Letter: Need some help with COMPS

Following is an email we received from Thom Barlow of Tampa, Florida:

I live on a modest little airport community 18 mi. north of Tampa FL. called Tampa North Aeropark (X39). Before this Sub-Prime Mortgage Fiasco hit the fan the market value of my 4 bedroom 3 full-bath country-style hangar home was approximately $440,000. Now I can’t get an appraisal up over $250,000. It seems “they” do everything they can to purposely de-value my place. My loan officer told me Bank of America is holding so many foreclosure properties they have de-valued everything in the market so they can unload their inventory.

My biggest hurdle is the COMPS. The Appraisers don’t know how to appraise “Airport Community Homes”, They just don’t see the VALUE of living with your plane on a runway. They want to compare my place with a run-of-the-mill home in the area. More than likely sold real cheap & fast so the seller could get out from under a sub-prime mortgage and/or they lost their employment during this fiasco the Banks caused to the world economy.

My question to you is . . . Do you have knowledge of this happening elsewhere? If so . . . What is being done to address it?

Could you direct my path to Real Estate Appraisers that know what they’re doing ? I don’t care if they’re in other states. They might know useful strategies and have connections that could help me here. This might be an area for your “Living with your Plane” to address at this time.

Answer: Thanks for your letter. I understand your predicament and although it doesn’t help much, there are many others facing similar situations as yours. Unfortunately, during the boom years in the residential home mortgage market some appraisers didn’t do their job properly: they found out what the requested loan was and the resulting appraisal in far too many instances came out high enough to allow the loan. Today, with banks and mortgage firms under a lot of pressure from federal agencies, the appraisers must be much more accurate in their reports.

When you couple the pressure on the appraisers with the slowdown or meltdown in home values, you find appraisals are coming in much lower now than a few years ago. And, as you have discovered, airpark homes are not all that common which makes it difficult for appraisers to come up with legitimate comparable sales. And, most appraisers don’t have the foggiest notion of a residential airpark (just like insurance agents and mortage companies) so that makes the situation doubly perilous.

We have encouraged mortgage lenders and appraisers both to start looking at online sites like Zillow as a source for comps. Zillow maintains an extensive database of home sales and usually you can find sales within a reasonable distance of your property with which to compare square footage, amenities, etc. I encourage appraisers to compare airpark homes with golf course homes as a means of establishing comps. Not an exact science, but neither is the appraisal business.

Click on Resources section of the Living With Your Plane website and you will find a variety of professionals who hopefully can assist you in your efforts.

Please keep us posted on your situation.