On this page, you will find past newsletters in which we give advice to our customers about how to expedite their appraisal process. Be sure to check this page often for updates, or subscribe to our newsletter for other kinds of helpful articles.

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KEEPING THE “FINAL” IN “FINAL INSPECTION”

by Stan Choate, Appraiser Tech / Valuation Associate

April 2019

One of our common projects here at Spurgeon Appraisals is the “final inspection” of a recently constructed house. While lenders typically have us perform appraisals on a property before construction begins, they often need us to return to the property to determine whether construction is finished and whether the original plans have been followed. The result of this final inspection is the “completion certificate”, though it might be called by other names. Does that sound simple?
 
It rarely is. Very often we will send one of our appraisers to do a final inspection only to discover that the construction is not actually complete, which means we cannot do the completion certificate at that time. This requires us to make yet another inspection later, when the house is truly done. That extra inspection requires an extra travel fee, which neither the lender nor the home owner appreciate. This common problem wastes money for customers and wastes time for appraisers.

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The root of this recurring problem is definitions. Words like “done” and “complete” are defined differently by the different parties involved in the new construction. For the appraiser looking to do a completion certificate, “done” means that every task listed at the beginning of the project has been completed, and every line on the blueprints has been translated into a tangible part of the home. But the home owner usually defines “done” differently. By “done”, he means that the home is now habitable. The kitchen cabinets might be sitting in the garage, and the deck may not be built—but he’s “done” with the house, because he is now able to live there.

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To help avoid this misunderstanding and save our customers money, we advise lenders to ask their clients a few questions, before contacting the appraiser for a final inspection.
-Are there rooms that still need carpet, trim, or lights?
-In the kitchen, have all countertops and cabinets been installed?
-If the house has a second story, have all the walls and fixtures been installed up there?
-If the house is meant to have a finished basement, have all basement walls and fixtures been installed?
-Has all work been completed for garages, decks, and porches?
 
The professionals here at Spurgeon Appraisals care about providing quality appraisal work in a timely, affordable manner. Call us today to experience our top-notch service first-hand.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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WHY WE ASK FOR THE CONTRACT

by Stan Choate, Appraisal Tech / Valuation Associate

December 2018

Whenever we are hired to appraise real estate under contract for purchase, we always ask our client to provide a copy of the contract or the major details of the transaction, like sale price, closing date, and the parties involved. While most of our customers oblige us by sending the purchase contract or the major details, some have refused, delayed, or protested that we should not see the contract, for fear that it will compromise our unbiased, objective opinion of value. To allay the fears of such clients, we want to explain why we ask for a purchase contract and how we use it.

The first reason that we ask to see the purchase contract is that regulations require us to ask. The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) require appraisers to investigate current listings, options, and purchase contracts, as well as past sales of the subject within three years of the effective date. Furthermore, USPAP requires us to make some statement about this research within the appraisal report itself. If our efforts to gain this sort of information are unsuccessful, we must report on the efforts we made.

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Another reason that we ask to see the purchase contract—and probably the reason that USPAP requires us to ask—is that such information is instructive for the appraisal process. The contract price could, for example, help us to discover whether the market favored the seller or the buyer, once we compare the contract price to the listing price. Additionally, our job is to estimate the market value for the subject, in which case we must analyze all relevant data for the subject’s market. A negotiated, arms-length purchase agreement within that market is certainly relevant, though it is not the only relevant piece of data.

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We certainly want our customers to know that the contract price will not be the determining factor for our appraised value. Not only would it look suspicious if our appraised values always corresponded to contract prices, but it would be an improper, unethical practice, and we care too much about our reputation for honest, diligent work. But that very desire to perform excellent work motivates us to ask for the purchase contract, so that we can comply with regulation and utilize all relevant data.
 
Spurgeon Appraisals has performed appraisal work for most of the lenders in our service area, and we frequently perform appraisals to help them make decisions about loans for prospective buyers. Contact us today to make use of our wide-ranging experience and dedicated customer service.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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"YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE"

by Stan Choate, Appraisal Tech / Valuation Associate

August 2017

When people try to estimate the value of a property, they normally think about the finishes on a house, or the tillable acres of a farm, or the demand for commercial buildings in a growing city. Such considerations do matter greatly for the opinion of value, but appraisers must also consider factors which are not as commonly considered. One of the subtlest factors of property value is legal access.

To give a non-technical definition, legal access to a property means that you can get to it without being arrested for trespassing…or being shot by an angry neighbor. In most cases, a property is legally accessed by a public road. Sometimes an “easement for ingress and egress” is needed. This means that the owners of a neighboring property allow you to access your property by driving through their own. Easements usually become dirt or gravel roads privately made and maintained.

Legal access is an essential element of real estate appraisal. If a property cannot be accessed, then it cannot be effectively used by the owner. For that reason, lack of legal access has quite an effect for the value of a property. And yet, few owners—and surprisingly few buyers—stop to make sure that a property has legal access.

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More than one appraisal project has been stalled or even canceled over issues pertaining to legal access. For that reason, clients seeking an appraisal should give thought to the matter, whether the appraisal will be ordered by a property owner, prospective buyer, or even a lender. Below is a list of some questions you can ask yourself to make sure your property has legal access. All of these are based on situations we have encountered here at Spurgeon Appraisals:

  • Does a public road border or touch the property?

  • If so, has the course of that road changed over time? If so, you might want to see if the road still touches the property, because it may not.

  • In the absence of a public road, do you have an easement for ingress and egress over a neighboring property?

  • If you do have such an easement, can you find a legal document describing it? This could be a deed or other contract. The appraiser needs such documentation to prove legal access.

  • Did the land with the easement sell or transfer recently? If so, did the easement transfer as part of the deed? If not, then you most likely no longer have legal access.

  • Has any piece of the property been sold which might cut off the remainder of the property from its former access point?

  • If you have had title work done, did the title company include the easement in the title search? If not, that is a mistake that needs to be corrected for the future.

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Finally, beware of assuming that you have legal access to a property just because you have often driven to it. It is possible to be mistaken on this point, thinking you have an easement when you actually do not, or thinking that the road is public when it is not. Even if you have driven there often, that does not mean you have legal access.

As you can tell, we have learned to be very thorough on this matter of legal access. At Spurgeon Appraisals, we will always put forth the effort to determine the value of your property as accurately as possible, even asking the less common questions.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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GETTING YOUR APPRAISAL DONE YESTERDAY

by Stan Choate, Appraisal Tech / Valuation Associate

December 2016

Lenders can hardly be blamed for wanting appraisals finished as soon as possible. Aside from the fact that no one enjoys long waits, lenders often need to please or pacify several interested parties involved in any given transaction, all of whom want to finalize their business quickly. Given these causes for haste, lenders are expected to select an appraiser with a quick turnaround time and then urge him forward. At Spurgeon Appraisals, we are often told by lenders that they need appraisals done “yesterday.”

Until someone invents a time machine, the best way for a lender to see its appraisals done yesterday is to be sure the appraiser is provided with as much accurate information as possible, not only to begin appraisal work immediately, but to finish the process without interruption or delay. In providing this information, we recommend that lenders remember the six standard questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Who? We understand that lenders guard the privacy of their clients, but knowing the owner’s name can often allow us to look up information on the property, using online public records, as soon as a bid request comes to us. In other words, the owner’s name provides us with a helpful shortcut to more data. And of course, we keep everything confidential.

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What? If we expect to appraise a forty-acre vacant farm, but discover during the inspection that it has a functioning hog operation, the lender should prepare themselves for a delay. The best way for lenders to avoid such delays is to learn more about what the property is, and then convey that information to the appraiser. If it’s a residential property, what kind is it, and how much land is with the residence? If it’s a farm or large tract, how many acres does it have, and what kinds of land (cropland, timber, pasture, etc.)? What buildings are on the property? Are there actually multiple sites to be appraised?

When? If you need the appraisal done by a set date, be sure the appraiser knows that. If plans change, let the appraiser know that too. Also, make sure that completion dates are accurately stated in engagement letters and all correspondence. If the closing date in a purchase contract is no longer relevant, be sure the appraiser is aware of the change. Clear expectations for turnaround times will help appraisers move at the necessary pace.

Where? The sooner we know exactly where a property is, the sooner we can estimate an accurate completion date and plan the inspection. Most of the time, a normal street address is all that we need, but not always. Rural properties often do not have addresses or have rural route addresses, and these often cannot be located easily. The lender may need to provide directions or descriptions like “five miles west of this-city on this-road.” The section, township, and range can usually help us too. On that note, full legal descriptions, deeds, and surveys are often necessary to gain a correct understanding of where a property is and how much land belongs to it.

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Why? No appraisal report can be completed without knowing the intended use, because this must be stated in the report. Telling us the intended use immediately will prevent at least one possible delay. And we cannot proceed simply with the knowledge that the appraisal is for a loan: refinancing, purchasing, and new construction are all very different uses for an appraisal and raise different questions in the mind of an appraiser. On that note, if the appraisal is for a purchase, sending us the purchase contract at the beginning can speed up the process with the information it contains.

How? Very often, appraisers need instructions specific to the project at hand. A lender may want the buildings on a tract valued, or the bank may want us to ignore them. Multiple farm tracts may need to be appraised so that their separate values are seen, or that might not be necessary. Sometimes a property can be appraised either on a 1004 residential form or just as easily on a UAAR farm form—and the appraiser needs to know which is needed or preferred. If expectations for the appraisal are not stated plainly from the very beginning, before the appraiser even bids the project, the final report might need revision, causing further delay.

Short of manipulating space-time, Spurgeon Appraisals will do what is needed to get your appraisal done in the timeframe you require. But our efforts are greatly helped by information. More data is always better than less, and too much is better than too little. The more we know, the more quickly we can work to satisfy lenders and their clients.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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INSPECTION FAQ

by Staff Appraiser

May 2017

Recently, a friend of mine told me she was refinancing her home, and an appraiser was coming to perform an appraisal on behalf of her lender the following day. She wanted to know how to act around the appraiser and what (if anything) she could do to help, and asked for my advice. Below are some of the specific questions she asked, and my responses. We think that you will find them helpful and informative, since her questions are fairly common. Please note that, while we refer to our viewing of the property from the interior and exterior as an “inspection,” an appraiser’s inspection should not be confused with a “home inspection” performed by a properly licensed home inspector.

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Should I tell the appraiser how much I want my house to appraise for?
As an appraiser, my job is to act as a third party to provide a non-biased opinion of market value. When people tell me how much they want their property to appraise for, my standard response is to explain that my opinion of value is derived from the three recognized approaches to value, which are developed from market data. For that reason, the homeowner telling me how much they want their home to appraise for will not affect my opinion of value.


Will the appraiser tell me how much my home is worth before he or she leaves?
Developing an opinion of value has several steps. Gathering data about the subject property (the purpose of our inspection) is usually one of the first to be performed. Because of this, the appraiser has not yet analyzed the data gathered from the subject inspection and compared it to market data, so no opinion of value is truly possible at the time of inspection. Also, appraisers are bound by USPAP to provide assignment results to our client only, so we will not provide this information to a homeowner unless the homeowner is our client on the assignment. This also applies in cases where the homeowner is paying the lender for the appraisal: our payment comes from the lender directly, not the homeowner, making the lender our client.

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Will the appraiser take pictures of the personal items in my home?
How many pictures are required is often dictated by our client, but it usually includes a photo of every room of the home, several of the exterior, as well as interior and exterior photos of outbuildings. In addition to that, we often take photos of defects or damage to document that for our client as well. If you have valuables or personal items that are not permanently attached to the home that you do not want photographed, we recommend removing these items from the residence prior to our visit. Otherwise, they may be inadvertently included in interior photos within our report.

Should I talk to the appraiser while he looks at the house?
While on an inspection, I am often preoccupied with taking photographs, notes, and measurements. I keep small talk to a minimum so that I can gather all the information I need as quickly and accurately as possible to best serve our clients.  We welcome questions from the homeowner, and will do our best to answer as many as we can. Prior to leaving, we make it a point to ask the borrower or homeowner if they have any questions. As noted above, there are some things we are legally barred from discussing with anyone but our client, but we will be as helpful as we can be.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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TEAM EFFORT

by Stan Choate, Appraisal Tech / Valuation Associate

April 2017

Everyone involved in the appraisal process desires the process to work smoothly. But a routine appraisal is not the effort of the appraiser alone: it is a team effort between the appraiser, the property owner, and the lending institution. Since lenders have a longstanding relationship with many of their clients, they have the ablity to work proactively for the effectiveness of the appraisal before the appraiser even begins his work. Here are five ways that lenders can prepare their clients for an appraisal.

Inform your client of the appraisal. Our first phone call to the property owener or occupant can sometimes be turbulent. The owner has not always been notified that an appraisal has been ordered. When we call them, these owners are often angered or dismayed about the appraisal, because they fear that the bank is taking some action that will be disadvantageous to them, or that the appraiser will share information with the governent that will lead to a tax increase. The lender can help us avoid these tense conversations by explaining to their clients that an appraisal has been ordered and why.

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Inform your client of the physical inspection. While most people know that an inspection is part of the appraisal process, some are surprised at hearing that an inspection is needed. Again, they are not only surprised, but usually very uncomfortable with the idea of an inspection, since a stranger will be walking around their property, checking their buildings, and maybe even inspecting their house. Once again, the lender can prepare their clients for this process by telling them ahead of time. Be sure to specify that the inspection is both interior and exterior.

Inform your client of information they might give us. Oftentimes the property owner stands the best chance of providing us with information we need for the appraisal. However, they very often do not have this information at hand, because they did not know they might need it. The lender can give them a list of information to gather before the appraiser calls them. In general, you can usually expect us to need deeds, legal descriptions, surveys, recent tax bills, and leases.

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Inform your client of our projected completion date. Some borrowers are more interested in appraisals than others, and such people usually want the appraisal finished immediately. Since this is generally not possible, their next desire is to know when the appraisal will be done. At Spurgeon Appraisals, we practically always give lenders estimated completion dates for our appraisals. Informing the client of this timeframe should be helpful to them.

Inform your client that we can only disclose the appraised value to the lender. According to USPAP, we can only disclose our appraised value to our client. When a lender orders an appraisal from us, that lender is our client. This arrangement is often a cause of consternation for property owners and real estate agents, who believe they are automatically entitled to know the appraised value. Lenders can help us defuse their anger ahead of time by explaining these regulations and by promising to share the appraised value as soon as the report is complete.

When you contact Spurgeon Appraisals, you can be certain that we will deal with your clients in a professional and efficient manner. But our efforts are greatly helped by those lenders who keep their clients informed during the appraisal process. With your help, we can all be certain of completing appraisals in a quick, hassle-free manner.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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MONEY, TIME, AND QUALITY

by Stan Choate, Appraisal Tech / Valuation Associate

August 2015

"How much will it cost, and how long will it take?” These two questions represent the chief concerns of most consumers in any market. Buyers know what they want, they want it now, and they want it to have a small price tag. Unfortunately, many consumers learn too late to ask a third question: “How much am I getting for my money and time?” Questions of quality are often an afterthought, until we learn how valuable it is. After those hard lessons, people learn that the best way to receive the best product is to go to the best provider.

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The appraisal business is no different. Customers often prefer the appraiser who promises the lowest price and quickest completion date. They are pleased to find an appraisal firm with a much smaller fee and a shorter waiting list than other firms…until they receive the finished product. Factual errors, questionable data, and strange logic are all combined into a poorly formatted, illegible report. Sometimes, the customer may even discover that their selected appraiser does not even have the proper credentials to do the project. Most appraisals are ordered out of necessity and need to be reliable, but cheap-and-quick appraisals might be cheap-and-quick for a reason.

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Appraisers must make a profit, and if they work for unusually low fees, they might be saving you money at the expense of quality. You’ll get nothing for your money but poor customer service and an inferior report. The short waiting period could also have consequences. A well-done appraisal is like any product: it takes time. (For how much work goes into an appraisal, you might be interested in reading this page on our website.) A quick completion date may lead to a substandard appraisal.

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In the world of business, the true advantage goes to the provider who offers the best product with a competitive price and without unnecessary delay. Here at Spurgeon Appraisals, we strive to be that company. We have built our reputation by providing reliable appraisal products. Quality is our highest priority, as shown by our thorough research and customer service. We are also constantly improving our process to reduce your waiting period and your fee without cutting corners. Testimonials from past customers, and our ever-growing coverage area, prove that we have found a way to meet your appraisal needs with a mixture of affordability, timeliness, and—above all else—quality.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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HOW CAN A CLIENT ENSURE A FASTER APPRAISAL PROCESS?

So you find out that you need an appraisal on your real estate. What do you, the client, need to contribute to the process? Is it enough to contact the appraiser, describe the real estate, and ask about the fee and turn-around time? After this, the appraiser can just figure it all out, right?

The truth is that many appraisers take such a long time because they must dig up basic, but crucial information on the subject property. Such information includes:

  • legal description of the property

  • sale history

  • recent property taxes

  • annual property insurance premium

  • lease information

  • whether the property has undergone renovations or updates and the costs thereof

  • whether there are any contracts on the property, such as CRP

  • whether there are special easements

This list is not comprehensive, but it names many common items which are crucial to an appraisal. The leg-work and research that the typical appraiser invests into digging up such information, and finding out what information is even relevant to the subject property, often proves to be quite time-consuming. And yet, the client could be of great help to the appraisal by providing this information from the beginning of the process.

The time spent on an appraisal comes right down to the client being knowledgeable about the subject property.  The more a potential client knows about the real estate, and the more informed the appraiser is right from the start (thanks to a knowledgeable client), the more likely a particular appraisal assignment will be a smooth and timely process.

Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.