Appraisal Ace Blog

October 15th, 2013 9:19 PM

After taking writing courses in college and a couple of AI courses on report writing, I utilize the following guidelines:

I avoid third person references to myself. I try not to use the passive voice. I avoid "insider" lingo. I took the words "deemed" and "appears" out of my lexicon long ago. My goal is to communicate, not to obfuscate. I have never gotten a request asking for more clarity on any of my reports.


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Posted by William McKnight on October 15th, 2013 9:19 PMLeave a Comment

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April 23rd, 2013 5:15 PM


File under pet peeves: Confusion between CO and CO2.

Carbon Monoxide is a harmful gas identified by the chemical formula CO and is the gas that is being detected by an CO detector/alarm.

CO2 is part of the gas that we expel when we breath. There is no requirement for a CO2 detector in homes. Yet.

Maybe after the zombie apocalypse to warn the zombies when a breathing human is nearby.

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Posted by William McKnight on April 23rd, 2013 5:15 PMLeave a Comment

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The agent was concerned because he felt that appraisers should value a property at the highest price that a buyer would pay.

This was my answer to him-

I appreciate your comments on current problems with appraisals. I too have noticed that some appraisers tend to undervalue properties, which is just as wrong as overvaluing a home, but I disagree with your definition of market value.

The highest price that a buyer is willing to pay is not market value, it is the price for that specific transaction. 

Market Value
is the estimated amount for which a property should sell on the date of valuation between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arms-length transaction after proper marketing with both parties acting knowledgeably, prudently, and without compulsion. In other words, market value is the most probable price that a property should sell for to a typical buyer. That is the value that appraisers are obligated to discover.

It is important to distinguish between Market Value and Price. A price obtained for a specific property during a specific transaction may or may not represent that property's market value. Certain considerations may have been present, such as a special relationship between the buyer and the seller.

Another possibility is that a specific buyer may have been willing to pay a premium over and above the market value, if his subjective valuation of the property was higher than the Market Value. I am sure you have had a buyer that "just had to have" that particular house, even though it may have been priced higher than Market Value.

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Posted by William McKnight on June 28th, 2011 4:45 PMLeave a Comment

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December 30th, 2010 3:07 PM

Comments on the Interim Final Regulations: Docket No. R- 1394 and RIN No. AD-7100-56

I am an appraiser in Northern California and I am responding today to the request for comments on the Interim Final Regulations.

Appraiser independence should apply to all residential consumer credit transactions, whether that involves a primary residence or second home. Broker price opinions (BPOs) and other non-appraiser valuations should be covered by the interim final rules in order to protect consumers in transactions for which appraisals are not required. Specifically, BPOs should not be the sole basis of making a lending decision on a primary or second residence.

I have been extremely concerned since the inception of the HVCC that, in the case of AMCs which are affiliated with or in contract with creditors, the appraisal function is not truly independent and never can be. The temptation for collusion is always present in these circumstances and thus defeats the purpose of the Dodd-Frank Act. Wasn’t it eAppraiseIT and WAMU collusion that initiated the New York AG’s investigation that resulted in the HVCC?

There was a mistaken belief among creditors that HVCC required the use of AMCs to order and manage appraisals so the use of AMC'S has increased substantially since the HVCC took effect. This has happened in part due to a concern whether creditors could successfully implement the internal firewalls separating loan staff and the appraiser.

I believe that the increased use of AMCs has had a negative effect on the quality of appraisals. AMC's often seem to select appraisers based solely on price and turnaround time, without regard to the appraisers' knowledge of the local market in which the property is located or the level of competence and expertise needed for the assignment. This should be addressed in the final interpretation of the regulations.

I have great concern regarding the requirement to report appraisers to the state appraiser licensing agency for "unethical or unprofessional" conduct. The rule is too vague and broad. The interim final rule should require reporting only of material misconduct to prevent every consumer, lender or realtor that is unhappy with an opinion of value from overwhelming state appraiser agencies with unsubstantiated complaints. To further prevent frivolous reporting, the final regulations should require a person reporting misconduct to articulate reasonable, fact-based grounds for alleging that misconduct has occurred. It is unfortunate that along with a mechanism for reporting appraiser misconduct there will not also be created a mechanism for appraisers to report misconduct (including pressure and coercion, which still exist) by the other participants in a loan transaction.

AMCs in general are exempt from accountability in the interim final regulations. AMCs need to be examined for their roles in alleged appraiser misconduct and their own misconduct including pressure for turn times, pressure for values and harassment of appraisers by onerous assignment conditions and excessive reviews.

Customary and Reasonable Fees is an issue that has to be carefully examined and can’t be separated from the definition of a normal, non-complex assignment. Specifically, it is up to the appraiser to determine what the assignment entails and what steps are necessary to produce a credible result. Factors that go into producing a reasonable scope of work for each assignment include, among other things, location of the property, type of market, availability of data (comparable sales, income data, building materials and labor costs), the complexity of the improvements and size of the property. An appraiser must also have enough time to complete the assignment depending upon it’s complexity as well as time for proper verification of data.

In other words, assignments can be relatively easy- involving standard research, relatively short driving distances and a shorter time to develop the results. An assignment can be complex or more difficult- requiring longer driving distances, more involved research. The time needed to fully develop the report may take days instead of hours. Because appraisal assignments differ so greatly, the fees that should be charged for each kind of assignment can not be reduced to a simplistic fee schedule approach. Each assignment should command a fee that is reasonable for that type of assignment and for the level of risk associated with the product.

It would be best to wait for independent fee study results before the issue of customary and reasonable fees is decided. The input of experienced appraisers should be part of the equation. AMC fees should be excluded from consideration since they were developed after the HVCC and are a part of why reasonable and customary fees are being discussed at all. AMCs, through their monopolistic practices, are the reason that appraiser fees and appraisal reliability have been compromised.

Because of the HVCC, AMCs have monopolized lender appraisal business. AMCs have become the main source for inexpensive and quick appraisals. The consumer has not been the beneficiary of these fast and cheap appraisals. In fact, consumers are charged the same or more than before the HVCC. The appraiser is paid 20-50% less than what they used to receive when their business was direct to lenders. The quality and reliability of appraisals has been compromised resulting in delays, deals gone sour and multiple appraisals, which the consumer pays for either up front or through increased fees.

Since the appraiser’s role in the real property transaction is to protect the public interest and since the final regulations should also promulgate the protection of the public’s interest, I have proposed some considerations the Board should be aware of when writing the final regulations. The consumer’s interests need to be protected by the Board and by the appraisal profession, so I hope that these comments will be considered and acted upon accordingly.

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Posted by William McKnight on December 30th, 2010 3:07 PMLeave a Comment

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This is so awesome. With a worldwide audience of 140,000, Bill McKnight, Tinna Morlatt and the Real Estate Appraisers Association got a mention and a Banner on the Think Big Work Small Daily show. Watch the whole thing and it's at the very end.

We had Frank Garay and Brian Stevens at our association's dinner meeting on Tuesday and in the link below they thank us and call out the Appraisal Institute on our behalf.

Here is a link to today's show:

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Posted by William McKnight on April 15th, 2010 3:25 PMLeave a Comment

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Frank Garay and Brian Stevens KILLED IT tonight. Best speakers for motivation and method that we have had for a long time. The delivery was spot on and the crowd loved it. I got more complements and I know they must have picked up 20-30 new subscribers tonight. Would have been more, but I think they had an audience full of TBWS Daily show viewers already.

I heard "lightbulbs" going on all over the place and the buzz afterwards was very much, "We can do that" or "What if we did this?" And I think everyone appreciated the positive viewpoint presented. It was very energizing. I hope Frank and Brian got something out of the evening too.

I know that my appraiser friend was already talking about a collaborative effort with me. That made me feel good. Should be fun.

At any rate, it was great for them coming up and sharing with us their amazing mix of truth, insanity and wisdom.


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Posted by William McKnight on April 14th, 2010 9:36 AMLeave a Comment

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There has been some discussion about whether or not it is necessary to vent the temperature and pressure relief valve on a water heater located in a garage to the outside of the structure according to FHA.

Local code in Sacramento County may not mandate outside venting, although when researching this issue yesterday, I found contradictory statements in local ordinances.

When interviewing my appraisal peers about this issue, all agreed that the temperature and pressure relief valve should be vented to the outside of the structure. When no clear point of authority exists to support an appraiser's reporting of an existing situation, the actions of one's appraisal peers should determine the correct course of action.

However, that is not the case here.

While no written statement or point of authority exists within FHA documentation that gives the guidance for temperature and pressure relief valve venting, other than it must be vented, a call to the Santa Ana HOC revealed FHA's stance on this issue.

I called the Santa Ana HOC this morning and talked to Ed Flores in the Technical Department about venting the water heater pressure relief valve. He stated in unequivocal terms that the temperature and pressure relief valve on a water heater must be vented to the outside of the structure regardless of its location within the structure, including, as is the case here, a water heater located in a garage.

He also reminded me that as of February 15, 2010, all repair completion reports are to be reported on the Fannie Mae Form 1004D, and that the HUD-92051 is to be reserved for new construction compliance inspection reporting.


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Posted by William McKnight on March 18th, 2010 10:18 AMLeave a Comment

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 First of all what we are trying to do first and foremost is to compare apples to apples. That is, the most similar properies are usually the best comparables.

For an appraiser the most important comps are the ones that sold most recently because those tell us what buyers are paying for homes. For a Realtor, I would think that Actives and Pendings might be the most important, because those are your seller's competition and the pool of homes from which your buyer might consider purchasing. Run a CMA to see what the average list to sales price ratio is and apply that to the listing prices to get an idea of what buyers are actually paying.

The 4 things I look at first are (1) closest in terms of location and sales date. I try to define the neighborhood boundaries and, if possible, only use comps from within the same neighborhood. I also don't usually go back further than 90 days. If I have to exceed 90 days, in order to find enough sales, then I have to know whether the market declined or increased since then and apply a percentage increase or decrease to the sales price.

Then I look at (2) size and room count, I stay within 10%+- if I can. Model matches are the best, of course. Lot size has some effect, but not much for most tract homes.

(3) Age would probably be next. We try not to use comps that are more than 10 years older or newer. It's hard to adjust much for age due to remodeling, different levels of upkeep and deferred maintenance.

(4) Condition is the hardest thing to quantify, but that would be the other thing that I would try to match. Hard to measure sometimes from the MLS listings. I always have to call or email the listing and buyer's agent to get a true picture.

There is no rule of thumb for adjustments; it is case-by-case and market derived. What I mean is, what is the market reaction to missing appliances or a pool or proximity to the train tracks? Experience in the market, interviews with agents, matched pair analysis and regression analysis are the ways we isolate each variable and measure how much in terms of dollars or percentage each contributes to the home's value.

Long winded, sorry about that, but as you see it's not so simple. There are other factors, but we can talk about those at another time.


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Posted by William McKnight on February 2nd, 2010 10:20 PMLeave a Comment

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Here are some of the things I've been telling hopeful Certified Residential test takers recently.

Are you using Compu Cram? I used it every study session. I was able to buy Henry Harrison's book used from another local appraiser who just passed his exam. I also studied the questions in "Questions & Answers to Help You Pass the Real Estate Appraisal Exams" by Fisher and Tosh.

Compu Cram is online and costs $69 ( AL or AR tests are very much the same now. Just more questions on the AR I believe and maybe they're a little harder. So, CompuCram was a great help. Take the tests until you are passing them at 90% or higher and you'll be fine. Write down the stuff you miss and look up the answers and write those down too. Writing it out seems to help memory. Concentrate on your weak areas, that will make the most difference during the test.

Use one or two of the study books and get to know your HP-12C real well. That will give you a lot of confidence when you need it during the test. As far as the calculator goes, until you take the test, do all of your calculations on the HP 12C. That way you will get used to its somewhat reverse functionality. Don't skip the HP 12C, you will need it for some of the questions.

Here is a web page tutorial on the functions of money calculations on the HP 12C - 

Remember, concentrate on your weak areas, like Math and Stats or whatever you feel is your weakest area. I feel that strategy will benefit you the most when you take the test.

Really commit yourself  to prepping on the stuff you are having trouble with. Reviewing the material you know will make you feel good, but it won't help you pass the test.

Don't do marathon study sessions. Your brain will burn out. Break it up into 2-4 hour segments and do something else in between. Do an overall review the day before the test and be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before. No all night cramming. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam site so you won't be in a panic when you arrive.

When you take the test - use a test management system.

On a blank sheet of scratch paper make three columns and do the following:

1. Answer any question that your are sure of and move on.

2. Any question you think you know, but are not sure of, put that question number on the paper in the first column. You may come across a question later that jogs your memory or answers all or part of the question.

3. Any question you really don't know the answer to, put that number in the second column. If nothing comes to you later, guess, as there is no penalty for a wrong answer. I would leave these for last as it doesn't take much time to take a wild guess.

4. Put all of the math questions in the third column. Math takes a different kind of logic than the other questions and it takes too much time for your brain to adjust. Answer all the math questions at the same time. You might want to do these second so you don't run out of time.

For those of you who have taken the test and did not pass: Now that you've taken the test once, you know how serious you need to be about preparing, so you should do just fine next time.

Anyway, good luck. I hope your studying goes well. Email me if you didn't understand any of the above advice or if you have any more questions?


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Posted by William McKnight on January 27th, 2010 10:34 PMLeave a Comment

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"How much does proximity to a busy street affect the value of a home? How about power towers?"

Busy streets do affect a property's value, some more than others. There would be a large adjustment if a home backed up to a main road near a mall where there is a ton of traffic all day and night. Not as much of an adjustment if it backed up to a smaller feeder street that had traffic mostly during the morning and evening rush hours. How much effect also depends on sound abatement, intervening landscaping, distance to the roadbed and other factors. The only accurate way to get an adjustment is to do a paired sales analysis on homes that are near a main street and those that aren't because it differs for every neighborhood. In some areas the adjustment might be small, in others it might be fairly large.

The same holds true for power lines, but mostly just for the high tension lines. And it depends on the exact distance. If a home is within the "fall line" of a tower, the adjustment would be far greater than if it was just within sight. The impact of high tension lines is hard to measure because so much of the buyer's reaction is based on myth and preference and has little to do with measurable ill effects. Once again though, the only way to come up with an true adjustment is to do a paired sales analysis for that particular neighborhood, homes within a certain distance of power lines and homes that are more removed.

I know that probably isn't really the answer that you were looking for, but the truth is that we do not have a rule of thumb to make those adjustments. The adjustment must always be based on market driven analysis if the result is to be credible.

Thanks for asking though. I love the chance to put into words the concepts and methods that we utilize.

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Posted by William McKnight on July 24th, 2009 5:23 PMLeave a Comment

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