Builder Charlie Hannah thought he was being generous when he agreed to sell a new 5,000-square-foot home for $1.15 million in the Tree Tops neighborhood near Tampa's Westchase. But the appraiser returned an appraised value of $1 million on the lakeside house in June. Two months later, the sale remains in limbo and Hannah remains indignant.
Four other homes Hannah built in the same neighborhood recently sold for much more per square foot than the $1.15 million home. But the appraiser found a comparable home sale miles away in Odessa to justify what Hannah considers to be a low-ball valuation.
Since the new rules took effect, the law of unintended consequences has upended real estate deals. St. Petersburg Realtor Nancy Riley blames sloppy appraisals. She had a buyer for a sixth floor Feather Sound condo overlooking the water and golf course. Both parties agreed to the $200,000 purchase price.
But the lender, using an appraisal management company, got an out-of-county appraiser. The disappointed buyer and seller learned the condo appraised at only $157,000. As two of his comps, the appraiser used a unit in a former assisted living facility and a single story condo without a view.
Riley tried to challenge the appraiser's findings — which included wrong photos attached to the wrong properties — but got a cold shoulder from the bank. She's still trying to salvage the deal."I sent them two pages of things wrong with the appraisal. They refused to listen," Riley said. "I got one or two snippy responses."
Mortgage refinancing — the centerpiece of the government's antiforeclosure efforts - has also suffered. Gregoire noted a case involving a house in upscale Tierra Verde. The home owner sought a reverse mortgage to pull cash from the home. Taking into account the recent depreciation, the home owner estimated the 2,000-square-foot home at $400,000. The initial quick-hit appraisal, using a $10 computer-generated valuation that isn't as good at distinguishing some of the nuances of real estate valuations like the differences between nearby neighborhoods, delivered a market price of $252,000.
When a real appraiser went to work on the house after driving up from Fort Myers, he, too, concluded the house was worth $252,000. Gregoire assumes the appraiser shoe-horned in comparable sales to make his numbers match the computer-generated price.
"That happens with appraisers who lack geographic confidence,'' Gregoire said. "I've been doing appraisals 30 years, but I don't go outside of Pinellas County. The most important thing is to know neighborhoods and submarkets.''