What is the best price for a piece of real estate? Mortgage
lenders, appraisers, and real estate brokers use what is called the "fair
market value" (FMV). FMV has been defined as "the price that a buyer
is willing to pay and the seller is willing to accept, when both parties are
knowledgeable about the property and neither is under any time pressure to buy
or sell". Sounds great, but how is this price determined?
The starting point for determining a fair price may be an opinion of the value or "comparative market analysis". Such an analysis uses information on similar properties which are: 1) currently for sale, 2) already sold, or 3) expired properties (those which did not sell). Local, national and international trends and market conditions must also be evaluated.
By comparing similar properties in each of the three categories and the market conditions, appraisers, lenders and agents come very close to the maximum price that buyers would be willing to pay for a house.
Many sellers think that the price of their home is determined
solely by what they are willing to accept and what the buyer is willing to pay.
However, there is one more variable that can affect the sale of a home assuming
that a bank loan is involved -- the lender's appraisal.
To protect the interest of their investors, the buyer's mortgage lender hires a licensed appraiser to give an independent, objective opinion of what the property is worth. The appraiser compares the house with similar homes in the neighborhood that have recently sold. Square footage, amenities and the condition of the home are taken into account. Renovations and home improvements made by the seller usually add value to the home, while defects such as needed repairs or code violations decrease the property's value. The seller's real estate agent can provide the appraiser with up-to-date information about neighboring homes that have sold to support the seller's asking price.
Before your mortgage application is approved, the lender will
order a professional appraisal of the home to make sure that the agreed-upon
selling price is justifiable based on the current market value of the property.
The cost of the appraisal will be based on the complexity of the appraisal
report and the time required to complete it.
A professional appraiser will choose the appraisal technique that is applicable to the particular property to arrive at an unbiased opinion of value. One approach is to look at comparable homes in the area that have sold within the last six months. If there are a number of similar properties that have sold recently, the appraiser's job is easy. It is more complicated to arrive at the appraised value if your home is located in a rural area or a diverse neighborhood.
The appraised value will usually be very close to the sale price. If the appraisal comes in lower, the real estate agent may be able to provide the appraisers with additional information on recent sales which will result in increased value.
Refinancing Your Home
Interest rates fluctuate as changes occur in the general economy.
If you purchased your home when interest rates were higher, you may want to
consider re-financing your loan at a lower rate.
You will have to apply for the new mortgage and have your current income eligibility assessed. Depending on how long you have had your present loan, a current appraisal may be required. There are closing costs, such as attorney, title fees, recording and notary fees, and appraisal charges. The biggest factor in your decision should be the length of time you plan to remain in your home. If you will be there for only a year or two more, it might not pay to re-finance. If you will be in your home longer, re-financing could provide you with lower mortgage payments. Your real estate agent can help you work out the numbers and can refer you to reputable home appraisers and mortgage lenders.
The Language of Real Estate Agents
Technical terms can be confusing to people who do not work in a
profession, and real estate agents use language that may be confusing to many
home buyers and sellers.
If you find your eyes glazing over when your real estate agent starts talking about escrow, clear title, easements, encroachments, contingencies, financing, appraisals and the closing process, don't hesitate to ask for a translation. Buying or selling a home is a major step, and professional real estate agents are totally committed to helping you understand the process thoroughly so that you can make informed decisions.
The simple transaction of trading the sellers' house for the buyers' money has become complicated by several hundred years of custom, common law, and state and local government requirements. Consumer demands have resulted in up-to-date rules that communication be as clear and understandable as possible. Real estate agents work to create an atmosphere in which you feel comfortable to ask questions.
When you buy a house or refinance your present home, your lender
will ask you to pay for an appraisal to help ensure that the sales price and
mortgage amount is consistent with the property's market value. The appraiser
will look for "three caballeros" or three "comparables" --
homes that are very similar to the one you are buying -- and will make adjustments
to reflect the differences between the properties.
Housing patterns tend to be homogenous, meaning that homes worth $300,000 are usually located in $300,000 neighborhoods. It is important for properties to be within the general pricing patterns of their neighborhoods because over-valued homes, even if they are exceptional, are sometimes difficult to sell at full market price.
This is not the only factor considered in determining the worth of a property, but it is an important one. The buyer or seller may view the property as a home or an investment, but lenders view it in a completely different way. To a lender, property means security in the event a borrower fails to repay a mortgage. Therefore, lenders must know real estate values in order to limit their risks.
Working With A Real Estate Agent
It is not unusual for homeowners to yield to the temptation to try
to sell their own home. It seems easy enough--just place an ad in the weekend
paper and wait for buyers to show up. Although it may seem simple, real estate
sales transactions are extremely complex proceedings.
The first pitfall can come with pricing your property realistically. Homeowners often price their property too high initially, then drastically slash the price when weeks go buy without an offer. Even if a prospective buyer agrees to the initial asking price, there could be complications if the buyers begin to feel that they have agreed to pay too much, or if the lender's appraisal values the property at far less than the agreed-upon price. Some clients hire agents to market their home professionally after weeks or months of trying to sell their own home without success, or after their FSBO transaction fell through.
Working With Appraisers
After the buyer and seller come to a "meeting of the
minds" on the price of a house, there is one more person who must be
convinced that the house is worth the selling price--the mortgage company's
The appraiser looks for three similar houses that have sold in the same area within the last several months, and compares the selling prices of these homes with the one that is now on the market. The appraiser makes adjustments to account for the differences in each property, and averages the adjusted prices of the other three homes to arrive at a final opinion of value. In subdivisions or condominium projects where there are many similar properties and numerous recent sales, the appraiser's job is relatively easy. In neighborhoods of older homes that have been renovated or remodeled over the years, it can be like comparing apples and oranges.
If the appraiser's evaluation is lower than the selling price, it can stall the transaction because the lender may decline the buyer's loan because of the discrepancy. A real estate agent can work to minimize potential delays associated with the appraisal process by helping the seller to price the home as close to fair market value as possible.