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There is nothing better than getting a home under contract, right?
You’ve worked hard to get photos done and make sure the property is presented well. You’ve had the showings (sometimes causing your sellers to leave the property multiple times). You’ve received an offer (or maybe multiple offers). And you have helped your clients weigh their options and agree to a contract.
And now everyone is excited to get to closing…
… until the appraiser kills the deal with a low appraisal!
Has this ever happened to you before?
If not, it’s just a matter of time until it does.
But, a low appraisal doesn’t have to be a deal killer.
You can fight the appraisal to try and get the value increased (assuming that there is good data to support the price you are fighting for), but you have to do it the right way.
In this post, I am going to show you 4 ways to fight a low appraisal – in order from most likely to work to least likely to work.
The best part is these methods, if done the right way, will not only benefit you as the agent, they also make the reconsideration process easier on the appraiser, therefore making it more likely for them to consider the request.
In the appraisal, the process of presenting additional data – usually additional comparables – for consideration by the appraiser, with the goal of changing the appraisal opinion of value is called a reconsideration of value request (ROV).
As an appraiser myself, I can tell you that seeing an ROV request pop up in my email is my absolute least favorite thing to see.
Why is that?
Generally speaking, the additional data that is presented is not very good.
Usually, additional properties are being presented to me that are not actually comparables.
Usually, the only reason they are being presented is that they are higher priced.
And the fact that they are a higher price does not mean that they are comparable that should be considered.
The problem for myself – or any appraiser – is that when this data is presented by a lender, we are required to consider it and at a minimum comment on the properties in an addendum to the appraisal report.
The reason I hate seeing these pop up in my email is that I know that it’s going to be a time-consuming process for me. I have to research the properties, identify what adjustments they would need, calculate their adjusted values, and determine whether or not they should be added to the report.
Then I have to add them to the report, or at least add comments to the report as to why they were not added. I also have to go through the process of signing, exporting, and uploading the report back to the lender.
And like I said above, most times it makes zero difference in the appraised value.
The whole process can take an hour or more – sometimes multiple hours if a lot of properties are presented.
The most I have ever been presented on a single property was 20.
Yeah, you read that right. 20 additional comparables.
It took me over 3 hours to analyze them all and complete an ROV addendum. And guess what? None of them turned out to be better comparables, and it made no difference on the value of the appraisal.
Oh, and to make it worse the whole process has to happen fast.
Generally, most lenders want an ROV completed within 24 hours from the time they request it.
And that’s not free time any busy appraiser has room for in their daily schedule.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way…
There are two factors to consider in my explanation from above that will make it far more likely for an ROV to actually have an impact on the value of the appraisal.
First, the best way to get properties considered is to present them in a way that makes it easy on the appraiser.
Even though appraisers are required to complete an ROV request, some appraisers – hopefully not many, but definitely some – will just respond saying that the properties presented were not good comparables just because they don’t want to take the time – or they don’t have the time – to do the analysis required to include any of the properties you presented.
You can solve this issue by presenting properties to the appraiser in a grid format with adjustments made so that it makes it extremely quick and easy for the appraiser.
I know you are thinking, “Jeff, why should I do their job for them?”
The reason you should do it is that you want a certain outcome right? The easier you make it on the appraiser for you to achieve that outcome, the more likely it is to happen.
Second, you need to present good data to the appraiser.
Regardless of if you are presenting new properties, or if you are presenting new data for adjustments – or a combination of both – you need to make sure it is high quality. It needs to be better than what was already used in the report.
Too often the data that is presented to appraisers is low quality, and once compared to what was already used in the report, it is clear to see that it should not be added.
If you want a better chance of fighting a low appraisal, you need to make sure you present good data.
In the rest of this post, I am going to show you four different approaches you can take, and show you the pros and cons of each.
The easiest thing to fight in a low appraisal is if there are factual errors in the report.
This would include items like the appraisal report listing the wrong square footage, price, contract date, garage count, etc. for either the subject property or a comparable property, and the resulting adjustments causing an incorrect result to the value.
This is the easiest thing to fight as errors to the report are required to be corrected.
Even though most appraisers review their reports before submitting them, and additionally most appraisal reports are reviewed by an appraisal management company, there are times that errors are made and they are not caught before the report may make it to you.
While this method is unlikely to result in massive price changes, it is the easiest method to use if the value comes in slightly low and can be overcome with corrections to the errors.
This method should work 100% of the time, as pointing out the errors to the lender should result in a required revision by the appraiser.
The second easiest way to fight a low appraisal is to present new comparables for consideration that result in a better outcome while still using the adjustments that the appraiser originally used.
The key to presenting comparables like this is to find comparable properties that once adjusted results in a positive benefit for you, while also resulting in lower – or similar – gross adjustments than the comparables used in the original report.
Many times agents present comparables to appraisers that may result in a higher price, but, they also require significant adjustments, are from long ago, are much further away, or are much less similar overall homes.
In this case, it is highly likely that the appraiser will not add these comparables as they are not better than the comparables that they deemed to be appropriate in their original report.
It’s also important to note that I said to present comparables that once adjusted with the original adjustments used by the appraiser result in a better outcome.
The reason this is important is because you are not questioning the adjustments the appraiser used. You are just showing that there are better comparables that should have been used with their analysis.
How do you know if the home is a better comparable?
If the subject property is a 2-story design home with 2,500 sq ft of living space and a 3 car garage, and all the comparables used in the report were the same, it is unlikely that a ranch design home with a 2 car garage could be considered to be a better comparable.
There are rare times that it may be, but generally speaking, it’s not.
Just take a look at the properties used in the report, and the property(s) you are considering presenting. Would the typical buyer think that the ones you have are more similar?
If so, they may be worth digging into a bit more.
If not, even if they would support the price, they are most likely not a better comparable, and therefore are unlikely to be considered by an appraiser.
Once you have properties that are felt to be better comparables – or at the very least equal comparables – than the properties used in the appraisal, you need to make adjustments to them and see how they compare.
As mentioned above, the key in this method is to use the appraisers’ adjustments.
Once adjusted there are two things you are looking for:
If you can’t answer yes to both of these questions, it is not a good comparable to present.
If you can answer yes to both, go ahead and submit that property for consideration, with the adjustments made so that the appraiser can easily see that it is a good comparable.
Repeat this process for any properties you think may be good comparables.
It’s important to remember that comps being added to the report don’t directly change the value to the adjusted price of those comps.
What does that mean?
Let’s say the original opinion of value was $350,000 and you present two additional properties – both of which require lower adjustments and result in adjusted prices of $377,000 and $380,000 respectively.
Assuming the appraiser adds these comps to the appraisal unless they are massively better than the original appraisal, they will be given a portion of the weight in their reconciliation, and will result in the value increasing some, but likely not to the full value of these properties.
If they are way better, it is possible that the appraiser would give them a majority of the weight and come up to their value, but this would be rare as this would be a pretty bad look for the appraiser.
In this method for challenging an appraisal, you are saying that you believe the appraiser used the correct comparables, but the adjustments they used were incorrect.
Maybe they made too large of adjustments for certain features. Maybe they made too small of adjustments for others or completely neglected some adjustments altogether.
This method is a bit more challenging than the first two methods, as you are essentially saying that you feel the analysis done by the appraiser is incorrect.
Even if it is a valid belief that the adjustments used were incorrect, it can be pretty hard to fight the adjustments used by the appraiser.
Many times this method might be more useful in a request to the lender to try to get them to throw out the current appraisal and order a new one.
Note: This is not always possible, so talk to your lender in this scenario to see what is possible.
For this method to have any chance to work, you would need to be able to prove to the lender without a doubt that the adjustments used by the appraiser were unreasonable.
If you are using a tool like PropertyBrain it is possible that you are able to calculate much more accurate adjustments than were used in the original appraisal (this is due to the fact that many appraisers don’t use a statistical analysis tool to determine their adjustments – at least not yet).
This method won’t work a majority of the time, but in some situations, it may be your only hope.
That being said, if you are unable to prove to the lender that the adjustments were unreasonable, your chances of getting the original appraisal thrown out are nearly zero.
This is why you need to do a full analysis of the property, the market, and the comparables for this method to have any chance.
As mentioned with method #3, this method can be challenging, and should only be used as a last resort.
In this method, you are trying to prove that both the comparables used by the appraiser, as well as the adjustments used were faulty.
To use this method you would want to run an analysis of the market and comparable properties with a tool like PropertyBrain, choose the best possible comparables that will result in the lowest gross adjustments, and make all adjustments to these comparables based upon statistically supported adjusted values.
If the resulting opinion of value determined from this analysis would support the contract price, you can provide this analysis to the lender with a request to have your comparables and adjustments reviewed by the appraiser, or as a request to have the lender throw out the original appraisal and order a new appraisal.
Remember, a new appraisal cannot be ordered in all cases, so this method has limited times that it can be used.
Just because an appraisal does not come in at the contract price does not necessarily mean that it is incorrect.
However, there are cases where a low appraisal value can – and should be – fought to try to get the appraised value increased.
In those cases, we recommend that you use one of the four methods outlined in this post.
Ideally, method #1 or method #2 would be used as they are the most likely to actually result in an ROV request that results in an increased opinion of value.
If neither of these methods can be used you can try to use method #3 or method #4 to either fight the appraisal or request a new appraisal if the lender is able and willing to order one.
But the key to any of these methods is to have good quality data, analyzed through a quality statistical analysis, to make sure that the comparables that are being presented to the appraiser (and any adjustments being used if different from the appraiser‘s original adjustments) are statistically supported and backed by the market data.
And most importantly, you have to do all your communication with the lender as the intermediary, or else the appraiser will not be able to fulfill the request.
Hopefully the next time you get a low appraisal you will be able to use one of these methods to fight it, so that you can get the result you are hoping for, while making the interaction good for everyone involved… even the appraiser.