Appraisals and 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.

One California-based real estate agent who originates her own loans told HousingWire that she believes appraisers are being far too conservative in this high-octane market, and are also using bad comps. She recently had a deal fall apart due to appraisal.

“I disputed the appraisal with three more comps along with receipts of all the upgrades over $25,000 and he still refused to adjust the value,” she said. “Actually, he was very quick to get out to the house and do the appraisal, so no problem there. It was definitely a rush job! He told me that they have to protect the lender’s interest. Wow, since when? He wasted my client’s money. So now I’ll find another lender and make sure they aren’t using that appraisal company.”

An LO in Texas told HousingWire that the competition is intense where he is, and buyers are “doing extraordinary things,” which has changed deal structures. It’s made deals more challenging. For example, one client had a home under contract for $983,000 and the list/appraised value was just $900,000, the LO said.

“I’ve seen a house listed at $1.7 million and sell for $2.03 million,” he added. “I’ve also seen homes listed as low as $350,000 sell for $100,000 over ask. My wife and I were thinking about housing up this year and have put that on hold until the market gets some semblance of normalcy.”

The LO added that some people get gifts to cover the appraisal gap while others are borrowing from retirement or brokerage accounts they didn’t want to touch because of the tax hit. 

“I’ve done a few bridge loans by placing a lien on their departing residence, even in other states,” he said. “But the most important thing is educating clients from day one. Set the expectation that they will need to come out of pocket with a substantial amount because the appraisals are slowly getting better, but they’ve not caught up yet. For many this means reducing the price point they’re shopping so they can ensure they’ll be more competitive and have the funds to close.”

In an extreme seller’s market in which homes are being bought and sold at a rapid pace and market data is being pulled ahead of time, historical data can struggle to catch up and create broad differentials between an agreed-upon price and the value, according to Mark Johnson, president of LRES Corporation.

When markets accelerate quickly, the credit risk gap widens between the agreed-upon purchase price and what the data reflects and advises loan production teams to explore avenues to understand this delta.

“Most AMCs offer a process called a Reconsideration of Value Request, or ROV, that when properly presented, encourages the appraiser to review the work based on additional appropriate data submitted,” Johnson told HousingWire in August. “To consider an ROV, appraisers are most often willing to review and consider comps that are more recent, more proximate and more similar.”

A processor from Southern California told HousingWire that “almost all of the appraisals lately” for her team’s refi and purchase clients “have been low, by a lot.” 

“For purchase, we have one buyer who is struggling to get an offer accepted,” she said. “He just put his third offer in (list price $399,000, he offered $415,000, non-contingent). The seller decided to counter back multiple people at $445,000 + no contingencies. He couldn’t go that high (especially knowing it likely wouldn’t appraise and he wouldn’t be able to negotiate after), so he offered $425,000 as his best & final and lost it. Sellers are surely getting greedy.”

Ultimately, a lack of communication is a breaking point for the expectations of what the home is worth in collateral. Joni Pilgrim, CEO of Nationwide Appraisal Network, previously told HousingWire that 99% of the time, there are zero details about the subject property prior to the appraisal, transforming the appraiser into the messenger in those cases and running the risk of an extended appraisal turn time.

“If you’re on top of a mountain and have a 170-degree view of the valley, that’s a million-dollar lot all day long, and the appraiser should be able to pick up on that usually when they’re being asked to do the assignment,” said Woody Fincham, founder and president of Accurity Fincham & Associates. “However, the lender should know that out of the gate, because once you enter into this property – being a mansion-level property or one with a solar powered system or there’s something unique about it, that needs to be communicated to get a proper rating.”

One appraiser based in one of the hottest housing markets on planet earth – the front range of Colorado – told HousingWire that the most recent sales in any appraisal is important, as is documenting the work done.

“But making me be the only one responsible (the appraiser) for the value and the loan, makes the appraiser use more caution,” he said. “If the lenders and agent/brokers had to carry those notes and be personally responsible for five years also, then the mortgage industry would be more cautious also.”

One Colorado-based appraiser told HousingWire in late March that lowering interest rates to near zero sparked the race to buy and propelled market FOMO (fear of missing out). He worries about what the future holds.

“Just hope all those who bid $30,000 to $80,000 more (yes that really happened along the Front Range of Colorado) can survive never being able to refinance to their advantage, as interest rates will likely never enter that range again,” he said. “Remembering that a rise in interest rates from 2.5% to 3.5%, is not just 1% but in reality a 29% increase, 2.5% to 5% (50%) would be awful on a $400,000 home. Guess we will have to wait and see if values double again in the next 10 years in the Northern Colorado market area, but I can’t see a person making $45,000 a year making a $800,000 home payment.”


  1. Another consideration should be when an employee is asked to transfer for their job. Will the corporations continue to offset to differences between the appraised value and the final “over-priced” purchase price? Will LOS come back strong or will corporations say…”that was your choice, now it’s your problem.” If you’re in a position to be relocated, you better think twice before over-pricing your next home.

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