When The Appraisal Is Below The Purchase Price for Real Estate

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what happens when house doesn't appraise?
I presume this question meant "for the necessary value according to the lender's guidelines".

Lenders base their evaluation of a property upon the standard accountant's "Lower of Cost or Market." This is intentionally a conservative system, because the lender is betting (usually) hundreds of thousands of dollars upon a particular evaluation, and if something goes wrong, they want to know that they'll be able to get their money back.

When you're buying, purchase price is cost. When you're refinancing, there is no cost basis, we're working off of purely market concerns, except that for the first year after purchase, most lenders will not allow for a price over ten percent increase on an annualized basis. Six months, no more than five percent. Three months, about two and a half. Mind you, if you turn around and sell for a twenty percent profit three months later, the new lender is going to be just fine with the purchase price, as long as the appraisal comes in high enough.

But as far as a lender is concerned, you can see that no matter what the appraisal, the property is never worth more than purchase price on a purchase money loan. There is a transaction between willing buyer and willing seller on the books and getting ready to happen. It doesn't matter if the appraisal says $500,000 and you're buying it for $400,000. The lender will base the loan parameters upon a value of $400,000.

But what happens if the appraisal comes in lower than the agreed purchase price? For example, $380,000 instead of $400,000? Then the lender considers the value of the property to be $380,000, no matter that you're willing to go $20,000 higher. You want to put $20,000 of your own money (or $20,000 more) to make up the difference, that's no skin off the lender's nose. Matter of fact, they are happy, because it means they still have a loan, where they would not otherwise.

Keeping the situation intact, if you planned to put $20,000 down (5%) on the original $400,000 purchase price, the loan is probably still doable, albeit as a 100% loan to value transaction instead of a 95% one, which means it will be priced as riskier and the payments on the loan(s) will doubtless be higher than originally thought. The same applies if you were going to put $40,000 (10% of the original purchase contract) down, except that the final loan will be priced as a 95% loan ($360,000 divided by $380,000 is 94.74 percent, and loans always go to the next higher category).

Suppose you don't have the money, or won't qualify for the loan under the new terms? That's why the standard purchase contract in California has a seventeen day period where it's contingent upon the loan (many sellers agents will attempt to override this clause by specific negotiation). If you get the appraisal done quickly, you have a choice. You can attempt to renegotiate the price downwards. How successful you will be depends upon several factors. But if you're still within the seventeen days, the seller should, at worst, allow the deposit to go back to you, and you go your merry way with no harm and no foul, except you're out the appraisal fee. This is not to say that the seller or the escrow company has to give the deposit back; they don't. You may have to go to court to try and get it back, depending upon the contract. The escrow company is not responsible for dispute resolution. If the two sides cannot agree, they will do nothing without orders from a court. If the seller wants to be a problem personality, you can't really stop them without going through whatever mediation, arbitration, and judicial remedies are appropriate.

Suppose the appraisal comes in low on a refinance? Well, that's a little more forgiving in most cases around here, at least with rate/term refinances where you're just doing it to get a better loan. If you have a $300,000 loan and you thought the property was worth $600,000 but it's only worth $500,000, that just doesn't make a difference to most loans. Your loan to value ratio is still only sixty percent, and it probably won't make a difference to residential loan pricing (commercial is a different story, and if you have a low credit score it might also make a real difference). On a cash out loan, it can mean you have to choose between less favorable terms and less cash out, however, especially above seventy to eighty percent. There are ways to prevent wasting money on an appraisal, but once it comes in, it is what it is. If the underwriter sees one appraisal that's too low, they're going to go off that value, and if you bring another appraiser in, the underwriter will usually average the two values, so even if the second appraiser says $400,000, the underwriter who has seen a $380,000 property will value it at $390,000 (not to mention you pay for two appraisals). And a low appraisal can mean that the reason you were refinancing becomes impossible, so you're better off walking away.

Caveat Emptor

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2 Comments

Renee Healion said:

Dear Dan,
You have some things right, regarding the lender relying on the appraiser's neutrality, but other statements are troubling to me as an appraiser. For example the idea that the appraiser (that neutral party) is supposed to "support the loan". Further, federal regs require the lender (or their agent)to order the appraisal; the homeowner may not submit an appraisal where they are the client for use in a loan.The homeowners may be disappointed in that advice.
Renee Healion

Dan Melson said:

Ah, but if the order it themselves and submit it in the name of their broker? This way if the broker hoses them they are only out a retyping fee.

Mind you, I end up ordering most of my own. It's fine with me if the client wants me to do the ordering, and it happens that they are safe enough with me. But that is far from a universal truth about loan providers, and so I don't get offended if someone wants to protect themselves.

If we concentrate on getting the client an even shake, we may occasionally be out some money for some work we did. But the lost work is good for client loyalty. As I've tried to make clear, appraisers are entitled to be paid for their work. But it is a shortsighted viewpoint to take that just because your primary responsibility is to the lender, that you have none at all to the client, or the broker who sent you the business. I have a firm rule in life of looking out for the interests of other people, particularly those that put money in my pocket, even if it means I sometimes make less money, or am out some money. It's amazing how well it pays for itself in the aggregate.

Please be civil. Avoid profanity - I will delete the vast majority of it, usually by deleting the entire comment. To avoid comment spam, a comments account is required. They are freely available, and you can post comments immediately. Alternatively, you may use your Type Key registration, or sign up for one (They work at most Movable Type sites). All comments made are licensed to the site, but the fact that a comment has been allowed to remain should not be taken as an endorsement from me or the site. There is no point in attempting to foster discussion if only my own viewpoint is to be permitted. If you believe you see something damaging to you or some third party, I will most likely delete it upon request.
Logical failures (straw man, ad hominem, red herring, etcetera) will be pointed out - and I hope you'll point out any such errors I make as well. If there's something you don't understand, ask.
Nonetheless, the idea of comments should be constructive. Aim them at the issue, not the individual. Consider it a challenge to make your criticism constructive. Try to be respectful. Those who make a habit of trollish behavior will be banned.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 13, 2008 7:00 AM.

Loan Quote Guarantees was the previous entry in this blog.

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