real estate assessors office and tell them your property may be assessed too high.  They may have a city appraiser come out to your home and inspect your property to see if the assessment is accurate.  They will then decide whether or not it should be reduced.

If they still feel that the assessment is correct, you may be able to hire an independent certified appraiser to appraise your home.  If the appraisal is lower than the assessed value, you can present the appraisal to the city real estate assessors office as evidence your assessment is too high.  You should check with your city's real estate assessors office first to make sure that they will consider the independent appraisal.  You don't want to pay for an appraisal that you can't use. 

If you do end up having an appraiser appraise your property, keep in mind real estate appraisers have ethical standards to abide by and cannot serve as an advocate for you.  An appraiser must be unbiased and cannot guarantee the results of the appraisal or even know beforehand which way it is going to go.  Also, find out how your city determines the amount of taxes you pay to make sure the cost of the appraisal will be worth the savings.

If you need an appraisal on your home to challenge the city's assessed value, call me at (757) 647-6485.

Jeff Ward
Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser

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Posted by Jeffrey M. Ward, SRA on April 24th, 2010 1:31 AMLeave a Comment

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Selling a home is a complex process.  Whether you are a real estate agent listing a home for a client or a homeowner selling your home yourself, pricing a property can be very difficult in this constantly changing market.  Getting an appraisal on the home you are selling is well worth the price. 

An appraisal will tell you how much your home is worth and will help you list your property properly.  On a daily basis I see homes that have been on the market for many months, sometimes over a year!  These homes have been overpriced and many of them would have sold a long time ago had they had a professional appraisal done before they listed it.  Yes, we are in tough economic times, but even in a buyer's market, a home will sell if the price is right.

A pre-listing appraisal can be a useful negotiating tool as well.  It will be hard for a buyer to argue with your asking price when you have a professional appraisal by a state certified appraiser saying how much it is worth.

A pre-listing appraisal is especially helpful for a complex property such as a high end home, a property with acreage, or a home with an unusual design.  These properties are difficult to determine a list price for and an appraisal can help.

Real estate agents can benefit from a pre-listing appraisal.  It will give you credibility to your list price and will show your client that you are serious about selling their home.

If you are selling your home as a 'for sale by owner', an appraisal will help you as well.  You are already saving thousands by not paying a commission to an agent so an appraisal is a very low cost in comparison.  Knowing how much your home is worth before you sell it will help you sell it more quickly. 

Pre-listing appraisals are very useful in this market.  Yes, there are plenty of web sites and free "services" that offer home valuations, but they have never been in your neighborhood and they are not as familiar with your property as a local appraiser.  The city assessment on a home is not very reliable since they only appraise the home once a year so it is probably outdated.  Also, city appraisers do a 'mass appraisal' where they determine a value for every home in a neighborhood in a single appraisal. 

For more information about pre-listing appraisals or other appraisal services, call Jeff Ward at 757-647-6485 or visit my home page.

Posted in:General
Posted by Jeffrey M. Ward, SRA on March 16th, 2010 11:22 PMLeave a Comment

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June 18th, 2009 4:52 PM

May 1, 2009, the official date the HVCC went into effect, has come and gone.  The Home Valuation Code of Conduct has appraisers, lenders, brokers and many others in the industry scared.  How has the HVCC affected the industry?  It depends on who you are.  I want to share with all my readers what I have experienced with the HVCC so far and how it has affected various parties in the transaction process.

I have been hearing a lot of complaints from borrowers about their experiences with the loan process.  Borrowers have been frustrated by higher fees on their closing statements.  Since many lenders have been using appraisal management companies (AMCs) to order their appraisals, the appraisal cost to the borrower has gone up.  The appraisal costs have gone up due to the fact that the management company has to earn a profit from each appraisal.  Essentially what happens is the borrower pays more for the appraisal, the appraiser gets paid less for the appraisal, and the lender does not get to choose their appraiser.  The HVCC has made it illegal for the originator of the loan to order the appraisal.  In order to be HVCC compliant, many lenders are using AMCs. 

A common misconception is that lenders have to use AMCs to order their appraisals.  AMCs are only one option.  They may also use the Mercury Network which is HVCC compliant and there are no fee splits with a third party such as an AMC.  Some lenders have an appraisal department that handles the ordering of appraisals and the appraisers on their panel only communicate with those in the appraisal department.

While there are a lot of drawbacks to the HVCC, it is still a new law and its full impact is yet to be felt.  The main reason it was implemented was to prevent pressure from lenders and brokers on appraisers to appraise the properties at a certain value.  Some argue that the pressure will still be placed on the appraisers by the AMCs which are not regulated.  I have heard other appraisers say they have experienced this but I have not personally been pressured by an AMC to hit a particular number. 

From an appraiser's standpoint, the HVCC does have a negative impact on me since most lenders are now using AMCs which pay significantly less than full fee to appraisers.  I had done some work in years past for AMCs for a lower, but reasonable fee.  Most AMCs today are paying far below full fee, which is unfortunate.  On top of that borrowers are paying well above full fee for their appraisal.  However, I am an optimist and I still see a future for myself and others in the mortgage & real estate industry.  As with anything else in life, nothing is perfect and as time goes on, I believe the flaws with the HVCC (or the whole HVCC itself!) will be corrected.  For right now, the HVCC is a fact of life and we all have to deal with it.

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Posted by Jeffrey M. Ward, SRA on June 18th, 2009 4:52 PMLeave a Comment

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