Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist for the Virginia Association of Realtors, has recently given us an overview of various market conditions affected by low home appraisals. Can a low appraisal derail home buyers?
A home appraisal is an evaluation of a home’s market value based on comparable recent sales and sometimes recent listings in the neighborhood. Appraisals are required by a lender to protect both the lender and the buyer and to help to ensure that the buyer is not borrowing more than the home is worth. In hot housing markets, like the one we have been in for nearly a year, it can be challenging to accurately appraise the value of a home. Different appraisal values and below-offer appraisals can be confusing for home buyers and sellers and can sometimes prevent a successful transaction.
Different Methods, Different ValuesAn appraisal is typically conducted by a licensed real estate appraiser at the request of a lender or borrower. Appraisers generally use data on the prices of comparable homes sold in the last three or six months, or sometimes over a longer period. However, in fast-paced markets, where prices are rising rapidly, looking back at past home prices might not be a good indication of current values. It is important in this busy housing market that appraisers are not only using data on closed sales, but are also using data on pending sales and listings. Automated valuation models, or AVMs, have been a popular way for consumers to get an immediate assessment of their home’s value. These AVM values can also sometimes be used in refinance applications. AVMs collect data from multiple listings services, along with data from public records, to compare recent sales and list prices and generate a value for a particular home. There are differences in the methodologies in these AVMs, including the types of data used, how frequently the data are updated, and the number of comparables used in the estimate. These differences in data and methods can result in different home value estimates. (I plugged my home address into five different AVMs, and the difference in estimates was more than $100,000.) Because the housing market is so fast-moving, it is important that the data they use are updated very frequently. These public-facing AVMs are popular with consumers, but they can also provide misleading information and result in disappointed (or pleasantly surprised) homeowners when a licensed appraisal is produced.
Appraisals Below OfferIn this frenzied housing market, bidding wars and offers over list are common. When the home appraises at the contract price, the deal can go off without a hitch. However, appraisals below offer can throw up a roadblock to the purchase. While there are stories about buyers losing out due to a low appraisal, the data suggests that it is very uncommon for low appraisals to completely derail a transaction. According to Fannie Mae, an estimated 8% of appraisals came in below offer price in 2017. Zillow estimated that 10% of deals that fell through in 2018 did so because of a low appraisal. More recently, the National Association of REALTORS® reported in August 2020 that appraisal issues accounted for less than 1% of real estate transaction issues. Despite the fact that appraisal issues seem to be relatively uncommon, homebuyers that are worried about a home not appraising have increasingly been waiving appraisal contingencies in their offers. Nationally, Redfin estimated that about 20% of winning home offers last summer had waived the appraisal contingency. According to a survey of Virginia REALTORS®, in March 2021, 37% of REALTORS® said that it was very common for buyers to waive the appraisal contingency to make their offers more competitive. For some buyers, waiving the appraisal could be problematic down the road. For others, including those using an FHA or VA loan, an appraisal contingency is not an option.
Helping Buyers and Sellers When Appraisals Come in LowThere are several steps REALTORS® can recommend to buyers and sellers if an appraisal comes in lower than expected: REALTORS® should remind clients that AVMs are not meant to serve as a formal appraisal and that for most transactions, a lender will require an appraisal from a licensed real estate appraiser.
Appraisals should include data not only on recent sales, but should also take into account homes that have recently gone under contract and homes currently listed for sale. The fast-paced market means that home prices six or even three months ago are not necessarily a good indicator of current home values. Buyers, sellers, and lenders can request a review of the appraisal to see if there were any inaccuracies in the analysis.
If the appraisal comes in below an offer, buyers could have the option to increase the down payment to make up the difference or take some of the money set aside for a down payment to close the appraisal gap. It is also possible that a low appraisal is a sign that the offer price really is above the home’s true value and that the smartest thing for the buyer to do is to step away from the deal and move on to the next home. Having a REALTOR® who can provide sound advice on market conditions will be a tremendous value to buyers in this situation.*Information as of 07/21/21
Ask any real estate agent and they will tell you a similar sad story. The seller, whose home just hit the market, received an offer which was less than the list price, but felt secure that their home would sell quickly … so the seller countered for more. For whatever reason, the buyer did not continue to negotiate and moved on. After a week or two and no other offers, the seller instructed the listing agent to contact the buyer’s agent and say that the seller had reconsidered and would now accept their original offer.
However, the initial enthusiasm the buyer had was gone and they were looking elsewhere. This is a story that frequently happens across America, in all price ranges. The lesson to be learned is that sometimes the first offer is the best.
Consider the rationale, a home is fresh on the market,, and buyers (especially the ones who have lost bids on other homes) act quickly to hopefully avoid some of the competition. When an offer is not accepted, it voids the original offer and, in this case, the seller might make the buyer a counteroffer. The buyer can accept it, make a counteroffer, or walk away. Even if afterwards, the seller reconsiders and says that he will accept the terms of the original offer, the buyer is under no obligation to accept it. Alternatively, if the seller accepts the buyer’s original offer, a contract has been agreed upon based on the terms within. The house is sold and closed once any contingencies such as financing and/or inspections have been satisfied.
Think of an example where a seller countered for an additional $5,000. If he had accepted the original offer, the home would have been sold. In essence, he bought the home back from himself in hopes of making an extra $5,000. To put it in perspective, on a $350,000 home, the additional $5,000 would have been 1.4% of the value. As an investor, the risk involved in having to continue to own the property may not be justified by such a low rate of return. Having the property sold may actually provide peace of mind and convenience that far exceeds the $5,000.
When a seller receives an offer, they are faced with three options.
- (1)They can accept the offer and the house is sold considering the contingencies can be met.
- (2)The seller can reject the buyer’s offer outright and wait for an acceptable offer.
- (3)The seller can counteroffer the buyer with terms that are agreeable to the seller.
Many agents feel that if the offer is not acceptable, the counteroffer alternative presents a greater likelihood of negotiating to an acceptable agreement between the parties. Every situation is unique, but compromise has brought buyers and sellers to agreement in many situations. One of the valuable advantages sellers have is their agent’s experience and lack of emotional connection to the property. Your agent can provide objectivity and alternatives for you to consider in making your decisions.
Recent trends in home prices suggest that this past year has, indeed, been extraordinary. While price growth will remain strong throughout 2021 and into 2022, it is likely that the pace of home price appreciation will slow as demand softens, mortgage rates tick up, and inventory expands.
People have commented on the current high prices of lumber and how that impacts new construction. Below are observations regarding lumber prices nationally as well as prices in Virginia at this time.
Nationally, new home construction has hit a 15-year high, fueled by strong housing demand. In May, home builders started construction on new homes at a pace of 1.57 million annually, a 3.6% increase over April and 50.3% above the level in May 2020.
The National Association of Realtors has recently shared information about the high prices of lumber. The price of framing lumber has plunged about 50% over the last seven weeks, offering up a hopeful sign that skyrocketing building costs would ease. However, builders say that the prices they pay have only declined by a fraction of that percentage. The disconnect in pricing has always existed in the lumber supply chain. It can still be a “long lag time” before the full price reductions come to builders, the National Association of Home Builders reports.
“As the price declines began grabbing headlines, the price of lumber packages quoted to builders held at record highs,” NAHB economist David Logan writes on the association’s blog, Eye on Housing. “This dynamic is primarily due to dealers’ inventory carrying costs and potentially large differences between the price at which inventory is bought and sold.”
The lumber supply chain consists of the following stages: from forest to sawmill to wholesaler to retailer to end user. The association offers up an explanatory reason prices are staying elevated at its Eye on Housing blog. Wholesalers and retailers have incentive to run through their existing inventory and recover what they paid for it—one of many factors that is currently keeping prices elevated for builders.
So, when will lower prices reach the builders and ultimately new-home buyers? The answer is unclear, but builders say more price drops in lumber may be needed. “Prices must fall for long enough to materially lower a supplier’s average costs after a run-up,” the association blog notes. “Depending on the rate and consistency of price decreases and whether prices have stabilized at the lower level, it may take a few weeks to a couple of months for builders to see price relief on the order initially reported in the futures or cash markets.”Meanwhile, new-home building prices for home buyers continue to rise. In May, the median price of a newly built home was 18% higher than a year ago, at $374,400.
Source: “Why Builder Lumber Prices Remain Higher Than Headlines Suggest,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (July 6, 2021)
IN VIRGINIAAccording to Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist for the Virginia Association of Realtors, new housing construction is up, and lumber prices are down. In Virginia, there were 3,125 permits issued for the construction of new residential units in May. Nearly 80% of permits were issued for the construction of single-family homes, while 20% were for units in multifamily buildings, including apartments and condominiums.
Like in many other places around the country, new home construction been on the rise in Virginia. In the first five months of 2021, there was a total of 17,685 permits issued for new housing construction in the state. By comparison, there were just 13,744 permits issued between January and May 2020. Year-to-date, the number of permits for new housing construction was up 28.7% compared to last year, with a 25.0% increase in single-family permits and a 36.3% increase in permits for multifamily housing units.
The cost of construction materials has been a major impediment to new construction. Lumber prices, in particular, surged to historically high levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in March 2020, the futures price of lumber was $303 per thousand board feet. The cost more than quintupled over the past 14 months, reaching a high of $1,608 per thousand board feet in May 2021.
Lumber prices skyrocketed as a result of strong demand for new homes and a major interest in home renovations and DIY projects by people stuck at home. At the same time, supply chains have been disrupted by the pandemic and recession.
However, there is good news on the lumber costs issue. In June 2021, prices fell below $900 per thousand board foot of lumber, reflecting a drop of 44.2% from the recent peak. The drop in lumber prices is good news for builders. Some new residential projects that have been put on hold could start back up again as costs fall.
Lumber prices are falling now as more sawmills have been able to open up more fully and ramp up production. In addition, the opening up of the economy means that more people are back at the office and are spending less time on DIY projects around the house which has led to slower demand from homeowners.
Falling materials costs (e.g., lumber, concrete, steel, brick/masonry) are a good sign for the home building industry and for consumers looking for more choices. However, there are still challenges to home building. The shortage of construction workers, limited building-ready lots, and zoning regulations that limit homebuilding will continue to be challenges to building enough housing to meet demand.
Home prices in Virginia have been up by double-digit rates—or close to it—for ten consecutive months. According to Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist of the Virginia Association of Realtors, in May, the median home sales price in Virginia was $367,000 which was up 16.6% compared to the median sales price a year ago. The pace of sales growth this year has been much faster than in recent years, fueled by strong demand, favorable mortgage rates, and low inventory.
Strong Prices Across All Regions
There has been phenomenal price growth in all regions across Virginia. So far, for sales in 2021, the median statewide home price is 13.2% higher than it was during the same period in 2020. The strongest price growth in 2021 has been in some of the state’s smaller markets. For example, the year-to-date median price in the Eastern region is up 25.7%. In the Southside region, prices are 24.2% higher in 2021 compared to 2020.
There has been double-digit price growth in all areas of the commonwealth, including the state’s largest and highest-cost markets. The median price in Northern Virginia climbed 11.9% in the first five months of 2021. Prices are up 15.0% in the Central Virginia region and are 11.1% higher in the Hampton Roads region.
Prices Growing More than Twice as Fast as in Recent Years
In most markets, home prices are growing more than twice as fast as they have in more typical years. Between 2016 and 2021, for example, the median sales price statewide increased by 6.2% on an annual basis. Over the past eight years, since 2013, annual price growth averaged just 4.6% in Virginia.
Price Growth Will Likely Slow
Recent trends in home prices suggest that this past year has, indeed, been extraordinary. While price growth will remain strong throughout 2021 and into 2022, it is likely that the pace of home price appreciation will slow as demand softens, mortgage rates tick up, and inventory expands.
Virginia REALTORS® will release its economic and housing market forecasts later this year, at the 2021 Annual Convention. Several national organizations are forecasting above-average home price growth through 2021, although there is evidence of a slow down in appreciation in 2022. Only the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is predicting a price drop in 2022. The vast majority of economists, however, expect prices to continue to rise.
Our Virginia Association of Realtors has recently published the results of a survey conducted among their Realtor members. Below are the shared nuances of the Spring 2021 real estate market in Virginia.
Making An Offer
• Nearly every REALTOR® responding to this survey said that buyers are making offers over list price or including an escalation clause in their offer. Nearly 90% said offers over list price were “very common” and another 8.5% said they were “somewhat common.”
• Buyers in this market are facing stiff competition, and almost all are offering some type of concession in an attempt to make a successful offer.
• About 87% of Virginia REALTORS® said it was “very common” or “somewhat common” for buyers to waive the home inspection. Some REALTORS® commented that buyers were having an inspection done for information purposes only, but not making the offer contingent on the home inspection results.
• Nearly 70% of Virginia REALTORS® said that waiving appraisals has become “very common” or “somewhat common.” Many REALTORS® note that buyers are including a provision that they will pay a certain amount over any appraised value. Other REALTORS® have pointed out that this trend in waiving appraisals has put VA buyers at a disadvantage because they cannot opt out of an appraisal.
• The following tradeoffs are also “very common” or “somewhat common” in today’s market: increasing the earnest money deposit (79.2%), waiving the home sale contingency (66.2%), and offering a shorter loan contingency timeline (68.6%).
Buying A Home
• The fast-paced market and historically low inventory has forced buyers to re-evaluate their housing and neighborhood preferences, widen their search, and make tradeoffs on amenities. Nearly nine out of 10 Virginia REALTORS® members (87.7%) said that it is “very common” or “somewhat common” for home buyers to look outside of their preferred neighborhoods as they realize how few homes are available.
• Buyers in this market seem less likely to make tradeoffs on the size or style of the home they are looking for, but they are willing to consider homes that need major upgrades or updating.
• Only 34.2% of Virginia REALTORS® said that it was “very common” or “somewhat common” for buyers to settle for a townhome or condo instead of a single-family home.
• A little more than half (51.0%) said that it was “very common” or “somewhat common” for buyers to compromise on space or number of bedrooms.
• More than three quarters of Virginia REALTORS® (75.2%) said that buyers were willing to consider homes that need major upgrades or updating.
• As the inventory of existing homes shrinks, some buyers have turned their sights to new construction. About 56% of Virginia REALTORS® said that building a new home, rather than purchasing an existing home, had become “very common” or “somewhat common” among buyers.
• Finally, the tight market has discouraged many buyers. In fact, more than 70% of Virginia REALTORS® said that it is “very common” or “somewhat common” for buyers to decide to put off buying a home altogether in this market.
Contact your realtor to learn how these findings apply in your particular area and price range.
Sometimes, as people approach the inevitable, they start trying to get their things “in order”. They may even have a will, but they decide to transfer title to real estate prior to their death which could be an unnecessary expense for the would-be heir.
Generally, when property is passed through direction of a will, the heir will receive a stepped-up basis which means that the fair market value of the property at the time of death becomes the cost basis for the heir. If the property were sold for that fair market value, there would be no gain and no capital gains tax due.
However, if the property is gifted prior to death of the donor, along with the title to the property comes the cost basis of the property. The transfer of title does not trigger the capital gains tax but when the property is sold, the gain is calculated by subtracting the basis from the sales price leaving a capital gain subject to tax. In other words, the person receiving the gift does not get the stepped-up basis.
There certainly can be advantages to transferring the property prior to death. It completes the transfer without having to wait for the death and bypasses the probate process that might be required to settle the will. Another advantage to the donor may be to remove the property from the owner’s name which could lower the taxable estate.
Some owners may transfer title prior to death to qualify for Medicaid. The value of the asset may make them ineligible. It may trigger a Medicaid Transfer Penalty when the gift is made within five years and the basis of the property is less than fair market value.
Once a property is deeded to someone, the donor loses control of the asset and it cannot be reversed. Depending on the value of the estate, there could be gift or estate tax implications. As mentioned earlier, it may have capital gain tax consequences for the donor when they dispose of the property.
If the person receiving the gift has creditors or judgements, the gift becomes an asset subject to those creditors or judgements.
Even though the mechanics of transferring title to a property is simple, there are many things to consider for both the person giving the property and the one receiving it. Consult an attorney and tax professional to determine the best informed decision available. There could be other alternatives that would better serve your situation.
Buying a home in today’s low inventory real estate market requires a new mindset for purchasers. This strategy is not about trying to negotiate the best price; it is about beating out the competition and buying the home. It may be difficult to understand until you have lost a few homes to better offers but when the reality of the situation is that there are not that many homes on the market, the competition heats up and different tactics are necessary.
Sales in December were annualized at 6.76 million, a 22.2% increase year over year according to the National Association of Realtors. The median sales price nationally is $309,800 which is up 12.9% from the previous year. Inventory for December fell to 1.9 months’ supply from 3.0 months’ supply in December of 2019. Six months inventory is considered a balanced market.
Things that work in a buyer’s market will not work in a seller’s market. The shortage of available homes for sale has led to not only shorter market times but multiple offers that have sales prices above the listing price. Buyers, especially in entry to mid-level priced ranges, may have lost out multiple times to buy a home.
Buyers must be strategic if they want to successfully put a home under contract. There are some things that are absolutely essential to just be in the game.
Unless you are paying cash and have adequate proof of funds, you need to get pre-approved. Realtors and financial advisors have been saying this for decades, but it is critical now. There are plenty of reasons that benefit the buyer but most importantly, it is to show that a buyer is serious and has gone through the effort to have a lender run his credit and verify his income, expenses, employment, and credit. Sellers want to make sure that the offer they are choosing will be able to go to closing.
If the home fresh on the market, in a desired location and price range, you need to assume there will be competing offers and you may never even get a counteroffer from the seller. You need to consider making your highest and best offer first, as if you will not get a second chance. This is more difficult for some people than others because of their bargaining nature.
Many properties are going under contract at more than asking price. One strategy that buyers are employing is the escalation clause. For example a buyer will offer full price, but their offer will state that they are willing to escalate their offer by $1,000 (for example) over any competing offer up to a specified amount. With the offers that are coming in at over asking price, there is the chance that a property will not appraise. Some buyers may show the ability to pay an amount between the appraisal and the sale price, if the property does not appraise, thus effectively removing the appraisal contingency. Of course since a cash offer will not have an appraisal, this is another reason that makes a cash offer more desirable.
Earnest money that accompanies a contract shows that the buyer is acting in good faith. The amount that may be customary may not be enough in a competing market. Consider two or three times what might be normal. Talk to your agent about what would make an impression on the seller.
While contingencies like loan approval and inspections will protect your earnest money from specific concerns like loan approval and inspections, the seller will look at them as ways that the buyer can get out of the contract and as a result they’ll need to put the home back on the market. If a seller is presented multiple offers, they might be prone to accept one with the least contingencies, especially, if the prices are comparable.
There is usually a period connected to the different contingencies that are allowed to complete them. By shortening these times as much as possible limits the time the seller might feel they are in limbo.
If you have the flexibility, you might express your willingness to move the closing and/or possession dates to accommodate the seller’s schedule. This could be an important factor in your favor and could be done in a verbal statement conveyed from your agent to the listing agent.
These are things buyers should consider and discuss with their agent before they find the home that they want to buy. While you are formulating your position, another offer may be accepted before you even make yours.
In a normal year as part of local real estate association leadership, I would be attending the Virginia Association of Realtors Legislative Conference in Richmond. This year, due to the pandemic, that event has been held via zoom. Although the value of face to face interaction has been missing, there has been the interchange of timely information.
One of the meetings that I most appreciated was the opportunity to listen to the VAR economist Lisa Sturtevant speak about the state of real estate in Virginia.
One easy way to look at what is going on is to consider what is ‘IN’ and what is ‘OUT’.
Expect to see a shift to a hybrid model. Some days a week at home and some in the office.
Flexible floor plan with separate spaces for different activities.
Second home purchases (beach, mountain, lake) If there is good internet you can work from home anywhere. The increase in sales has not been consistent across different localities. The shift to the country is real. By the numbers sales have increased unevenly in the following areas: Urban by 3.7%; Suburban by 11.7%; and Rural by 17.9%.
Living with multigenerational and extended family
Very low inventory. In December listings were down 38.3% from the same time a year ago. Statewide there are 30,000 fewer listings than a year ago. The demand for housing remains strong with low inventory continuing to be the primary constraint.
Virginia is currently at 95% of Pre-Recession job totals which is better than many states. But full recovery could take years.
New construction has gained. If we see the tariffs on Canadian lumber reduced or removed, it will be good for East coast new home prices. The West coast has decreased lumber supply as a result of the fires.
The savings rate spiked in 2020 as a result of people staying home with fewer opportunities to spend money. The increased savings have allowed many new buyers to enter the market.
Job losses have been mainly concentrated among renters and as such do not impact housing sales. Mortgage rates are historically low. Pre-Covid housing demand was strong and this demand will continue. Improvement will be related to vaccine availability.
*** These are statewide numbers and may not reflect the specific Central VA information given in our local market updates. ***
Often we encourage our buyers to request a Study Period in their Offer To Purchase contract. A study period allows the buyer a specific period of time in which to examine the property with a variety of inspections, thus a Study Period is not exactly the same as a home inspection….though it may include home inspections as well.
Is a Study Period a Home Inspection?
Purchasers of large acreage, whether for purposes of farming or development, have concerns that ordinary home buyers do not necessarily have. So there are features that differentiate a study period from a home inspection. One of the major differences is that a study period allows a range of inspections to take place over a stated period of time, not just a home/structural inspection. During the scope of the Study Period a buyer is able to examine details of the property in depth, with professional inspectors if desired, to find out details of the property that might not be readily seen….prior to fully committing to the purchase.
Why Would You Need a Study Period?
Often large tracts of land trade ownership infrequently (family farms etc) and that aspect means the property has likely not had as much examination of its deeds, covenants, or restrictions, as common residential homes and lots which are sold more often. Frequently there are details in the covenants or deed that would prohibit the purchaser’s intended use for the property. Previous owners may have put restrictions on the property, or there might be unresolved boundary disputes, or maybe the previous covenants contradict current law (like Fair Housing rules). During the study period is when any surveys would take place as well.
What Are Some Study Period Issues?
A big concern for many of our clients who intend to farm the land, is to verify the suitability of the property for their farming purposes. Typical issues that would be examined include location of available water, any previous soil contamination, existing capabilities of well or septic, underground tanks/dumps/chemicals, zoning restrictions, and of course the structural issues that may exist in the main dwelling or the outbuildings. A common resource to examine all of these issues is called a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment, conducted by a specialist who looks for any and all issues. We help guide our clients to these resources.
The buyer will want to confirm whether the property has been entered into a land-use conservancy agreement. If so the buyer may not be able to subdivide the property. Land use restrictions can dictate what descriptions of structures may be built or what type of livestock is acceptable… even whether irrigation will be approved. Some Central VA counties have rules regarding the location of a driveway or setbacks for building near a stream.
Does The Land Match My Goals and Plans?
During the study period the buyer will have time to determine if the property and land will match his own intended uses. The buyer will want to know about mineral rights or timber rights, even if those are not in his immediate plan.
The nature of the unhurried examination time of a Study Period makes it common to unearth unexpected facts. But it also gives the buyer time to see if acceptable solutions may exist. And because of the language of the Study Period in the Offer To Purchase, the buyer is also able to decide not to continue with the purchase of that property.
Don’t guess if that fence will be on your own land. Allow yourself time to verify all of the aspects of your purchase by using a Study Period to examine the details. We’re glad to discuss this with you in more detail anytime.
A Virginia realtor is required by law to treat you like either (A) a customer, or (B) a client. In Virginia, buyers and sellers are required to sign a document saying that they actually want to be a realtor’s client before we can assist with any transaction. See below to learn how buyers are required to be treated if they are a Customer or a Client in Virginia…… [Read more…]