When buying a home or vacation cabin, one of the most crucial steps in the process if you’re working with a lender is the appraisal. Appraising the value of a property can be one of the most challenging, and probably the most stressful, aspects of the process for buyers. This can be especially true in a market where appraisal values don’t reflect where the market is at in terms of purchase value. As I discussed in last month’s article, this is mostly because lender appraisers are looking at the value of the property in a different way than everyone else, and with a different purpose. The purpose of a lender appraisal is to determine how much the lender can sell the property for in the event of a foreclosure. So even though the buyer is paying for the appraisal, the appraiser making the determination is actually working for the lender.
In our market, as we continue to work with a low number of properties for sale, the sales price of cabins has continued to rapidly increase over the last 12 months. We’ve seen a slower pace on our local residential market, but home values are also increasing. If you as a buyer have an appraisal that comes in under the offer price, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to buy the home. You and your agent have a few different options to help you work out a solution with the seller.
Ways to address the appraisal
The first thing I tell my buyers when the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price is, “Don’t panic.” We look over the appraisal report and re-evaluate our own comparable group of sold listings to see if we’ve missed something about the property. An appraiser can go back as far as 12 months, and is required to first use anything that’s sold within the same subdivision or resort community. The appraiser is limited on what he or she can do to review those sold properties. They rely heavily on MLS and tax records, so when those documents aren’t completely up to date, it can skew the data in a way that might hurt your appraisal.
Once we are certain our offer was appropriate for the market, if we’re comfortable with it we will ask the seller to agree to reduce the price to match the appraisal value. Remember, the lender won’t borrow on more than what the home is determined by the appraiser to be worth, so if the seller won’t lower the price then the next choice will be to see if we can split the difference with the seller or simply agree to pay more out of pocket. So for example, if the purchase price is $200,000 but the appraiser determines the value of the property to be $190,000, then you would have to either get the seller to agree to reduce the price by up to $10,000 or work out how to pay that amount out of your own pocket.
As a last resort, we can try to work with the lender to resolve it, but the truth is it is very hard to get an appraisal value overturned once it has been determined. We absolutely cannot pressure appraisers to price the appraisal value of the property at the amount a buyer offers a seller.