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Archive for the ‘Appraisals’ Category

Are Zillow Zestimates Accurate?

Are Zillow Zestimates accurate or inaccurate, or somewhere in between? This is a big question all across the United States, and it’s a hot topic. Some homeowners are downright angry at how Zillow Zestimates have underestimated the value of their home while they are trying to sell it. Some buyers came to rely on Zillow Zestimates as they looked at homes and thought about drafting offers, and some got burned as a result. So what’s the truth about Zillow Zestimates? I’ll answer that question now.

Zillow Zestimates: What They Are

Zillow Zestimates

Zillow Zestimates are created by software that scrapes data off the Internet, including sales data of similar homes, tax assessor data, sold data, and MLS listing data. Zillow’s computers compile all the data based on programming, and statistics are generated, including the now infamous Zillow Zestimates.

Sometimes their estimate is right on, but other times it is way off. I personally experirenced a Zestimate that was over $300,000 off. The homeowner was quite upset at Zillow. The CEO of Zillow found out how far off his Zestimate was. CEO Spencer Rascoff’s home sold for 40% less than the Zillow estimate of $1.75 million. I think I’ll just say, “Oops!”

Rascoff also bought a 12,732-square-foot mansion in LA’s affluent Brentwood neighborhood for nearly $20 million, which happened to be over $1 million above its Zestimate. And Zillow wants you to rely on Zillow Zestimates? Are they serious?  (more…)

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • Appraisal Management Companies

    Appraisal management companies are the bane of a buyer’s existence. This is the biggest problem right now for a buyer who is getting a loan and will need to have their future home appraised. Here is exactly why this will be your biggest challenge, and I’ll tell you how to handle this issue.

    Appraisal Management Companies

    Appraisal Management Companies Created

    The mortgage debacle that was part of the real estate crash a decade ago gave politicians all the encouragement they needed to pass new laws restructuring how appraisers are hired. You may recall that the complaint was that a very small number of appraisers were in cahoots with a small number of real estate agents and they were committing fraud by over valuing homes. The best answer would have been to require enforcement of the laws against fraud, i.e. put the frauds in jail.

    Instead, politicians completely restructured the entire mortgage and appraisal business in the United States, and they authorized new entities called “Appraisal Management Companies.” These companies are third party entities that appoint appraisers from a list they create. They charge appraisers a fee to be on their list, and they take part of the appraisers’ fees for each appraisal they do. Appraisers hate this new way to extort money from them. It’s another layer of bureaucracy and more fees that are simply passed on to buyers. (more…)

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    Sellability and Appreciation

    How important is sellability and appreciation in your home? Extremely important, and I’ll tell you why. Too many widows in their 80s have been left with a home they cannot sell, and it becomes a nightmare for them when they are struggling to maintain the property and pay property taxes. I’ll explain what has happened to many couples who built or bought a home that was not sellable 15 to 20 years later.


    You have to assume that you will “age out” of your home (probably in your 80s or 90s), and logically you will need to sell it when you get old. In order to sell your home in the future, there are two critically important things that must happen, and whether they happen or do not happen depends on the decision you make today about the home you buy.

    Appreciation Based on Sellability

    Before you will ever see any appreciation, you must be able to sell the home you will live in for the next 15+ years. So when you buy a home, you need to carefully consider how sellable it will be down the road. This is no small matter, and many people have screwed this up. That’s why I’m writing about this now–to help you as a buyer think this through so that 15 to 20 years from now, the sale of your home will go smoothly.

    Appreciation is Zero if You Cannot Sell

    Many couples built or bought their idea of the perfect home, but 15 to 20 years later they were unable to sell that home when their husbands either had health issues or predeceased the wife. [More often than not, it is the husband’s health that fails first.] A non-traditional floor plan is predictably hard to sell. A more traditional floor plan is not so hard to sell. Weird or too unique is hard to sell. A single level, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home between 1,800 and 2,400 square feet with an open floor plan (kitchen, living room, and dining room) is very sellable and is appealing to the vast majority of buyers, which makes it fairly sellable 15 to 20 years from now. You don’t have to buy a home exactly like I’m describing, but you get the point. There is a Bell Curve of normal homes, and as you get further out on that Bell Curve, the homes become less sellable.

    If you cannot sell a home when you are old, you will never see any appreciation, and the financial strain and the stress it would cause in your life would be a potentially devastating nightmare. This is why buying a home now that is sellable two decades in the future is definitely in your best interest. Appreciation is important, but sellability is everything.

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    Fair market value is the true value of a home, and when you buy a home, clearly you don’t want to pay more than fair market value. That may be an obvious statement, but what is not so obvious is how to know the fair market value of the home you want to buy. When you discuss drafting an offer with your buyer’s agent, you’ve got to be very good at figuring out what the true fair market value is (or at least your Realtor needs to have that skill).

    Fair Market Value

    Fair Market Value and the Comparative Market Analysis

    In a large market, like Tacoma or Seattle, you will have thousands of homes in the multiple listing service (MLS) inventory, and you will also have hundreds of sales every month. A 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,800 square foot home in a middle class neighborhood will be easy to analyze. There will be dozens, if not hundreds, of homes that are almost identical and which sold in the last six months, and so coming up with an accurate fair market value is easy, and it’s easy to identify the average time period it takes to sell a similar home.

    But in a very small market with a small inventory and a small number of buyers arriving to look at homes, many homes in the Sequim inventory do not have comps. In other words, there may be no homes recently sold like the one you want to buy, so fair market value cannot be calculated with any certainty. The math can get a little fuzzy when you don’t have comparable sales.

    Fair Market Value and Your Offer

    Even professional appraisers don’t have any magic wands in a market lacking comparable sales data. One has to be a bit cautious on this subject, because some sellers and some listing agents may think they know the fair market value, but they may just be guessing. On the other hand, there may be a particular house that does have 5 or 6 good comps, and then fair market value is easier to understand.

    When you discuss drafting an offer, discuss value from a number of perspectives with your buyer’s agent, because your offer should be no higher than fair market value.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • What if You Get a Low Appraisal?

    What happens if get a low appraisal that comes in below your purchase price? This could turn into a nightmare scenario, but there is a seasoned approach to handling a low appraisal. First, we’ll look at the immediate consequences, and then we’ll look at the solutions.

    Low Appraisal

    What a Low Appraisal Means

    It does not happen very often, but once in a great while a low appraisal comes in below the purchase price. When that happens, the contract language provides options for the buyer and seller. Upon receiving a low appraisal, the buyer issues a Notice of Low Appraisal to the seller. The Notice of Low Appraisal presents the seller with three options:

    Option 1: Seller hereby gives notice that a reappraisal or reconsideration of value has been completed in an amount not less than the Purchase Price. Buyer shall promptly seek lender’s approval of the reappraised or reconsideration of value.

    Option 2: Seller hereby consents to reduce the Purchase Price to $______ (an amount not more than the amount specified in the appraisal or reappraisal by the original appraiser, or an appraisal by another appraiser acceptable to Buyer’s lender, whichever is higher).

    Option 3: Seller hereby gives notice that Seller rejects Buyer’s notice of low appraiser and (1) will not cause a reappraisal or reconsideration of value to be completed; and (2) does not consent to a reduction of the Purchase Price.

    Overcoming a Low Appraisal

    While these look like logical options for a seller, and they are, there really is only one practical option for a seller in this real estate market: lower the price to match the low appraisal value. Why is this the only practical option? 

    I represented a buyer in the purchase of their home in Sequim, and the appraisal came in $30,000 less than the agreed price, which was just under $400,000. That was a surprise to all of us. The sellers were quite disappointed naturally, but here’s why their only practical remedy was to accept the lower price.

    The buyer’s lender will only extend a loan based on the loan to value ratio (i.e. 80%) of the purchase price or the appraisal value, whichever is lower. The only way a buyer could pay a higher price above the appraised value is if the buyer came up with the additional cash for the difference. In this case, the buyer would have to come up with their 20% down payment of the appraised value plus an additional $30,000 in cash to make up the difference. That simply doesn’t work for most buyers, and buyers would generally be adverse to paying more than the appraised value anyway.

    If a seller chooses the reappraisal option, the entire closing will have to be extended for weeks to have time for another appraiser to come in and then what do you get? You get a second appraisal that probably comes in fairly close to the first appraisal since they are using the same sales comps and replacement costs in their evaluation. If the second appraisal comes in higher, you would still have the challenge of getting the buyer’s lender (the underwriter) to accept the second appraisal, and that simply may not happen. Meanwhile everyone’s plans have been delayed by weeks, and the buyer’s are in a nightmare scenario, because they have no place to live during all of this, and the seller’s probably packed everything up in boxes and are practically moved out of the home. In addition, the sellers are also probably buyers for a home where they intend to move to, and that is means they have another pending transaction that will have to have the closing date extended, and that might not work for those sellers.

    In my buyer’s transaction, the sellers did agree to reduce the price by $30,000, and everyone will be able to move on with their plans. A low appraisal is rare, but when it does happen, it is unfortunate for the sellers especially. The practical solution in most cases of a low appraisal is for the sellers to agree to reduce the price. There are exceptions to this rule, but those exceptions are as rare as the low appraisal itself.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • What Happens if I Get a Low Appraisal?

    What happens if the home you are buying gets a low appraisal? This might surprise you, but a low appraisal is more likely to happen in a rising market with increasing prices and especially a very hot market. That’s because appraisers are using data that may be six months old when they compile comparable sales, and their prices are simply outdated. So what happens if you do get a low appraisal?

    Low Appraisal

    The Implications of a Low Appraisal

    If your appraiser comes in below the sales price that you and the seller have agreed upon, you can ask the seller to reduce the price. In a very weak real estate market, or at least in a market that is not doing anything, a seller is likely to agree to reduce the sales price to the amount of the appraisal. But in a stronger market, the seller may say no, in which case a buyer has a couple of choices. Since the buyer’s loan is based on the sales price or the appraisal, whichever is lower, the buyer would have to come up with the difference in cash. If they cannot or are unwilling to do that, the buyer can walk away from the transaction.

    Low Appraisal Battle

    The seller could request a new appraisal, and there is a process for determining which appraisal is acceptable to the loan underwriter, but that process is a rather involved re-appraisal and battle of the appraisers. Everyone could end up in the same place as the above scenario with the buyer either coming up with the cash difference or walking away from the transaction because of a low appraisal.

    Right now in the Sequim real estate market, I have seen a low appraisal more than once, and it creates quite a stressful situation for everyone at the 11th hour. Some sellers are refusing to lower the price, because they have backup offers at full listing price and one even had a cash offer above listed price. That’s the kind of market we are in now. You can hope you get a good appraiser who actually understands how to properly evaluate a property in a rising market. In the vast majority of cases, the appraisal comes in at or just above the selling price, and then we don’t have to fret over a low appraisal.

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  • Bell Hill Homes and Tax Assessments

    Bell Hill homes are selling once again after a bit of a lull in the past few years. Prices are down and demand has increased of late. How can you know how much to offer on a nice home? In this article I want to show you how the tax assessed value relates to the listed price and the actual sales price. Since the tax assessed value is available online, it is helpful. This graph shows ten Bell Hill homes and compares the listed prices with the sales prices with the tax assessed values.

    Bell Hill Homes

    Bell Hill Homes

    Enlarge this graph by clicking on it. The blue bar represents the original listed price, the green bar represents the actual sales price, and the orange bar represents the taxed assessed value prior to the sale. It will be no surprise to you or me that some of the listed prices were much too high. What is interesting is that the actual sales prices are much closer to the tax assessed values, but I need to qualify how to interpret this data.

    Bell Hill Homes and Tax Assessed Value

    This does not mean you can look at Bell Hill homes for sale and expect to buy one for exactly the same price as the tax assessed value, although that is what happened with home No. 3. As you look at the enlarged graph, you’ll see that some homes sold above the assessed value and some Bell Hill homes sold below the assessed value. The above Bell Hill homes sold for 6% less than assessed value to as much as 22% above assessed value. Taking out that extreme of 22%, the average range is plus or minus 6%. While this is not definitive, it is interesting to know that many Bell Hill homes are selling within a range of 6% above or below the tax assessed value. Obviously, there will be exceptions.

    Having said that, there is much more to evaluating a property and determining fair market value. I recommend my book on this subject that details the several methods you can use to analyze price and determine true fair market value in any market. That book is available in the Apple iBookstore store, and the title is Buying Your Retirement Home (Book 2). Of course, if I have the privilege of working with you, I help you evaluate values on Bell Hill homes.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals, Taxes
  • Faulty Home Appraisals Killing Deals

    Are faulty home appraisals killing deals?  The answer is yes, but this issue requires careful consideration to understand what is going on and why.  At the outset, let me say the problem is less about professional appraisers than it is about a system that is defective.  Like every profession, there are a few incompetents, but 99.9% of all appraisers are both highly competent and honest.  The real problem goes much deeper. Perhaps this real life example in Sequim, Washington will help clarify the problem and the issues.

    Home Appraisals and Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

    I sold a home in Sequim, Washington that never closed because of these issues with home appraisals.  This home was originally listed at $850,000 and after two and a half years on the market, the listing price was reduced to $500,000.  That’s when I helped my clients negotiate a price of $450,000.  The home was appraised, and lo and behold, it appraised for exactly $450,000.  The underwriter subsequently rejected the appraisal, saying that the six comparables in the appraisal report were insufficient because they were not all sales within the past six months and they were not within the maximum radius.

    Home Appraisals and Accurate Comparables

    Appraisers are challenged to find good comps in this recession.  A good comp is a similar home with similar features in a similar area.  In smaller markets, like Sequim, Washington, comps can be few and far between.  That means a loan underwriter may simply reject the appraisal, and the transaction is dead.

    Home Appraisals

    The appraisal industry is reeling from the effect that short sales and foreclosures are having on real estate values.  It seems clear to me that a garage sale price on a foreclosure should have no more impact on regular home sales than a garage sale behind Walmart has on their prices.  In other words, desperate foreclosure sales should not be included as comps for appraisal and lending standards. (more…)

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • Many people know the appraisal business is in a time of tremendous challenge.  Most people have heard stories about the problems that buyers are having getting loans and getting underwriter approval.  As with most things in life, things are not always what they seem.  The appearance is not always the reality.  This is true in the appraisal and mortgage business.  These are weighty issues, because what happens in the appraisal business effects both buyers and sellers.

    The Appraisal Business and Tradition

    Appraisal Business

    Traditionally the appraisal business is based on math.  An appraiser compiles data on a property, the cost of replacement and comparables, and he does a detailed analysis to arrive at an appraised value.  The appraised value is theoretically the current fair market value, a price at which the property should sell for, and upon which a mortgage company can base their loan to value formula to arrive at a maximum loan amount.  In the business, we often like to say that an appraisal is as much art as it is science, because we all realize that there is room for different opinions by appraisers as to the precise value of a property.

    The Appraisal Business and Credibility

    While appraisers play a background role and do not get any glory for their work, the entire mortgage business is built upon the credibility and accuracy of appraisals.  In fact, not only is the entire mortgage industry built upon the accuracy of appraisals, so is the secondary mortgage market, the mortgage derivative market, and the billions of dollars invested in various mortgage instruments, like REITS.  Retirees have billions of dollars invested in mutual funds that have also  invested in mortgage backed instruments.  A lot is riding on the accuracy and credibility of appraisals.

    Cracks Appearing in The Appraisal Business

    There are cracks appearing in the appraisal business, and the mortgage industry is now facing some serious challenges in the way business has always been done.  I’ve been watching how the appraisal business works since I first became a Realtor 37 years ago.  I noticed then in Fairbanks, Alaska how the appraisals always seemed to come in just slightly above the actual sales price.  After a few dozen transactions as a Realtor, I thought that was an interesting coincidence.  After several hundred transactions over 37 years with 99.99% of all appraisals coming in exactly equal to the sales price or slightly above it,  I no longer believe in coincidences.

    We all understand and are led to believe that appraisals are objective third-party determinations of value.  The entire appraisal business, the entire mortgage industry, and the real estate financial markets are built upon that firm foundation.  Alas, the foundation has a serious crack in it, and there really is no such thing as an objective third-party determination of value.  What we do have is perception.  The perception that the appraisals determine true fair market value is nothing more than a belief that if an appraiser says so, it is so.  Let’s forget about the fact that the appraisers always find out the sales price and then bring the numbers in at or above that amount.  (They will deny this to the ends of the earth, but I am certain this is true.)

    I know many excellent appraisers.  They are honest men and women of integrity.  But it is not the people I write about here as much as the “system” in which they work.  The system is full of cracks.    What does all this about the appraisal business mean for buyers and sellers today?  It means the system is built upon perception of value, nothing more.  As buyers and sellers, all you can hope for in your next transaction is that when your appraisal comes in, it will satisfy an underwriter, which itself is a nightmare in the current environment.   Underwriters.  Now that’s a topic for another day.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • Home appraisals are out of control, and if you’re buying a home in Sequim or Port Angeles, you may find yourself in a most impossible situation like recent clients of mine did.  What if you were told the home you want to purchase cannot be appraised?  That would sound ridiculous, wouldn’t it?  Well it happened, and here are the facts.

    Home Appraisals

    Home Appraisals Derailed

    A retired couple pre-qualified to buy their home in Sequim, and the agreed sales price was about $200,000 less than the county tax assessment, and it was also about $200,000 less than it’s peak value in 2005.  The appraisal came in very conservative and precisely at the already low purchase price.  The cost of replacement would be about $100,000 more than this appraised value.  Even the comparables in this appraisal were priced very low in this real estate recession.  So the appraised value was very conservative, and should have made any bank feel secure, especially with qualified buyers coming up with a huge down payment.

    Instead, the bank’s underwriter rejected the appraisal, and they argued that the most recent sales of similar homes are insufficient to establish value.  The underwriter wanted sales within 90 days and within a very small radius from the subject house.  It made no difference at all to the underwriter that a small real estate market like Sequim’s simply doesn’t have more sales in this price range.  They don’t exist, which means the next best comparables are similar homes that have sold further back, like 6 to 8 months, and perhaps 5 to 10 miles or more away.  After all, this is the country, not Seattle or Tacoma.  Even with comps, an appraiser must differentiate the subject property to establish value.

    The deal is dead since the bank will not accept an appraisal based on actual sales in the area.  This is an extraordinary result and shows how truly ridiculous banks can be!  Home appraisals are out of control, which is to say the regulators and politicians are out of control.

    Home Appraisals Out of Control

    Instead of local honest professional appraisers getting the job by referral, we now have an “objective system” of banks from outside the area hiring appraisal management companies from outside the area to appoint appraisers from outside the area to appraise a local home.  How reliable do you think the appraisals will be with a system like this?  The appraisal management companies will only include appraisers on their “appointment list” who pay the appraisal management company a “fee” and agree to a lesser appraisal fee.  No wonder most of the long time honest appraisers with integrity in Sequim refuse to be part of that system.

    Insane, isn’t it?  This is how our politicians solved the mortgage fraud and appraisal problem, by making it so chaotic that either the appraisal your lender gets may be totally unreliable, or you may be told that the home you want to purchase cannot be appraised at all. 

    Home Appraisals – Could Kill Your Transaction

    This is why I say home appraisals are out of control.  My advice is to get the best mortgage broker you can find, and I know who they are, so you can email or call me.  I also recommend that you know how to address the subject with your bank, how they will appoint their appraiser for your home, and the criteria they require for a Sequim appraisal.  You have no control over how your bank appoints their appraisers, but you do have control over where you bank.  Home appraisals are an area full of traps for the unwary these days.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • Sequim Appraisers Deduct Value

    What do Sequim appraisers do when their assignment is an unfinished house or an incomplete house?  I recently sold a home that was foreclosed and is new construction.  This is in a subdivision that has been foreclosed.  Unfortunately for the developer, he invested a fortune in subdividing land and building homes just as the market peaked in 2005.  He hung on hoping upon hope that the market would turn around before the ball and chain of debt pulled him under.   For the developer, this became his personal story of tragedy, but for my client, this became an opportunity to purchase a home at an extraordinary price.  But the house was unfinished, so how did the appraiser deduct appropriate values to arrive at a true fair market value (FMV)?  After all, my buyer had to be able to get a loan based on a solid appraisal.

    Sequim Appraisers Have Tough Job

    Sequim Appraisers

    Sequim Appraisers Don’t Have Many Comps

    Sequim appraisers do not have a huge database of comparable sales to use when they do their appraisals.  There just aren’t very many sales that are truly comparable.  Many Sequim homes are unique, and for those homes especially, there will be few and maybe no comparables.  An appraiser will use what he has, including the cost or replacement approach, but the value that an appraiser will give the greatest weight to will be the prices of other recently closed transactions.

    Sequim Appraisers & Cost to Cure

    When a home is unfinished, an appraiser uses published estimates of the  “cost to cure.”  If there is no carpet and no flooring, as in the case of the home my client just purchased, the cost of a carpet and flooring is estimated using less expensive materials, but not necessarily the cheapest.  Since the appraiser works for the bank (not the buyer), the goal is to arrive at a solid value that secures the debt.  Banks don’t want inflated estimates, and appraisers’ reports are now subject to more scrutiny than ever before.

    If a house has some unfinished minor work, such as touch up painting, some missing trim, or other inexpensive repairs, the appraiser may just ignore the “cost to cure.”  Sequim appraisers are both experienced and conservative in their appraisals.  This is good.  Almost all banks now use Appraisal Management Companies to select appraisers, so local loan reps or Realtors are prohibited from having any influence with how the appraiser is selected.  The appraisal process is probably more objective for Sequim appraisers now than it ever has been.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • What if the Sequim appraisal price is less than what you and the seller agreed to in your purchase and sale agreement (PSA)?  Let’s say you find a home and you say to yourself, “Yes, I could live in this home for the rest of my life.  It’s perfect.”  You have your buyer’s agent write an offer.  The seller counters, and you counter, and the seller accepts.  You now have mutual acceptance, in other words, you have a contract.  But suppose your bank orders the appraisal and the out-of-town appraiser appraises the home for $15,000 less than what you agreed to pay?  Is there an acceptable solution for you as the buyer?  You could pay the additional amount in cash at closing, but that’s not the kind of solution most of my client would pick.

    Sequim Appraisal Too Low

    Sequim Appraisal

    Sequim Appraisal Reduces Price

    Fortunately there is a good answer for you as the buyer.  As a buyer’s agent, and having been a real estate attorney for 20 years, I can share the contract provision in the PSA that gives you the ability to negotiate a better price.  The paragraph that saves you is para 6 of the Financing Addendum dealing with your Sequim appraisal:

    6.  APPRAISAL LESS THAN SALE PRICE.  If Buyer’s lender’s appraised value of the Property is less than the Purchase Price, Buyer may, within 3 days after receipt of a copy of lender’s appraisal, give notice, which includes a copy of lender’s appraisal, of Buyer’s election to terminate this Agreement unless Seller, within 10 days after receipt of such notice, delivers to Buyer either:

    a.  A reappraisal or reconsideration of value, at the Seller’s expense, by the same appraiser or another appraiser, acceptable to the lender, in an amount not less than the Purchase Price; or

    b.  Seller’s written consent to reduce the Purchase Price to an amount not more than the amount specified in the appraisal or reappraisal by the same appraiser, or an appraisal by another appraiser acceptable to lender, whichever is higher.  (This provision is not applicable if this Agreement is conditioned on FHA, VA, or RD financing.  FHA, VA, and RD financing does not permit the Buyer to be obligated to buy if the Seller reduces the Purchase Price to the appraised value.  Buyer, however, has the option to buy at the reduced price.)

    If such appraisal, reappraisal, or consent to reduction of the Purchase Price is not so delivered, this Agreement shall terminate and the Earnest Money shall be refunded to Buyer.  The Closing date shall be extended as necessary to accommodate the foregoing times for notices.  Buyer’s waiver of the Financing Contingency constitutes waiver of this Paragraph 6.

    Sequim Appraisal Language – Plain Meaning

    Have you ever read something that gives you a headache trying to unravel its meaning?  Lawyers write that way, and you have to read this several times before you finally can say, “I get it.”

    In plain language, if your Sequim appraisal comes in less than the contract price, you give the seller the option to pay for a new appraisal, and if that comes in less than the contract price, the seller can reduce the price and make you happy, or the seller can refuse or not even respond, and the transaction is terminated.  As the buyer, you have all the power in this re-negotiation.  Now you know what happens if your Sequim appraisal comes in below your purchase price.

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  • Filed under: Appraisals
  • Sequim AppraisalsThe real estate appraisal business has taken a pretty big hit since the mortgage debacle.  It used to be a good and well known appraiser could get referrals.  In any profession, referrals are not only a good idea, but referrals became a major source of business for established pros.  Referrals have been a good idea for consumers because you don’t choose by trial and error but by someone’s good experience, which is a good indicator that the person is honest and competent.   And referrals were good for appraisers, because it is the least expensive and most effective way to get new business.

    With the mortgage meltdown it was learned that a very very small number of appraisers had yielded to pressure from mortgage companies and banks to appraise homes above their fair market value in order to close loans.  No one has come up with a statistic, but I think it would be reasonable to state that the vast majority of appraisers are honest and practice with integrity.  It is probably less than 1% of the entire profession that would violate their oath by over valuing real estate.  I think it’s fair to say that the small number of over valued homes was not the cause of the mortgage meltdown.  If blame is to be assigned, it would better find its place in the mortgage industry and on Wall Street.


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    Chuck E. Marunde, J.D.

    Sequim Buyer's Agent (Atty Ret.)
    Founder and Broker of
    Sequim & Port Angeles Real Estate dba iRealty Virtual Brokers
    125 Olympic Ranch Ln, Sequim, WA
    (360) 775-5424

    From Los Angeles

    It's rare, but once in awhile life provides the perfect collaborator for an important endeavor such as buying your new home. For me that person was Chuck Marunde. His two decade background as a Real Estate Attorney, his prolific career as an author of articles and books on Real Estate and his forthright and moral character made choosing Chuck a no-brainer. Chuck is dedicated, thorough, incredible at the negotiating table, knowledgeable about all local laws & regs but, most importantly, Chuck loves what he does. And what he does is find his client the perfect property. Chuck isn't about making the sale, he's about making the sale that is OPTIMUM for his CLIENT and this makes Chuck a rare bird indeed. I love my new home in Sequim and I am indebted to Chuck for making it happen. Kevin E.

    From Seattle

    I’ve had the pleasure of working with Chuck over the past three years in selling my parent's estate. It was a tough time to sell during the housing recession, but Chuck always kept things on the positive side. With his real estate law background, he offers sound, practical advice. He helps you along with the process using discussions and reason, rather than opinions and speculations. If Chuck doesn’t know the answers, he will get them for you. In several instances, Chuck took the initiative to meet with county officials to get up-to-date facts about zoning and regulations. I was always impressed with his company’s tech savvy communi-cations and internet presence: weekly email updates, blogs, videos, links, Linked-in networking, etc. He is truly pioneering the future of buying & selling real estate. Brian M.

    From Florida

    We do our homework for the task at hand and we look for and expect to enlist partners that do the same. It was our good fortune to select Chuck Marunde of Sequim and Port Angeles Real Estate to represent us as a buyer's broker in our search for a home in the Sequim/Port Angeles area. Chuck's site is all encompassing and super fast compared to many others, he knows the market at every conceivable level and his guidance through the process of selecting and purchasing a home is priceless - above and beyond that of anyone with whom we have ever worked. Add to all this his 20 year background in real estate law and you have discovered a superb asset in the adventure of purchasing a home. Greg and Marilyn

    From Gilroy California

    As an out of state buyer unfamiliar with the area, it was important to me not only to have a real estate agent who knew the area well, but also one who knew the value of the properties. I chose Chuck because he is also a real estate lawyer and it is reassuring to have that extra degree working for you. I selected the houses I was interested in on line before taking a two day trip to Sequim to look at them in person. I sent my list to Chuck, who gave me feedback, then organized our tour so we could see 16 properties in a short time. He was very accommodating, driving me all over Sequim, and rescheduling appointments when we fell behind on our time. On day two, I found my home and we drafted an offer on it that evening. By the time I arrived back home on the plane the next evening, my offer had been accepted. Chuck was honest about what it would take to get me into my new home, while having my back the entire transaction. Since I was unable to relocate immediately after closing, he and his assistant Ade, have been taking care of many additional responsibilities for me. He was a pleasure to work with. Chris D.

    From Corona California

    The best decision I made, once I settled on Sequim as the ideal place to spend the rest of my days, was to hook up with Chuck Marunde as my broker/go-to guy. He happily took on the entire complicated merry-go-round associated with a long distance move that involved selling in Southern California (with a different agent) and buying in Sequim – all in the span of just over a month. The unexpectedly quick sale of my previous home was already a week into a 30 day escrow when I got to Sequim for my house hunt. We had two days to find my slice of heaven. And day one was less than stellar, each home having at least one major issue. The killer was the dream home that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster once we got inside. I was crushed. Chuck had his work cut out for him that night. And he worked his magic. On day two there was one beautiful possibility, but not quite right. Suffice to say, in the early afternoon we pulled into a driveway and the first words out of my mouth were “That’s my house.” 29 days later I took possession of my new home. Every sale has its issues, but throwing in the complications of a short escrow on top of 1200 miles of separation from all documentation, etc. gives new meaning to “challenging”. Thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge coupled with a great sense of humor, Chuck was able to keep me on an even keel when things got dicey. He knows when to step in and when to let it evolve. I cannot imagine making this move without him. Rebecca B.
    Sequim Real Estate

    From Bakersfield California

    "During the months of February and March 2012, Chuck showed my wife and I over two dozen homes from Port Angeles to Port Townsend. We found Chuck to be very helpful, friendly and courteous. With Chuck there is no pressure; It is all about finding the best home for the buyer. As a Buyer's Agent, Chuck will give you his honest opinion of a property, including a fair market price. In one instance Chuck wrote up an offer for us which was accepted. Chuck was very helpful arranging for home and well inspections which involved multiple trips to the property. Unfortunately, escrow failed to close when, during the home inspection process, it was determined that a septic system repair was needed which the seller was unwilling/unable to make. We will continue to work with Chuck as there is no better Buyer's Agent on the North Olympic" Bert and Sally

    From Los Alamos New Mexico

    "Over a year ago, during a visit to the Olympic Game Farm, we developed what we eventually called the “Sequim Syndrome.” We live in New Mexico and decided Sequim was where we wanted to live in retirement. On our second visit to Sequim, we met with Chuck and asked him to help us. Chuck's web site provides such amazing search capabilities. Chuck's site also contains a 1000 blog postings and a real estate video series detailing buying real estate in Sequim. We bought Chuck's book about Sequim real estate and set out to follow his advice carrying on an ongoing email and phone conversation with Chuck. Doing our due diligence “Marunde style” and using his MLS search site, we came up with about 50 homes that met our needs. We narrowed the list down to 15 properties that best met our needs. We came back to Sequim a third time with our list in hand, and Chuck spent two days with us showing us all the homes on our list. Not only did Chuck help us find that dream home, he spent time to educate us about the quality of construction, fair market values of various properties, home layouts, and the joys of Sequim living. We had a great time as we traveled from house to house. By mid afternoon of the second day, my wife said we had found “the house.” Chuck helped us draft our offer and sent our offer to the seller's agent. It turned out there was a second offer made on the property at the same time. Chuck's help to make a clean offer paid off. At breakfast two days later, we got a call from Chuck saying our offer had been accepted by the sellers. We are now back home in New Mexico. Chuck attends every inspection on our behalf, updating us at every turn by email and phone. Our dream home is becoming a reality because of Chuck and because we were smart enough to follow his advice. We absolutely would NOT have been able to do this without Chuck Marunde's expertise and enthusiasm. We recommend Chuck to everyone planning a move to Sequim, Port Angeles, or anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula. Chuck is a gold mine of information and expertise for home buyers everywhere, not just on the Olympic" Larry and Shirley
    Sequim Real Estate Bookstore

    From Sun Lakes Arizona

    "We are ex-Washington residents who currently live in Arizona. We had been searching the Puget Sound area four years for a waterfront property to build a retirement home when we first contacted Chuck Marunde through his website. We had made multiple trips to various areas but most of the Realtors we contacted simply sent us an email, provided no follow up and did next to nothing to help us locate a property. On our first trip to Port Angeles, after connecting with Chuck, we purchased our dream property. We now own a high bank waterfront lot overlooking the Straight of Jaun de Fuca, and are excited to become part of the Peninsula community." Paul and Linda

    From California

    "Andy Romano is a successful motion picture character actor with over 40 years in 'the Biz.' Mr. Romano has a home in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, but he chooses to live most of the time in Sequim, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula in the great Pacific Northwest. Why? In his own words, 'Because it's even more beautiful and surrounded by more beauty in this incredibly peaceful and quiet place. With respect to real estate agents or brokers, well my friend Chuck Marunde, owner of Sequim and Port Angeles Real Estate, is hands down the best there" Andy R.

    From Sequim

    I’ve known Chuck Marunde for several years. My wife and I bought and sold one house through his services, and now have another listed through him for sale. Whether Chuck was representing us as the buyer or seller, I am confident he always had our best interests at heart. He helped us set or negotiate a reasonable price, and made sure there was a clear and open line of communication. He responded rapidly to email and phone calls and always knew the best person to contact for the various services involved in a transaction. I have worked with quite a few real estate agents and Chuck is right at the top of my list of good ones. Actually, Chuck is first and foremost just a good person, and he carries his personal honesty and integrity over into his profession. He has the greatest depth of experience in real estate of any agent or broker I have known. His years of practicing real estate law prior to becoming a broker are evident in the meticulous care he takes with the process and documentation. I am impressed by the way Chuck has integrated internet services into his real estate business. He probably knows more about this process than any other realtor in the country. In this tight market it is important to use every possible means to spread the word about available properties…to reach the few people who might be interested in a particular property. Steve L.

    From The Netherlands

    "We contacted Chuck about six months ago to help find a retirement property in Sequim. We had visited Sequim several weeks before and decided that this was the place for us to retire. We liked the friendly people and the natural beauty of the area. We had been looking for some time in other parts of the country - California, Oregon, North Carolina, and Vermont. In most of these other areas, we found real estate agents that were knowledgeable but did not follow up with us to continue narrowing down real estate possibilities. Once we were out of earshot, communications would stop. That is one of the reasons we were interested in working with Chuck. Besides having great knowledge of both the local real estate market and of law, his testimonials on the internet indicated a willingness to actively communicate with his clients. Chuck demonstrated this immediately. Even before we met, he responded very quickly and helpfully to any email question. After arriving for a second visit to Sequim in September, we finally met Chuck face to face. He was friendly, encouraging, and readily shared good practical information. We worked with him on a number of candidate properties - including an offer on a property while visiting that week. Although we could not come to terms with the owners on the final property price, we look forward to continuing to work closely with Chuck. He is an invaluable resource to help us identify and purchase the retirement property that's right for us." Paul and Virginia

    From Fremont California

    We can't say enough about working with Chuck Marunde. Luck would have it that we discovered his web site, spoke with him on the phone and had an instant feeling that we had found our realtor. And we were right. With Chucks help and expertise, our longtime dream to retire to the Pacific Northwest came to fruition with Chuck assisting us in finding the perfect home for us. Buying a home is always a big decision and these days can be complex with unexpected delays etc. In fact, our whole experience from offer day to closing, was very smooth. Chuck took all the time we needed to explain processes and made us feel at ease, even though we lived 800 miles away, tying up loose ends and getting ready for the big move to our new home in Sequim. We were impressed with Chuck's ability to listen to our needs and understand our concerns in buying from a distance. Chuck kept us informed all along the way, during the process and was so good at getting right back to us if we had another question. All went so well and Chuck really went above and beyond for us, taking time out from his busy schedule to assist us with some details regarding our beautiful property, even after the closing, because we were not yet arrived there. Without hesitation, our son and his wife will be contacting Chuck this summer, as they plan to follow us to paradise in this lovely town. Thanks again Chuck, for everything! Mary and Jerry

    From Fontana California

    My husband and I went to Sequim intending to interview several realtors to find one to help us locate and buy a home in Sequim. We knew we wanted someone we could trust and who would have our best interests in mind. Since we would be handling the transaction from S. California this was very important to us. We met Chuck and looked no further. We felt a connection right away and spent some time looking at homes together so Chuck could get a feel for what we wanted. Well, we left Sequim having made an offer on a home which the owner accepted. Chuck has helped us through the purchase process. We are positive it would not have gone so smoothly without his help. We give him 4 thumbs up. Wally & Cathy

    From Tacoma

    Chuck Marunde’s level of expertise in real estate investment is amazing. His knowledge, experience and legal training have given me a dramatic advantage in real estate investing. He works hard to stay on the cutting edge of real estate marketing, sound advice and value-added service for his clients. Kirk Wald, Financial Planner

    From Wendell Idaho

    My wife and I moved to Sequim six weeks ago, and prior to our move here I contacted Chuck Marunde and enlisted his help as our buyer's agent. Once we got here, it took us about two weeks looking at houses, and Chuck did a superb job of showing us places and letting us make our own decisions and guide us through the purchase of our home. We now completed our transaction and are very happy. We would recommend Chuck to anybody. Don & Marilyn

    From Sequim

    "Buying property either commercial or residential can sometimes be a tricky proposition. That’s why I would recommend Chuck to help you with purchasing or selling property. His background as a real-estate lawyer and his no nonsense to the point advice will help you make the right decisions. Experience and Integrity, what you need when you can’t afford to make a mistake. Dail Hurdlow, CEO, Hurdlow Enterprises

    From Seattle

    I am an experienced real estate buyer, but I am not from the Sequim area. I am somewhat flexible, realistic, but also particular. So the question was, “how do you choose the RIGHT real estate agent?”

    I made my appointment with Chuck on a Sunday morning in March, 2013. He showed me 5 houses. Every house he showed me was within my parameters! I was amazed: a real estate who listened, did his research, and didn't waste my time showing me houses I would never buy! I made an offer a few days later. That was the easy part…

    Buying a house is always a stressful time in life. Advice to Buyers: choose an agent who is competent, communicates well, and has exceptional follow-up and follow-through! You will spend a lot of time with your agent during the process. Choose someone likable. Go with your gut. I got to know Chuck during the process, and he's a great guy!

    You need an agent who is competent to handle and help you negotiate the issues that come up during disclosure, home inspection, appraisal, etc. Chuck's competence is superb! I got truly professional, sound, straightforward advice.

    Chuck's communication skills are exceptional: phone, email, fax. He has a wonderful ability to stay "on-point" with what is actually important and doesn't lead you astray on issues that aren't so important.

    Chuck's turn-around time on questions, issue resolution, etc. was virtually always within 24 hours. He follows-up, follows-through. He does what he says he will do timely. This relieves a lot of Buyer stress!

    Having a difficult time finding the right agent? Simplify your life! Choose Chuck Marunde. I did. [Name withheld by request]

    Intro by Chuck Marunde

    From Sequim to California

    "In our Sequim real estate broker Chuck Marunde we found a Realtor who knew not only how to list a property, but most importantly, he knew how to sell a property. Chuck is very skilled in current technology and uses that skill to advertise your property nationally. We were very pleased with Chuck, his honesty and integrity." Jerry Levitan and Donna "Teva" Tetiva

    Who is Chuck Marunde?

    Chuck Marunde is the #1 Sequim Buyer's Agent, having sold more homes (by volume) to buyers than any other agent or any "team" of agents for the past seven years. He is the author of thousands of articles for buyers on this real estate blog, and he is the author of several real estate books for buyers and one for sellers. He is the creator of many free tools that buyers use and love every day. He is recognized as a national expert on real estate transactions, marketing, and negotiating. Please schedule your appointment to view homes with Chuck well in advance of arriving in Sequim.
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    Chuck Marunde Text or Call 360-775-5424