Tag: real estate appraisal

Baltimore Trends and the Outlook for 2019

Buyers and sellers are in for another nail biting year of making predictions regarding the Baltimore metropolitan market. There seems to be a slightly harder road ahead than last year due to the future of the Federal Fund Rate. Interest rates are projected to rise from its current 5% to 5.5% by the end of 2019. The rate hike will be based on data from the overall economy growth. If the economy does not move forward with the growth as expected, the hikes will likely be delayed.

The Baltimore market is projected to have slightly more inventory with an overall 2% increase in housing prices in 2019.. so on the horizon there will be more inventory, higher prices and a raise in rates. This combination is making it more difficult for the first time home buyer to secure a home. Millennials make up the largest demographic of new home buyers which will be heading into a year where home-ownership looks to be a little tougher than the past few years.

There are other factors coming into play this next year on a national level that is new territory for all of us. The tax bill that was passed at the end of 2017 was in effect for the full year of 2018. This reform is new so the outcome is unknown of the positive or negative effects on the 2019 economy. The reform includes changes in standard deductions for married couples and for singles: you’ll need to take a close look at that this year to be sure you will still be itemizing because the standard deduction is much higher. There is also a limited tax advantage on mortgages: mortgage interest is still deductible, at least in principle (pun intended), for the vast majority of homeowners. However, whether they actually receive that deduction or not will depend on a multitude of other factors. This is yet another scenario in the economy that a simple answer does not apply.

On a more local level, the economy of the Baltimore Metropolitan area (in part) will soon feel the benefits of the recent decision of the new Amazon Headquarters in northern Virginia. The second Amazon headquarters is going to go by “HQ2.” The company says that this won’t be a satellite facility, but rather an equal to its current headquarters in Seattle, Wash. It also notes that it will be investing $5 billion into its creation. Located approximately 30 miles outside of Washington DC, Loudoun County is part of a burgeoning tech corridor. The employees would live in Loudoun County or commute from one of the surrounding counties, Maryland (directly to the north), or West Virginia (due west). So with the influx of jobs and the need for housing the opportunities for an economic boost for the Baltimore area looks to be quite positive.

The economy is multi-faceted, multi layered, temperamental and always changing; home prices follow this trend. Robinson Appraisal Group can offer you their services on determining the value of your home in an ever-changing climate. We offer home appraisal services in Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, Howard County, Carroll County, Anne Arundel County and Cecil County.

An Estate Sale and the Appraisal Process

After 25 years of appraising properties Baltimore Metropolitan area I have seen my fair share of estate sales. But what is an estate sale? An estate sale means a person has died and the party/parties that inherited the property are selling it.  Estate properties usually are priced well to reflect that fact that they need work. Another  possible issue is that if there are multiple parties involved, they may not always agree on what price or terms they’ll accept and there may be delays  due to the need to negotiate among each other, though hopefully that is not the case.

As an appraiser there are multiple ways to appraise a property that belongs to an estate. One method is the traditional appraisal process of determining the most recent and appropriate comparables in the market area surrounding the property.

Many times we are asked to evlauate the property’s value as of the date of death of the deceased owner(s). This is typically a private appraisal for an attorney or for one of the parties who will be part of the estate looking for the market value. When establishing the value on the date of death  the sales comparables must have occurred prior to the date of passing, so if I was doing an appraisal on a house where the  deceased passed 12 months ago, the sales would had to have sold prior to that date, say 13 or 14 months ago. You cannot use sales that occurred after the date of passing: this is called a retroactive appraisal.

The appraiser can not be biased or allow recent circumstances in the market to affect the value after the retroactive date…say the market plummets or prices have increased substantially due to high demand… the estate appraisal should reflect what the market was on the date of the passing, not anytime after.

A big part of maximizing what you leave behind is minimizing taxes. Federal taxes on gifts and estates can be among the highest assessed on any financial transaction. In addition, some states levy their own estate or inheritance taxes.

An appraiser,  an attorney and a tax advisor can aid in the process of estate issues. As an appraisal company we can provide one of the services needed in regards to your estate and real estate valuation.  Robinson Appraisal Group covers the areas of Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, Cecil County, Carroll County, Anne Arundel County and Howard County. Having a professional appraisal gives the parties involved a reputable report to work with in meeting IRS and state agency requirements. It would be our pleasure to work with you during this arduous process.

Interest rates are the highest in the past 7 years!!!

Interest rates for buyers with good credit or credit worthiness for a 30 year loan is approximately 4.875% while average buyers fall around 5%. A hike in rates have been talked about since last year with minimal increases until recently. Mortgage rates started around 4% at the beginning of 2018 and have seen a steady increase. With the positive retail sales data and the rising home costs due to low inventory in some of the major markets the interest rate hike is not a complete surprise.
Typically a rise in rates will slow down the rise of prices in this high demand/low inventory market but the demand of today’s buyer has not been derailed by the spike in interest rates thus far. We have had years of low interest rates, now with mortgage rates creeping up to 5% and gas prices rising a correction is looming for the typical buyer.
Borrowers that refinance their current loans make up a smaller portion of the mortgage business than at any time in the past two decades, which poses a challenge for lenders who already fear higher interest rates and climbing home prices could potentially stunt purchase activity.
In a January statement, Fed officials said they expected annual inflation to “move up this year and to stabilize” around the US central bank’s target inflation rate of 2%. The Fed has forecast three rate increases in 2018.
According to local real estate agents the Harford County real estate market is a bit more competitive than Baltimore and Cecil County markets. Properly priced properties typically sell within days of being listed many with multiple offers. This seller’s market may come to a screeching halt with interest rates beyond 5%, so if you are looking to buy or sell, keep an eye on trends and rates. An appraisal can help you make a decision to buy or sell in this ever changing market. Please contact Robinson Appraisal Group for any help you may need in your valuation process.

Will Appraiser Qualifications Change in 2018?

As appraisers are dropping out and retiring from the appraisal field due to strict guidelines on qualifications and education requirements the AQB (Appraiser Qualifications Board) has been rethinking the current set of standards applied to Licensed and Certified Appraisers. The … Read More..

Enhanced Property Inspection Waiver

Fannie Mae has a new automated underwriting system called the “enhanced property inspection waiver” program. Fannie Mae’s no appraisal offer applies to refinance loans on single family homes or condos up to $1 million and Fannie Mae must have a physical appraisal for the same property with the same borrower in its database.

So where is the data or valuation coming from? Oddly enough it is our own reports that we send in through the Uniform Collateral Data Portal. This is a database where lenders enter appraisals for mortgages submitted to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; this was implemented just over 4 years ago. Imagine the large pool of data gathered by appraisers fed into this database that can now be used for developing automated appraisals. It is unnerving to think our industry has required us to give information to aid in our own possible extinction.

An argument is made to the effect that an additional program was needed to expedite the appraisal process due to the lack of appraisers in the industry and turn around time on reports are longer than expected. There are less appraisers in the workplace due to a large amount of appraisers hitting the retirement age and the minimal influx of new appraisers coming into the industry. This minimal influx is mainly due to current license and/or certification requirements. The Appraisal
Institute noted that the number of active appraisers has fallen approximately 9% since 2012 and expected a continuation in decline in the future. There has been lobbying toward the Appraiser Qualifications Board for a reduction on some of its college level education requirements in an effort to attract more people to the field.

Under the “enhanced property inspection waiver” program the loan applications that come through its automated underwriting system could increase to 10% for qualifying loans: formerly this was 3%.

This new program would be for “limited cash-out refis”. Fannie Mae’s director of credit risk, Zach Dawson, estimates that 25% of limited-cash-out refis could qualify for the new program. Loan amounts vary by region and the loan- to- value ratio cannot exceed certain limits.

As an appraiser in the field everyday I realize the importance of entering into a home and seeing with my own eyes the condition, the improvements, the deferred maintenance, working systems, presence of mold and/or recent dampness within a property. These are just a few items that could never be seen by dated data that was entered through an electronic portal years ago.

Everything is not always black and white or cookie cutter. Homes are like people, no two homes could ever be the exact same. Our current world is driven by technology without the need for interpersonal skills being admired or even needed due to programs assembling the most advantageous bottom dollar for big business. As appraisers we collectively enter and report on billions of dollars worth of of “big business” property, we state our findings, give valuations and provide support for the structure and integrity of this industry. Replacing our inspections/appraisals with a streamline program in an effort to save a few hundred dollars in a multi-billion industry in my opinion is like shooting yourself in the foot….you may inadvertently undermine your own interests.

Fannie Mae Easing their Standards

LOAN NOT APPROVED! This is the last thing a potential buyer wants to hear from a bank when trying to purchase a home, but now with Fannie Mae easing the financial standards of the debt to income (DTI) ratio. The DTI will be raised from 45% to 50% on July 29. What determines your DTI ratio? DTI is a ratio that compares your gross monthly income to your monthly payment on all of debt accounts. Included in this is your monthly credit card bills, auto loan payment, student loan payments, etc., and the monthly projected payments on the new mortgage. A $6,000 household monthly income and $2,500 in monthly debt payments, your DTI is 42 percent. Lenders use this ratio to evaluate your current debt load and to see how much you can responsibly afford to borrow. Less debt equals more borrowing power.  If you are loaded down with monthly debts, you’re at a higher risk of falling behind on your mortgage payments…this is not rocket science.

Researching data that spanned nearly 15 years, Fannie Mae’s researchers analyzed borrowers with DTIs in the 45 percent to 50 percent range and found that a significant number of them actually have decent credit and are unlikely to default on their home loans. Significant enough to raise the ceiling and stick their neck out just a little bit more for buyers. Lenders are excited about the policy change giving those buyers just over the 45% threshold a chance in the marketplace. All applicants still need to jump through the multitude of hurdles when it comes to Fannie Mae’s underwriting criteria. The criteria entails down payment, credit history, income, loan-to-value ratio and a mountain of other financial criteria.

The largest population rejected because of high DTI ratios are the Millennials, who often stretch to pay their rent early in their careers. Millennials are the generation born between 1980-2000, which means that the bulk of Millennials are entering the prime home-buying age. They are a new targeted demographic with a lot of marketing being angled toward them in an attempt to attain their buying power: could this expanded ratio correlate with the Millennial?

Millennials are the demographic group helping Baltimore City gain population for the first time in a half century. Harford County is having a more difficult time attracting this market sector: Millennials are looking for mixed use communities, transportation, dining and shopping opportunities. Baltimore County also has tried to cater their communities around this sector of the population.

Regardless of what age or demographic you may lie in, Fannie Mae may not be your only option if your DTI is above 45% or even 50%. As of 2016 FHA (Federal Housing Administration) guidelines maximum debt to income ratio of approximately 55% with compensating factors. FHA does have a major drawback, it requires the borrower to keep paying mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan, well after the risk of financial loss to FHA has disappeared.

Having a hefty amount of debt, whether it be from student loans or shopping sprees, may not deter you from being a homeowner with the added help of Fannie Mae increasing the DTI ratio. With the decision of easing the financial standards of the DTI ratio to increase a broader base of buyers I hope it comes with an increased amount of caution for the future of the housing market. As an appraiser for properties in Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Harford County, Howard County, Cecil County, Carroll County and Howard County during the housing crash when the easing of requirements regarding lending money did not bode well I remain watchful on the recent decision for the broadening DTI. The housing market crash, which started in 2007 should be a constant reminder and lesson for the easing of standards and what sort of repercussions it could bring.

Listing Shortage!!!

Already this year we have seen a shortage in the supply of homes on the market. With the beginning of the spring season upon us buyers are waiting with bated breath ready to pounce on the purchase of their new home. Comparing active listings from last March (2016) to this March (2017) in the Baltimore Metro Area housing market (which includes the City of Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County) the results are undeniable. The number of active listings declined by 15.8% to 9,453, the 19th consecutive month of declining year-over-year inventory levels and the lowest March levels in a decade.

Although this listing shortage seems to be problematic for buyers, there is an upside for the sellers. The basics of supply and demand states that when the demand for real estate is high, prices rise. When the number of available properties increases, prices usually drop. With anxious buyers waiting in the winds, a beneficial opportunity presents itself for the sellers.

With a shortage of homes in the market the homes typically spend less time on the open market with sellers receiving quick  offers close to the list price and some even higher to ensure the offer is accepted. The average percentage of original list price received at sale in March was 95.1%, the highest March level in a decade, exceeding the previous high set in March 2014 and 2013 of 93.2%. The median days-on-market was 42 days, down from 63 days last year, and at the lowest level in a decade.

Due to listing shortage, the homes that are available on the market are getting scooped up. Sales across the Baltimore Metro area was up 21.7% from last year to $923.8 million. March closed sales of 3,288 were up 16.8% compared to last year and set a record high for the decade.

This data was compiled by the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data in MarketStats by ShowingTime’s database based on listing activity from MRIS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.).The Baltimore Metro Area housing market includes the City of Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County in Maryland.

Low inventory, a strong demand for homes and springtime are a wonderful combination for a seller’s market. This is coupled with the fact the homes are typically on the market for less time than past years and the increase in sales makes this one of the best times to sell…in almost a decade! Listing inventory has not been this low in the peak spring season in quite a long time, if you are a seller or thinking about selling, this may be the best time to put your home on the market.

Interest rates, global events, inflation and tax reform are just a few economic variables that could help or hinder the future of the real estate market. The real estate market is constantly changing but the current storm of circumstances puts the seller in an advantageous position, one that may not last very long.

The New Home Dilemma

Buying new construction has decision making every step of the way…what floor plan to choose, what options, what trends will last and should I wait and upgrade that myself rather than paying the builder such a premium? From an appraisal perspective the viewpoint is a bit different: our job is to prove that the price of the newly constructed home is supported by the neighborhood and area. The largest hurdle in appraising a newly constructed property is when the dwelling is the smallest in the neighborhood with the most amount of upgrades. Typically there is an average amount of options the typical purchaser chooses within the dwelling (upgraded cabinets, flooring, sunroom, luxury master bathroom, etc.) and then there are the buyers that want ever bell, whistle and customization that the model home has and then some. Couple the vast amount (and large price tag) for all of these options and the fact it is within the smallest floor plan available….this is not a good combination. A property like this one runs the risk of being over improved for the neighborhood and has a good probability of having difficulty with the appraisal. The contract price needs to be supported by other homes of similar design and SIZE with the presence of upgrades: keep in mind that not all upgrades will give you a return on your investment. There is a ceiling to the amount of upgrades that the typical buyer will pay, diminishing returns is how we express that there will be a limited return on the additional improvement cost beyond what is typical. As the upgrades go beyond the typical amount the return on the added investment will continue to decline.

 

So, keep in mind, don’t over-customize. Of course, new home buyers want their homes to reflect their personal style and taste. But, it’s important to consider the resale value, as well. While it’s important to make your house satisfy your needs and tastes, just realize not all upgrades will give you a return on your investment.

 

Some features that are good investments are upgrades that will make your kitchen the star of the show. These upgrades include: large center islands with seating and storage, under counter lighting, backsplash, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops (though these have now become standard in many new kitchens).  Another suggestion from an appraisal standpoint is you can never go wrong by adding square footage: it is more effective to pay the builder to make the home larger (bump outs, sun room or great room) while the property is being erected verses being remorseful at a later date wishing you had that extra square footage.

 

Industry experts suggest not putting your upgrade dollars toward these options: specialty driveways, high-end plumbing features and jetted soaking tubs. Cosmetic features in particular, such as paint, landscaping, lighting fixtures, epoxy garage flooring, crown molding, chair rails, window treatments and even certain appliance upgrades can often be made after the closing, particularly by homeowners who have a budget.

 

Remember that the model home you fell in love with may have thousands of dollars of options and that the base home may look very different. With so many upgrades and options available, it’s hard to stay focused on building your dream home. Stay on track to satisfy your needs and tastes but remember a lot of the upgrades can be added to your home after it is purchased. This delayed gratification could be good for your budget and your overall future return on your investment.