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Archive for January 30, 2014

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Bankruptcy and Appraisals, What You Need to Know

BankruptcyLocal attorneys report that most trustees overseeing chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies will accept a simple broker’s opinion of value (BPO) or even a Zestimate. This means chances are you will not be required to get an actual real estate appraisal which helps keep your overall costs down and expedite the process; however, you should understand when it may be appropriate to obtain an appraisal.

Appraisals are sometimes necessary when determining the secured status of a claim under section 506(a) and (b) of the bankruptcy code, or when avoiding a judicial lien under section 522(f).

Under section 506, a secured claim (e.g. a mortgage, an equity line or a tax lien) is only secured to the extent of the value of the property.  For example, a house with a first mortgage balance of $400,000 and a second mortgage balance of $50,000 that is worth only $385,000. An appraisal would be used to make the case that the second mortgage is unsecured, and therefore its lien can be removed and it is treated as a general unsecured claim, which is much lower on the pecking order.

There are many nuances and caveats to how this works, but generally, an appraisal is only necessary where value is likely to be in real dispute. This is when you or your attorney needs to hire the services of an experienced professional real estate appraiser to estimate the fair market value, of the home.

According to local attorneys, Judges will not accept a Zestimate or BPO for something like this even where the creditor does not object.  This is likely due to the fact that BPOs are not considered accurate enough for federally secured mortgages (FNMA) and Zillow publishes its own comparison of actual sales prices vs. their Zestimates which reveals an alarming rate of inaccuracy.

That said, in cases where the value makes a difference, having a qualified appraiser who can give clear testimony can be extremely important.   The appraisal should include a well-supported, professional report that is defensible in court. State and Federal laws require that the appraiser and the appraisal process must be independent from any influence, coercion or pressure. This ensures that the appraiser remains a truly independent third party.

In many cases the date of the “current value” differs from the actual inspection date of the appraisal.  This requires a retrospective appraisal with an “effective date” and value estimate corresponding to the bankruptcy filing or some other relevant date in the past, depending on the case. Our team of certified and experienced appraisers at Aladdin Appraisal has considerable experience dealing with the complexities of assessing the value of a property under these difficult circumstances.

Our approach: A bankruptcy is usually one of the most upsetting and difficult times in a person’s life. we understand the need to handle these situations with the utmost care and will work hard to provide you with the best possible experience.  We are bound by the ethics provision within the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) which means you are assured the highest level of confidentiality, guaranteeing you the utmost discretion. In addition, we provide you with a comprehensive appraisal report that meets or exceeds requirements of the courts, IRS and other various agencies.

By working with Aladdin Appraisal rest assured that you will get the best in professional service and courtesy, while also receiving the highest quality appraisal reports.  Our Senior Staff Appraiser, Adam Wiener, CRA will complete or personally review your appraisal.  Our extensive experience includes dealing with local and prestigious law firms in the Greater Boston area.  We welcome your telephone call or email and invite you to ask any questions you might have about the process.

Tags: Bankruptcy, bankruptcy appraisal, bankruptcy appraiser, appraisal, appraiser, Zillow, zestimate, BPO, Brokers opinion of Value, Boston Attorney

If you found this article helpful or informative, I would be grateful if you would like and share it with others. And please let me know if there is any real estate or appraisal related topics that you are interested in. – Adam

What is the Actual Square Footage of My House?

House confused

Would you believe most people don’t really know how many square feet of living area are in the home they own, are about to list, buy or sell.  Our experience with Greater Boston real estate appraisals continues to prove this truth.

ANSI Z-765 (the American National Standard Institute publication) is the go-to method for calculating square footage for single family residential buildings; however, there is no requirement that real estate agents, architects, assessors, insurance companies and appraisers use the same specific standard method for calculating the living area of a home.  This lack of a single standard creates several problems for everyone.

 ANSI Z-765 is a fair standard used by most professionals in real estate for Gross Living Area (GLA).  There are many steps to follow found in the 16 page PDF, but I have it boiled down to 4 key ides for this blog.

  1. Use exterior dimensions rounded to the nearest foot for each floor
  2. Include only areas above grade, no finished basements
  3. Openings: stairwells yes, but subtract certain stairwell and openings to below
  4. Minimum ceiling height 7’  In sloped rooms; exclude areas with less than 5’

So what is the answer to “What is the Actual Square Footage of a House?”  In actual practice, depends on who you are and what your interest are in the GLA.

  • Home Owners – Are interested in getting what they paid for and not paying unfair taxes.   I suggest you check the assessor record for your home, specifically the lot size, living area and amenities such as bathroom count, garage etc. You may be surprised at what you are being taxed on.
  • Selling Agents and FSBOs –Are interested in maximum sale price. I suggest you have verified the true GLA before you list.
  • Recent Home Buyers Too late. I  recommend that you check your appraisal sketch and GLA (you got a copy at closing). Then compare it to the original MLS advertisement and the assessor’s GLA.  Be sure you are not over or under insured since your insurance is typically based in part on the assessor’s square footage.
  • Architects and Builders– Most are on the ANSI Z765 standard. To the rest I say, please stop “accidentally” mixing up gross building area and gross LIVING area.  Just stop.
  • Assessors– Have one job.  They must hit a financial target by sharing the total tax burden across the universe of real estate in their city or town.
  • Appraisers– Don’t have to, but most use the ANSI Z765 standard. To my fellow appraisers if you don’t own and use the ANSI Z765 standard, I recommend that you buy it.

Here are some more thought on the subject.

  • Homeowners: One of the many reasons you will never be able to estimate your house value free online is that all too often the living area and other crucial data reported on public records differs from what actually exists.  Therefor all online services are using bad data.
  • Real Estate Agents & Sellers:  List a home smaller than actual and you have just left money on the table; we see it more than you would believe especially in Greater Boston.  Listing homes larger than actual (aka broker puffery) and potential buyers leave with bad feelings about you.
  • FSBOs: For Sale by Owner? See paragraph directly above.
  • Buyers: You are totally unprotected and at the mercy of the ethics of the listing broker or limits of their knowledge.
  • Architects & Builders: Typically use ANSI Z765, although we regularly catch inaccuracies with new construction for varied reasons, primarily due to plans that changed or using the Gross Building Area (GBA).  We recently lowered taxes for new home buyers in Newton and Cambridge by alerting the assessor to correct inaccurate brand new records.
  • Assessors: the world of mass appraisals comes with mass measurements and mass errors. Inaccuracies are inherent in Capes and Colonials due to use of percentages for upper stories vs. actual measurements, exclusion of an upper finished story, inaccurate subcontracted mass appraisal measuring services, field sketch mix-ups, measurements estimated due to inaccessible exteriors, and exclusion of above-grade GLA in lower levels
  • Appraisers:  FNMA appraisal requirements  for what “is” living area are 100% clear.  They require use of the Above Grade Gross Living Area (GLA) only, period.  Yes finished basement have value but they ARE NOT part of the GLA.   FNMA does not require use of ANSI Z765 but the best appraisal practice is to do so because it is a good and fair standard.
  • Finished basements: Which would you pay more for; a walk-out basement with a floor that is level with your backyard, full size doors and windows, glass sliders, abundant natural light and ventilation, or a dark walk-up basement with tiny windows?  the value per square foot of a basement varies WIDELY due to type of construction. This is why it is not part of GLA and absolutely must be broken out,  as is the case in the updated FNMA forms which now distinguish between walk-out, walk-up and interior only(finally).

Tags: FSBO, List my House, house value, Real Estate Value, Newton real estate appraiser, Newton real estate appraisal, Newton appraiser, Newton appraisal, Boston appraisal, Boston appraiser, MA appraiser

If you found this article helpful or informative, I would be grateful if you would like and share it with others. And please let me know if there is any real estate or appraisal related topics that you are interested in. – Adam@AladdinAppraisal.com

Property Valuation for Divorce and Appraisals

In a divorce, the marital home is oftentimes sold, and any profits are split between the parties. Alternatively, if financially possible, one of the parties may buy out the other.  The question of “who keeps the house?” depends far more on the house value than it does on who is staying and who is going.  This may be the critical step in the divorce process. an appraisal by an independent appraiser is how parties determine home values when the home will not be sold.

You will not find a reliable answer online home value estimator when you are asking “what is my house worth.”  No one should ever buy or sell based on a Zestimate.  If you check their site, Zillow publishes its own comparison of home prices (actual sales) vs. their Zestimates which reveals an alarming rate of inaccuracy into the double digits in some areas.  you have one chance and can’t afford to leave money on the table.

Your tax assessment is not the same as an appraisal because the intended use of the assessed value is primarily reserved for property taxation purposes.  In fact, assessed values have no supportable correlation with actual property values.  sales used in the assessment process lag at least six months behind.

You can find and ask a real estate agent “what’s the value of my home?”  there are very good local real estate agents who will develop a reasonably accurate broker’s opinion of value (BPO).  But judges will not accept a BPO, they are knowledgeable and understand that BPOs’ are not considered reliable enough for use in a mortgage (FNMA).  And in most cases the both names are on the current mortgage and a new mortgage will be necessary.

This is the reason one or both parties should hire the services of a professional real estate appraiser to estimate the fair market value of home.  The appraisal should include a well-supported, professional report that is admissible and defensible in court.  State and Federal laws require that the appraiser and the appraisal process be independent from any influence, coercion or undue pressure.  This allows the appraiser to remain an unbiased, third-party.

In some cases the divorce date differs from the inspection date of the appraisal.  This requires a retrospective appraisal with an “effective date” and a value estimate corresponding to the date of divorce, the date of filing or some other date in the past.

Our Approach: A divorce is usually one of the most upsetting and difficult times in a person’s life.  We understand and appreciate this difficulty, and we will handle your situation with the utmost care.  We are bound by the ethical provisions within the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) which guarantees our customers the highest level of confidentiality and discretion.  In addition, we provide you with a comprehensive home appraisal report that meets or exceeds requirements of the court.

By working with Aladdin Appraisal, rest assured that you will get the best in  property valuation for divorce, while also receiving the highest quality appraisal report..  Our team of exceptional appraisers will be discreet and respect and protect your privacy in any divorce matter.  Conversely, if necessary, Aladdin Appraisal stands behinds its appraisals and value estimates, should your matter advance to trial.

Our Senior Staff Appraiser, Adam Wiener, CRA will complete or personally review your appraisal.  Our extensive experience includes dealing with local and prestigious law firms in the Greater Boston area.

We welcome your telephone inquiries and invite your questions about our process.  CONTACT US:

If you found this article helpful or informative, I would be grateful if you would like and share it with others. And please let me know if there is any real estate or appraisal related topics that you are interested in. – Adam@AladdinAppraisal.com

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