Posts About Appraisal and Appraisers written by the staff of The Robinson Real Estate Appraiser Group, Maryland.

Appraising Real Estate in Baltimore City

Appraising properties in real estate is tricky business for real estate appraisers. The vast value range, emerging markets, government housing and rehabilitation projects are just a few things a Baltimore City appraiser encounters when navigating the proper choice of comparable sales when determining the appraised value of a Baltimore City property. With more Millennials and empty-nesters moving downtown, there’s a renewed interest in the urban living experience causing an increase in appraisal work.

Lending institutions are quite cautious when reviewing a Baltimore City appraisal. Often values differ block to block depending on location of the water, monuments, parks, etc. The distance between the comparable properties and the subject property within an appraisal are highly scrutinized. Part of this scrutiny stemmed from the Baltimore City flipping scandal. With such diversity in value within a small radius due to the density of homes allow a large pool of settled sales to choose from. It is unethical, criminal and against appraisal practices to inflate the values of properties.

HB 521, a bill passed by the state legislature in the wake of the so-called “flipping scandal” of the 1990s, created a database of property appraisals in Baltimore City. Since 2003, every home appraisal done in the city was supposed to be given to the Department of Housing and Community Development, to be kept in files in case investigators ever needed to track down and investigate suspicious appraisers and/or lending practices.

Charm City is a city that bounces back regardless of setbacks. There are more than 40 homebuyer incentives that people could potentially qualify for when buying a home in the Baltimore City. They range from $1,000 to $30,000. These are for primary residents, not investors and you can stack them if you quality for more than one. You can go to to learn more.

It is not only traditional buyers that are getting into Baltimore City real estate, even developers are turning a number of historic buildings in downtown Baltimore into amenity filled apartments. 26 S Calvert Street features a rooftop deck and mini basketball court, and 10 Light Street is a building that Metropolitan Partnership is turning into 400 luxury apartments.

With the growing demand of real estate in Baltimore City this leads the appraisal community with a responsibility for quality appraisal reports within lender guidelines that follow uniform standard appraisal practices.

Charm City is becoming more charming each year with expansion, renovation and opportunity. Robinson Appraisal Group can help you with all of your appraisal needs. Our services include estate appraisals, conventional appraisals and FHA appraisals to name only a few. Our office does a multitude of reports for the Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, Cecil County, Carroll County, Anne Arundel County and Howard County areas. We look forward to helping you in the future with an appraisal for your Baltimore City property. As our Baltimorean counterparts would say, Thanks, Hon!

What is involved in appraisal?

What is involved in appraisal?

Wondering what an appraiser does when it comes to your home appraisal? What do they look for? How do they determine the value of your home?

Bottom line….it all depends on homes that have SETTLED in your area. With so many internet searches available about home sales, the one most important thing to note is the settled price. The predominant amount of websites reflect the price the property is being offered for, not the actual settled price upon closing. Assuming it will go for full list may inflate your assumption of your own home’s worth.

After the appraiser gathers data from your tax record, aerial view of the property and possible prior listing(s) the appraiser will contact you for an appointment. At this time they will retrieve the unknown information regarding updates, rooms, bathrooms, finished basement, exterior amenities/outbuildings and any unusual or special things regarding the property. With this information appropriate comparable properties that have sold in the market area can be chosen on the basis of similarities. Some of the similarities that are most relevant when determining market value value are the location, gross living area (amount of square feet above ground), acreage, age, condition, updating and amenities.

Upon inspection of the property the appraiser will measure the exterior dwelling and any possible additional structures (deck,barn,shed,patio…) deemed necessary for valuation. When inside the appraiser will compile a floor plan, types of flooring, overall condition and quality of construction. The information from the subject property (property being appraised) is compared to the pool of settled sales to determine the closest matches: the most similar properties will then be chosen upon likeness to determine market value.

The major phase of the valuation involves the application of the three approaches to value which include the Sales Comparison Approach, the Cost Approach and Income Approach. The three approaches are reconciled and the value (via most applicable approach)is selected as the final estimate of value.

The most relevant approach to determine the market value of a property in residential real estate is typically the “sales comparison approach”. This approach uses the characteristics of each settled property verses the subject property in a form where the characteristics are broken down line by line to give each item value. For instance, if your home has a fireplace and one of the settled comparables do not a +$3000 amount would be added to the settled comparable price to adjust for the absence of this amenity. The amount of fireplace value varies depending on price range of properties. Other line items include acreage, bathrooms, age, finished areas in basements, location/view,updates, amount of garages, outbuildings, decks, patios, exterior materials, quality of construction and (but not limited too) condition are all items valued in the report to determine the fair market value. There are typically 3 to 4 settled comparables used to determine the market value and possibly 2 more pending or active properties to reflect the current market and support the market value. Pending properties(due to the fact there is an offer) are preferred. Once all the settled sales have been adjusted for their differences (compared to the subject property) the 3 to 4 settled sales provide a range of value in which the appraiser then determines the market value from this range. The pending/active properties in the report then typically provide support for that choice.

It is the appraiser’s responsibility to adequately research the local real estate market and determine which comparable sales best represent the value characteristics of the subject property.

Current guidelines require a report to be in UAD form. To improve the quality and consistency of appraisal data for loans delivered to the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at the direction of
the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), developed the Uniform Appraisal Dataset(UAD), which defines all fields required for an appraisal submission for specific appraisal forms and standardizes definitions and responses for fields within the report. An appraisal report in UAD causes some confusion to the reader of the report because of areas on the report that are coded for a computer to extract information. If any questions arise feel free to call your appraiser for clarification. Our office does a multitude of reports for the Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, Cecil County, Carroll County, Anne Arundel County and Howard County areas. Robinson Appraisal Group will be more than willing to answer any questions or provide explanation for any report performed by one of out staff appraisers.

The main responsibility of an appraiser is to provide an unbiased, comprehensive and expert opinion about a specific market value for real property. Regardless of whether you decide to sell, refinance, settle an estate or you are just curious about your home’s current value let us help to inform you on the most important transactions in your life!

Fannie Mae Guidelines for the Appraiser

Fannie Mae Guidelines for the Appraiser

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is a Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), which means it is backed by the government but they are not part of the government. Fannie Mae does not directly offer mortgage loans but instead buy the mortgages from banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions so that they, in turn, can lend to more homeowners. Fannie Mae holds the lender responsible for the accuracy of both the appraisal and its assessment of the marketability of the property. It is imperative for a lender’s underwriters to understand the appraisal process and their relationship to the appraiser.

fannie-maeSome of the Fannie Mae guidelines we would like to cover in this article are the areas regarding the subject verses the comparable properties. Comparable selection will determine the market value and typically this is the area in which most lenders and/or clients need clarification or additional items need to be addressed.

In an ideal world an appraiser would have comparables within the same neighborhood of the same style, square footage, age, lot size, updates/upgrades, exterior amenities, bedrooms/bathroom count, condition and quality of construction. Unfortunately, this NEVER happens. So, upon comparable selection an appraiser chooses properties that are the most reflective of the subject property while also conforming to the wide array of lender and/or Fannie Mae guidelines. These guidelines may have an impact on the appraised value. The following are some of the areas addressed in a report.

– Settled Dates

  •  Fannie Mae, lenders and/or clients prefer the selection of 2 properties that have settled within the past 90 days.
  • Older comparable sales that are the best indicator of value for the subject property can be used if appropriate.
  • Comparable sales that are more than six months old must be must be accompanied by an appraiser explanation for use.
  • A minimum of 3 comparable sales that have been settled or closed within the last 12 months must be reported as part of the sales comparison approach to value.

– Distance

  • Comparables within one mile are typically the standard for lenders and/or Fannie Mae.
  • This is typically achieved in a populated suburban or urban area during a season of typical turnover.
  • Problems with this guideline occur when and the property is located in a rural area.
  • Rural properties often have large lot sizes and rural locations can be relatively undeveloped; therefore, there may be a shortage (or absence) of recent truly comparable sales in the immediate vicinity of a subject property that is in a rural location.
  • Comparable sales located a considerable distance from the subject property can be used if they represent the best indicator of value for the subject property.
  • The appraisal must include an explanation of why the particular comparables were selected. Other factors for the lack of comparable properties within a mile are square footage of dwelling, updates/upgrades, style, bedroom/bathroom count, finished basement and presence of an in ground pool are just a few reasons this one mile stipulation would need to be expanded and commented on in the report.

– Land Value exceeding 30% of market value

  •  The site value is typically required in an appraisal report, with or without the cost approach being included.
  • If this land to market value percentage/ratio exceeds 30% a comment is warranted. This is often the situation on large parcels of land or water front lots.

– Bracketing

In selecting comparables Fannie Mae, clients and/or lender would prefer the of use the bracketing method. Bracketing is a method of using at least one comparable superior and one inferior to the subject. It is preferred to use as many bracketed items as possible:

  •  Unadjusted Sale Price
  •  Adjusted Sale Price
  •  Gross Living Area (GLA)
  •  Lot Size
  •  Adjusted Sale Price
  •  Ground Rents
  •  Other Major Physical Characteristics

– Gross Living Area (GLA) Square Footage

  • Comparables within 20% of the subject are preferred. Anything beyond that typically warrants additional commentary.
  • Differences less than 100 square feet are not usually adjusted.

– Bedroom Count

  • Similar bedroom count is most appropriate.
  • Typically, at least two comps should have same bedroom count.
  •  One more or fewer bedroom is ordinarily acceptable for 3+ bedroom homes.
  • Two bedroom homes being appraised should have one or more two-bedroom comparables.
  • Three and four bedroom homes can usually be compared with appropriate commentary and availability in the market.

– Predominant Value

  • The appraiser must indicate the price range and predominant price of properties in the subject neighborhood.
  • The price range must reflect high and low prevailing prices for the property type being appraised.Isolated high and low extremes should be excluded from the range, which means that the predominant price will be that which is the most common or most frequently found in the neighborhood.
  • The appraiser may state the predominant price as a single figure or as a range, if more appropriate.
  • When the value of the subject property is significantly different than the noted predominant value of the neighborhood, the appraiser must explain why the value is outside the range and comment on the marketability of the property.

– Homes of Different Styles

  • The appraiser is required to state the architectural Design/Style of the subject and comparables.
  •  Design descriptions include colonial, cape cod, split level, split foyer, contemporary, etc.
  •  Fannie Mae and/or the lender require the appraiser to provide at least one closed sale that has the same (or similar) design style as the subject, even if it is necessary to extend the search parameters(in time or distance).
  • If absolutely no such closed sale is available, even after extending standard search parameters, specific commentary MUST be provided describing the research efforts and search parameters.

-Seller Concessions

  • Comparable sales that include sales or financing concessions must be adjusted to reflect the impact, if any, on the sales price of the comparables based on the market at the time of sale.
  • Particular attention must be paid to sales or financing concessions in markets that are experiencing declining property values, an oversupply of properties, or marketing times over six months.


  • Most lenders have guidelines wanting appraisers to stay within a one-mile radius, but there is actually no official “one-mile rule” from Fannie Mae.
  • Urban areas (densely populated) typically have comparables within 1 mile.
  • Rural areas where there are minimal settled sales area available there is no distance rule.
  • Comments and explanations of market areas are typically required if the distance to the subject exceeds 1 mile in an urban area and 5 miles in a rural area.
  • Distance is irrelevant if it takes distance to create a credible appraisal.

There are Fannie Mae and/or lender requirements for each field in an appraisal report to include accuracy, knowledge of the area, determining highest and best use, zoning restrictions, compliance, subject property analysis, comparable property analysis, eligibility criteria, conformity and environmental issues are just a handful of areas that need to be addressed in an appraisal report.

FHA loans differ from Fannie Mae. FHA loans are issued by federally qualified lenders and insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA loans are designed for low to moderate income borrowers who are unable to make a large down payment. FHA and Fannie Mae each have their own set of guidelines possibly resulting in varying values.

Additional data and/or requirements for appraisers, lenders, underwriters, mortgage requirements, liability assessments and eligibility requirements can be found at and  Various data from both sites was used in this report regarding appraisal guidelines.

Lender Letter 2/2015

Become an Appraiser in Maryland

How does someone become an Appraiser in Maryland? To become a real property appraiser, you will need to obtain education and experience, then pass a state-administered licensing or certification exam. One of the best ways to gain experience is to … read more