Archive for the Updates Category

How Good is Zillow?

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We like the Zillow site at Townsend Appraisals.  It has some good charts for seeing how the market is doing. It has a lot of houses listed and their prices both current and recent past. School districts are listed, taxes on sales, contacts with agents, lots of information. The Bird’s Eye view below shows a recent listing.

Zillow Values

Zillow Maps

One of the common uses of  Zillow is to provide an estimate of the value for your property.    Of course we are left with the question. How good is the estimate?

In a recent article in The Appraisal Journal, a monthly publication  by the Appraisal Institute, that question was explored.   The article, ” Zillow’s Estimates of Single-Family Housing Values” by  Danile R Hollas, PhD, Ronald C. Rutherford, PhD, and Thomas A Thomson, PhD explored the issue.   The article compared the actual sale values of 2045 single family properties sold in Arlington, Texas with the sale values.  It was done at a time when the market there was stable, and  where Zillow indicated it data has the highest accuracy rating. So how did Zillow do?

Zillow generally overestimated the values.  In over 40% of the  properties, the over estimate exceeded 10% of the value and only .88% of the property values were underestimated by 10% or more.    We think this is good to know.  We wonder how many homeowners have already checked out Zillow’s estimate of value before we see their homes.   If they have, it looks like they may think we are appraising their properties too low.

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North & East Richmond Showing Signs of Improvement

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It has been a difficult time in North & East Richmond since 2006.  At the end of 2010  the market  hit rock bottom.

Market Trend N&E Richmond

Market Trend N&E Richmond

During the steep downturn, more and more houses went under water and ultimately  all sales were  foreclosures and short sales.  Most homes were purchased by investors who typically fixed up the properties for rent or for resale at a higher prices.    In 2011 the market started to turn around.  Gradually the number of distressed sales dropped and today the majority of sales are normal sales.  However, you can see by the chart that the prices are still well below the highs of 2006. In fact values on a dollar per square foot ($/sf) basis are less than half of what they were then.

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Featured in Appraisal Today

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Townsend Appraisals and Peter and Nancy Townsend were featured this month (September 2010) in Appraisal Today, the premier real estate appraisal periodical. The focus was on how the Townsends have adapted their business to the changing marketplace and evolving needs of the appraisal profession.

The article describes how the Townsends use division of labor, their commitment to being a green appraisal company, and some specific issues related to appraising as a family business. For instance, the article discusses the value of record keeping, the importance of vacation, and the need to save for retirement. There are a number of candid photos of the couple [see the full article and scroll to the bottom for photos], including some of the San Francisco area. The five page feature is a welcome recognition of this California appraisal company. Townsend appraisals covers Contra Costa County and Alameda County in California.

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New Hope for Underwater Homeowners

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We are all hearing  about banks helping — or not helping —  folks having trouble paying their mortgage payments. In many cases, the people that are being helped, 40 or 50% of them, default on their loans a few months after  the loan was restructured.

Underwater in East BayRestructuring almost always  extends the term of the loan or reduces the interest temporarily.  Seldom is the principal of the loan reduced.

This may change. Owners  that are under water, that is they owe more than their homes  are worth, which  here in California are about 1/3 (and in neighboring Nevada is 2/3!), have little incentive to make their payments  or take care of their homes.  Lets face it, they feel more like renters than owners.  So some banks, Wells Fargo, for instance, are reducing the principle owed or deferring payment of the principle.  In the case of  a principle reduction, some of the loan is forgiven.  In the case of deferment a  part of the principle  is deferred until the time when the owner sells the house, at which time he has to pay back the amount of principle  that was deferred.  Either way, the owner is more  motivated to stay put and continue making payments, now at a reduced level. We are hoping it works.  An agent recently told us she knew 6 people living in El Cerrito or nearby communities that hadn’t made payments in over a year but had not been foreclosed upon.  We suspect there are a lot of people out there like that which means foreclosures may increase and extend over a lot longer time.   Let’s hope effective action of some kind can be taken.

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A Green Appraisal Company

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Green Appraiser Contra Costa County, CA and Alameda County, CATownsend Appraisals is a green company.  Peter, with his engineering background, has a passion for saving energy.  We strive to incorporate an environmentally friendly attitude into all of our business activities: we drive a Prius to our appraisal appointments, we recycle all of our paper, we have a compost bin, we use flourescent lightbulbs,  and we have replaced plants in our garden with native Californian, drought-friendly varieties.  Peter has even charted our energy and water use since 2002 & we are proud to say that the trend is down.

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The Story of Townsend Appraisals

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TOWNSEND APPRAISALS: Contra Costa County, CA and Alameda County, CAThe Story of Townsend Appraisals starts in 1986.  Nancy began appraising when interest rates started to drop after they had been at historical highs for a number of years.  She was mentored for five years by Donna Neff, an experienced appraiser in Orinda.  In 1991, she started her own business.  To optimize her competence and skills as an appraiser, she obtained her SRA designation from the Appraisal Institute in 1993. She is a certified expert witness in Contra Costa and Alameda County Superior Courts, as well as in Alameda Bankruptcy Court.  Her husband Peter joined her in 2001, having previously worked for over twenty years as a manager in metallurgical engineering.  His analytical mind has been a great contribution to Townsend Appraisals.

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What is a real estate appraiser?

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A common misconception is that real estate appraisers and real estate agents do the same thing.  Actually, our training and our function is very different.  Appraisers estimate the value of property.  Agents sell property.  Appraisers have much stricter licensing requirements.  Appraisers must have a minimum of 2000 hours of supervision by a mentor (2500 for a certified level which we have), at least 30 months of acceptable experience, successfully complete a number of increasingly sophisticated courses, and pass a rigorous licensing exam.  The continuing education requirements for appraisers are much more rigorous as well, than they are for agents.

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Appraisal Fees Vary By Appraisal Type

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The most common thing we are asked on the phone is “How much does an appraisal cost?”  The answer is that it depends on the property being appraised, of course, and the purpose of the appraisal. If you want an estimate of value without us inspecting the property at all, we could charge as little as $150.  If we don’t have to inspect the interior of the property and the purpose is not for divorce or litigation purposes, the fee can be as low as $275.  Appraisals that require an inspection of the interior of the property run from $400 – $550, with higher fees for more complex properties.  Appraisals which may be used for litigation are more, sometimes with an hourly charge.  Fees for expert witness testimony are $250 per hour.

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Alameda County

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Contra Costa County

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