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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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Appraisals & Valuations

The appraisal gap is complicating deals across the country

Some buyers are borrowing money from relatives and taking loans out against their retirement

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The home checked off every box on Linda’s list. It had a large, fenced-in yard, modern appliances in an updated kitchen, a “man cave” for her husband, beamed ceilings, a massive master suite and was located in a good school district.

The house, in the Nashville area, was listed at $405,000. Linda (who asked that her real name not be used) beat out a dozen other prospective buyers in a bidding war by offering $445,000 and waiving all contingencies. That’s common these days.

Unfortunately, the appraisal put the house’s value roughly $50,000 below than what she paid. With others waiting in line behind her, the seller wouldn’t budge on price. Linda had a sizable downpayment but still needed to find a way to close the appraisal gap. She received help from family members and was also able to take a loan out against her 401(k) to make up the difference. Linda plans to move into the new house later this spring.

But not everybody has the ability to tap friends and family or investments when the appraisal and the final sale price don’t match – many deals have fallen apart as a result, loan originators and real estate agents said. The gap between appraisal and what buyers are willing to pay in one of the wildest real estate markets in modern history has created friction between agents, lenders and appraisers working under stressful conditions.

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