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5 Facts About Home Appraisals in Southern California: An Interview with Rob Abbot of The Appraisal Firm

By Robert Abbot

Tell us a little bit about your company and how it started.

I started doing residential real estate appraisals back in 1998 but really was introduced to the profession in 1989 when I worked for a real estate appraisal software company called EFS Software. After bouncing around the tech industry for a few years, Tom McCart, an old client of mine asked if I wanted to learn how to appraise. We started an appraisal company in 1998. He went back to corporate appraising not long after and I have been running my own shop ever since. I've trained about six appraisers over the years but currently handle all of the appraisal tasks in my office. I am a certified residential real estate appraiser, FHA approved, on the VA fee panel, conduct pro-bono work for the Real Estate Research Council of Southern California, beta test my appraisal software vendor, a la mode, have conducted eminent domain work as well as expert witness testimony

What are the most important steps in the appraisal process?

Real estate appraisal can encompass a wide variety of things that most people don't really consider: from review work, to retrospective analysis', to consultation, and of course mortgage origination which makes up about 95% of what most appraisers do everyday. The most important step in the process is proper comparable identification. Once you know what your subject is, what kind of amenities it has, and what, if any, negative influences it may have, finding comparable sales that are similar to your subject is the most important step. Of course, living here in Southern California, there tends to be a plethora of data and finding comparable sales with pools, views, remodeling, etc., usually isn't too much of a challenge. There is always that oddball property ? the geodesic dome that backs to the freeway and sits on a 3-acre parcel in an an area with 10,000 sf zoning!

How should you prepare for a home appraisal?

Generally speaking there is nothing you have to do to prepare for an appraisal. The appraiser is there to verify the size of the dwelling and room count, and make notes about the utility of the dwelling, the amenities (pool, spas, BBQ, solar, views, etc.), and any improvements that may have been made, as well as determine the condition of the dwelling. We are not there to critique your housekeeping abilities, how you decorate, or the amount of stuff you own. We are there to observe and document anything related to the dwelling, not your personal effects.

Having said that, I always find it beneficial when a homeowner has a list of any improvements they have made over the past 0 to 15 years and the costs associated with those improvements. It need not be a breakdown of every fixture or light switch you've replaced, but a general list with a rounded cost figure would suffice. This will give the appraiser and idea of the amount and quality of the improvements you have made when comparing your dwelling to the comparable sales in the area.

Is it necessary to stage a home beforehand or will the appraiser help with that?

Staging a dwelling is typically conducted by the listing agent as a marketing tool. It gives potential home owners an idea of what the dwelling will look like furnished. Just as the appraiser shouldn't be docking you if your house is a little unkempt, he or she shouldn't be adding value to a dwelling that is staged magnificently. The furnishings inside a dwelling are not part of the valuation.

From what you've seen in Southern California, what factors have the biggest influence on price?

Ever since the crash there has been a major movement by investors who purchase short sale and foreclosed properties, remodel them, and place them back on market to flip them. Depending on the market, I see investors putting anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 into a dwelling and then listing them for $100,000 or more over their acquisition cost. These remodeled dwellings typically sell at the very upper end of the market, have short marketing times, and often receive multiple offers just days after being placed on the market. There is obviously still pent-up demand for turnkey, move-in condition dwellings. These properties often sell over the current market value, requiring buyers to bring cash to the deal to close.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

If you have any appraisal related questions I can be reached at 760-476-0130 or emailed at info@appraisalfirm.net. I look forward to speaking with you!

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