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Home appraisal’s ugly history and uncertain future

This is Part I of a deep dive into the home appraisal industry. Today we explore the origins of the appraisal industry and its current lack of diversity.

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Real Estate

Average home sale price hits all-time record

Homes averaging $331,590, per study

The median home sale price increased 16% year-over-year to $331,590 – an all-time high, per a report this week from Redfin. But that’s not stopping buyers from snatching up homes days after they’re listed.

During a four-week period ending March 21 and covering 400 metros, 58% of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within the first two weeks on the market. And between March 14 and March 21, 61% of homes sold in that timeframe had been on the market two weeks or less, and 48% had sold in one week or less.

And offers are coming in well-above asking price, too. Nearly 40% of homes sold above their list price – another all-time high – and 15 percentage points higher year-over-year. The average sale-to-list price ratio, which measures how close homes are selling to their asking prices, increased to 100.2%.

This is concerning for experts, though, many of whom believe home prices will remain high even after mortgage rates, inventory, and building material costs recover to pre-pandemic levels. Rates are already above 3% – after falling into the 2% range during the majority of 2020 – but construction companies are still struggling to keep up with insane lumber prices, stifling new builds.

National Association of Home Builders Chairman Chuck Fowke recently noted that supply shortages and high demand have caused lumber prices to jump “about 200%” since April 2020, and the elevated price of lumber is adding approximately $24,000 to the price of a new home.


Increasing Lending and Servicing Capacity – Regardless of Rates

The low-rate environment won’t last forever, and both lenders and servicers need to be able to keep their costs down while managing volume fluctuations once things start to normalize.

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“When the pandemic is over, purchasing a home is going to cost much more than ever before, putting homeownership much further out of reach for many Americans,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin chief economist. “That means a future in which most Americans will not have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, which will worsen inequality in our society.”

Fairweather noted that President Joseph Biden’s hopeful $3 trillion infrastructure plan includes building 1.5 million sustainable homes, but there is no guarantee the bill will be “passed with every policy proposal intact.”

“America needs an audacious goal to increase the housing supply, given the U.S. is short 2.5 million homes,” she said. “It may be expensive to build millions of homes, but ignoring the problem would only cause housing to become more unaffordable and worsen housing insecurity.”

The best chance at home prices lowering is the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, experts said, which will allow lumber mills to reopen and material prices to lower. Builders will then be spending less on new builds, which will help the backlogging of inventory.

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