Assessed value or an Appraisal, which is better when administering an Estate?

The Coyle Group Appraiser

When administering an estate, the decision to use the assessed value of a property versus an appraisal depends on various factors which could collectively influence the decision-making process when determining which valuation tool to use. Those factors may include:

  1. Property Type: The type of property involved (residential, commercial, agricultural, etc.) can impact the accuracy of assessed values and whether an appraisal is necessary.
  2. Market Fluctuations: Real estate markets can fluctuate, and the assessed value might not always reflect the current fair market value of a property.
  3. Property Condition: If the property’s condition significantly affects its value, an appraisal might provide a more accurate assessment, considering factors like needed repairs or renovations.
  4. Property Location: The location of the property and local real estate market conditions might influence the accuracy of assessed values.
  5. Estate Complexity: In complex estates involving multiple properties, assets, or beneficiaries, accurate property valuation is crucial, and an appraisal might be more appropriate.
  6. Legal Requirements: Depending on local laws and regulations, there may be specific guidelines regarding property valuation methods during estate administration.
  7. Tax Implications: If estate taxes or inheritance taxes are a consideration, obtaining an accurate fair market value through an appraisal could be important to ensure proper tax calculations.
  8. Beneficiary Interests: If beneficiaries have differing interests in the property, an appraisal might help ensure equitable distribution.
  9. Dispute Resolution: In cases where disputes arise among beneficiaries or with tax authorities, an appraisal can provide a defensible valuation.
  10. Estate Size: For larger estates, more accurate property valuations are often necessary due to higher financial stakes.

In general, using the assessed value of a property might be appropriate in situations where the estate administration process requires a quick estimation of property value, and the local property tax assessment provides a reasonable approximation. Assessments are typically conducted for tax purposes and may not always reflect the true market value of a property. If the estate is straightforward and the assessed value aligns well with the actual market value, it might save time and resources to use the assessed value.

However, there are instances when relying solely on the assessed value might not be advisable. For more accurate valuations, especially when dealing with complex estates or significant property holdings, an appraisal conducted by a Certified Appraiser can offer a more precise representation of the property’s fair market value. This is crucial when estate taxes, distribution of assets, or beneficiary interests are involved.

Knowing which path to take could have significant tax implications, as well. For example, if it has been decided that the real property contained in the estate is not being sold, it may be advantageous to have the house appraised. Especially, it the market value of the property is significantly higher than the assessed value, which would allow the estate to take advantage of the higher step up in basis.

Example:         Villanova Residence, 19085
Assessed Value: $2,245,000     
Market Value: $2,900,000

Ultimately, the decision between using the assessed value and obtaining an appraisal should be made based on the unique circumstances of the estate, the nature of the property, and the goals of the estate administration process. Consulting with a seasoned estate attorney can provide personalized guidance on whether to use the assessed value or opt for a certified appraisal to ensure accurate and fair property valuations within the estate.


You can save on your Property Tax? Just ask!

Yesterday, a real estate agent-friend we work with asked us to take a look at her client’s potential for a tax appeal. Keep in mind that these were past clients of hers. They were paying over $22,000 a year in property tax.

The property was in Upper Dublin Township and was a typical 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath Colonial of around 4,600sf of above grade living space. The total assessment on the house was $477,000 which, after applying the current Common Level Ration for Montgomery County, equals an assessed market value of $1.2M.  This means that the house is being taxed as if it was worth $1,200,000.

This seemed a bit high at first glance. So, we did some research on sales in that market and here’s what we found. (This is a free service that we offer to prospective tax appeals)

What this basically means is that this property has a very good case for a tax assessment appeal. While the numbers above are not an appraisal of the property, they are a pretty strong indication that the homeowner might want to pursue an appeal.

Based on the Average Sale Price of $807,664 the homeowner could possibly reduce their assessment by roughly 32%.  That equates to a tax savings of $7,040!  While a disparity like this is not the norm, it is not uncommon either.

In this case, the agent was looking out for her client (a prior client who wasn’t even actively looking to sell or buy). Can you imagine how grateful that homeowner was to find out their agent was still looking out for them, long after they bought a house with her? The agent wins the loyalty and gratitude of a client.

The homeowner wins by saving thousands of dollars, now and into the future.

We win by being able to help another agent and homeowner who will hopefully tell their friends and colleagues.

If you or your clients live in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Philadelphia Counties and think you may be paying too much in property taxes, give us a call. We are happy to look into your situation.


Getting a Home Appraisal in Philadelphia

Selling a home can be a complex process, and one of the most important steps is setting the right price. This is where the services of a certified appraiser can be invaluable. Homeowners in Philadelphia looking to list their homes for sale should consider getting a home appraisal from a certified appraiser to ensure they are pricing their home accurately and competitively.

Philadelphia Home Appraisal – Potter Street

A certified appraiser will provide an objective and professional assessment of a home’s value, taking into account its location, size, condition, and other relevant factors. This information can be crucial in determining a fair market price for the home, which is essential for attracting potential buyers and negotiating a sale. Additionally, lenders often require an appraisal before approving a mortgage, so having a professional appraisal on hand can streamline the sale process.

An accurate home appraisal can also help sellers avoid overpricing their homes. Overpricing can deter potential buyers and cause a property to sit on the market for an extended period, resulting in additional costs such as mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance expenses. By contrast, underpricing a home can leave money on the table and negatively impact a seller’s return on investment. A certified appraiser can help homeowners avoid these pitfalls and price their homes appropriately.

Working with a certified appraiser can help homeowners gain a deeper understanding of their property’s value and potential. This can be especially useful for those looking to make improvements or renovations before listing their homes. An appraiser can provide insights on which upgrades may offer the best return on investment, and how they may impact the property’s overall value.

Homeowners in Philadelphia looking to sell their homes should consider getting an home appraisal from a certified appraiser. The benefits of working with an appraiser include a professional and objective assessment of a property’s value, the ability to set a fair market price, and the potential to avoid costly pricing mistakes. By working with an appraiser, homeowners can make informed decisions and maximize their return on investment.


Using Data-Mapping Technology in Appraisals

Our office is always looking for ways to improve our appraisal insights for our clients. Technology and data have been at the forefront of our efforts to create more user-friendly reports. This led us to start playing with visual interpretations of the market data.

The “heat map” is a visual representation of Close Sale Prices in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill section, over the past year. The lower values are on the cooler (blue) side of the scale and the higher values are on the warmer (red) side of the scale. If you are familiar with Chestnut Hill, the map makes a lot of sense. The estate section is on the west side (west of Seminole Ave), adjacent to Fairmount Park. The homes there are larger, estate homes that sell for millions. East of Germantown Ave is where smaller, more modest homes are prevalent.

What I like about this map is that it conveys visually to the end-user that there may be two very distinct markets within Chestnut Hill. The information can be used by an appraiser support the need for a location adjustment within the 19118 MLS Area.

There has been a lot of discussion about appraiser-bias in the news these days. This map can be used to help eliminate any real or perceived appraiser-bias. The colors on the map are about as neutral and unbiased a representation of the market that you will ever get.

At The Coyle Group, we are always striving to set ourselves apart from the other appraisal firms out there. The heat map is just one example of how we are making the appraisal experience more transparent and informative for our clients.

If you have any questions about how we can assist you with your appraisal needs, feel free to reach out.

#philadelphia #philadelphiaappraisal #appraiser #appraisal #ChestnutHill #chestnuthillpa #PhillyRealEstate


Monday Median Stats

Just some quick Monday stats. Here is the Median Price Change in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. With the exception of Bucks, all are dipping into negative territory. Keep in mind that data for markets with fewer sales can be volatile from month-to-month.
Data from BrightMLS as of end of October. Single family homes only, no condos.


The Signs Are All Around Us

The signs are all around us…on houses, on websites and social media.  The Philadelphia real estate market has shifted. This market surprised a lot of Agents and Sellers (and Appraisers).  The economy, rates and seasonality are all taking a toll.  Markets in the Philly Metro region are in one of three phases:

  1. The market is still showing signs of appreciation but, nothing like it was a year ago. It’s the last glowing embers of a hot market.
  2. The glow is gone. Things are cooling and are cooling fast. Homes are sitting longer. The showing lines are much shorter. Sales concessions and inspections are back in fashion. Sellers have lost their advantage and Buyers are in control.
  3. Yes, believe it or it or not, there are areas in our market that are in decline.  Not falling-off-a-cliff decline but, more like a slow-roll-down-a-hill decline. Sellers priced too high are getting lower offers or are being ignored. There are fewer buyers. Inventory is picking up as some Sellers try to catch the last bit of a wave that’s already passed. List prices are being “corrected” to align with the current reality.

What can you do as an Agent during this market shift?

  • Be aware of the shift and adjust your sellers’ expectations, accordingly
  • Look at listings. They are the best indicators of the current market sentiment and show you how the competition is reacting.
  • Learn to spot the declines, dig-down to understand your market.
  • Prepare to see declines reported in appraisals going forward.

Learn to drill down on your market. There are actually some great analytical tools available on Bright.  For instance, The Market Watch is a simple chart that you can set up to track the market as a whole or specific areas.

As of today, over the past 7 days, in the Philadelphia 5-county area, there were 1,046 Price Decreases, 1,082 New Listings, 166 Coming Soon, and 184 Back to Active. If you are a Listing Agent, Seller or have active listings, these numbers are telling you something.

They basically say that there are or will be some 1,432 new or renewed listings competing in the market. Trust me, these homes will be priced competitively for the current market.  The 1,046 Price Decreases should also grab your attention.  These are Sellers saying “we missed the mark with our original pricing and we are committed to pricing it more competitively, now.”

Proper pricing will be more important as we go forward. Buyers in the market will be funded (regardless of the rates), ready to buy and are not going to want to play games with unrealistic Sellers.

Another Bright report you should be looking at is the monthly Market Report.  The most recent September 2022 Market Report has some very interesting data that would indicate that things are entering the “decline” phase.  The report can be found at:

Click on the Philadelphia Metro link and you will find a PDF of the report. There is a great summary of the findings on the first page labeled Philadelphia Market Key Findings:

My take away from these stats is that most of these numbers are heading in the wrong direction. Closed Sales are down, fewer sales.  Median Price is up but, these numbers are for September. It will be interesting to see what the October numbers look like. I have a feeling they will be lower.  Days on Market is growing, homes are taking longer to sell.  New Pending Sales are down, buying is slowing.  New Listings are down, fewer people are selling or have decided to wait-it-out.  Active listings are up, inventory is growing slightly (probably Sellers still trying to catch the wave). Months of Supply is up, more inventory accumulating due to fewer Buyers.

The last stat, Showings, is in my opinion the most telling.  This is a predictive number, measuring the activity of prospective Buyers. This number is way down. That suggest that there are fewer people actively looking at homes. Lack of interest, lack of money, fear of rates and the economy, regardless of the reason, prospective Buyers have pulled back.

Economics 101:  Decreased demand and increased supply equals lower prices.

So, sharpen your pencils and study your market. Get help pricing if you need it. As always, be aware of competing listings and be sure to confirm the GLA of your property.

If you need have any questions or need advice with pricing, measuring or any other appraisal related issue, please feel free to reach out.





Feeling Frustrated!

Yesterday, a home in my neighborhood went up for sale.  I know it well.  When it hit the MLS, the agent cited the Square Footage as being “estimated” at 3,700SF.  Trust me.  On it’s biggest day, this is not 3,700SF.  Overnight, the house apparently shrunk.  Because, as of this morning, the house is now “estimated” to be 3,200SF.

While the SF in the MLS is closer to the actual square footage, it’s still not accurate.  Public Records indicate that this house is 2,577SF with an additional 525SF of below grade, finished basement.  If you look at the Assessor’s sketch on the Montgomery County site, the square footage calculates to 2,545SF.  For the sake of argument, let’s agree that the house is roughly 2,545 – 2,580SF.  These calculations are fairly accurate based on what I know of the house.

All real estate professionals have to be more careful.  We owe it to the public and our colleagues.  Estimating and guessing can be so misleading.  Lumping finished basement space into Above-Grade living space is also misleading.  Think about it.  Will your clients pay the same P/SF for the Rec Room in the basement with the drop ceiling and 1970’s paneling as they would for the Above-Grade space?  Probably not.  Take a look at how these numbers breakdown on a Price/SF basis based on a list price of $750,000.  (I know I preach against P/SF but, it’s an easily comparable metric that everyone seems to understand.)

Big difference, huh?  How would you like to be the person who buys what they think is a 3,200SF home for $750,000 (or $238/SF) only to find out that it’s actually 2,580SF at $238/SF?  That would indicate a value of $614,040.

Agents, as we begin 2020, please make it a habit of measuring your listings or having them measured.  Knowing the true Square Footage of your listings matters.  How you report that Square Footage matters.  Make it a business practice of separating Above-Grade living space from Below-Grade living space.

If you have any questions about measuring homes or what should or shouldn’t be included as living space, please feel free to contact me.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. We also provide property measuring services.  If you need a guest speaker at your next sales meeting, please give us a call. We would welcome to opportunity to speak to your group and field any appraisal related questions you may have. For more information please visit our website at You can also contact The Coyle Group at 215-836-5500 or



Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Things aren’t always what they seem…

Take Manayunk (19127) for instance. If you were to look at the numbers for 2019, you would think that Manayunk is on fire and that median sale prices are shooting through the roof. Last year, the median sale price in the 19127 MLS Area ranged from $215,000 to $288,000. But in December, the median shot up to $430,000!






However, when you take a closer look at the sales data, you notice something that jumps out. While there were only 12 settled residential sales in 19127, five of them were well above anything else sold in 2019. As it turns out, “The Locks” townhouse development was able to close on a number of properties before the end of the year. They ranged in value from $788,415 all the way up to $991,188. These five sales skewed the market so much that if you were to look only at the raw data, you would be convinced that Manayunk is the new Point Breeze.






This is why Appraisers tend to look deeper into the data to understand real estate markets. In this situation, if the five outliers are removed, the chart tells a much different story. The median sale price falls to $250,000 which is much more in-line with what 19127 had been indicating all 2019. In fact, Manayunk may be experiencing a seasonal downturn, which is typical of this time of year.







Things aren’t always what they seem in data, life and especially real estate. If you need help understanding the trends and indicators in your market, please feel free to contact us. Have a great 2020!


2020 and Inventory Levels

There are many articles out there right now that point toward Inventory Levels as being a key factor in the 2020 real estate market, here in the Philadelphia region.

This chart is a quick look back at inventory levels throughout 2019. As you can see, there’s pretty steep drop off between January and December. The 4th quarter drop-off is likely a result of seasonality and the Holidays when everything real estate tends to slow down.

No photo description available.

The Spring Market may come early this year as sellers try to take advantage of strong prices despite signs of market stabilization and decline in some areas. Buyers still have record low interest rates on their side, that is if they can find a house to buy.


Getting Ready for the 2019 Spring Market in Philly







OK, maybe I’m jumping the gun but, the last couple of days in Philly with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s have given me a case of early Spring Fever.  I know that Winter 2019 is not over, despite what the Groundhog may think.  But I’m an optimist!  I know Spring will come…and along with it the Spring Selling Season.  The question is, Are you ready for it?

Inventory levels are starting to accumulate.  This is a result of a few things.  First, seasonality, the Philadelphia RE markets tend to slow down around Thanksgiving, lag through the Holidays and into they new year.  Markets tend to wake-up a little around Valentines Day and usually are in full swing by March.

However, this past year was a little different.  Rising interest rates slowed the roll into the End-of-Year market.  As a result, Buyers pulled back and began to sit the sidelines.  At the same time, home prices were at an all-time high and in many areas were becoming unaffordable.  So, if you couple increasing rates with pie-in-the-sky pricing (and tentative Buyers) it’s a recipe for a “cool down”.  This put downward pressure on the pricing of existing listings and forced new listings to be razor-sharp with their pricing.

This Spring, new entrants to the market will have to be just as precise with their pricing in order to attract the Buyers.  Existing listings will also have to re-think pricing strategies in order to remain relevant.  Sellers will also have to be more flexible, especially those with listings already on the market.

Here are a few suggestions to help Agents and Sellers to prepare for the Spring Selling Season:

  • Price the home properly, the first time.  Know your market, know the comparable sales as well as the competing listings.  If necessary, get a Pre-listing Appraisal to help you in developing an effective pricing strategy.
  • Be Accurate.  Don’t rely on public records or Seller estimates to determine the Square Footage of your listings.  The public records are notoriously incorrect and Sellers tend to over-state the GLA.  The number one reason Agents get sued is for misrepresentation of the size of the house.  Have the property measured.  It’s an inexpensive investment that will help you more accurately price the house (and could save you in the event of a lawsuit).
  • Call it as it is.  Avoid getting creative with the description of the house or the design.  If the house is a “Split Level” don’t insist on calling it a “Colonial”.  If it’s an over-sized one car garage, please refrain from calling it a 1.5 car garage.  Who ever made half a car?  If you have no idea what to call it, contact an appraiser.
  • Above or Below Grade Living Space.  This is another area where accuracy in reporting the facts of a house is very important.  Given the high quality of below grade living space that we see in homes these days, I can understand the temptation to include finished basement space as part of the overall living space.  However, the areas of above and below grade space should be differentiated.  The MLS gives agents the ability to separate these spaces and correctly report the GLA of a property.  If you are not sure of what is above grade or below grade space, have it measured.  Many appraisers offer measuring and sketching services to agents and homeowners.
  • Photo the Front!  Always include at least one photo of the front of your listing.  So many listings these days have no picture of the house.  They have lovely shots of flowers on tables, shower heads, gardens, carved mantles and glass doorknobs but, not picture of the front of the house.  It’s like going to a dating website and all you see are pictures of a person’s body parts in their profile but, not one photo of their face.  Kind of makes you wonder what they’re hiding, huh?  The MLS allows up to 25 photos per listing, please use one for the front of the subject property.

Here’s to a strong Spring Selling Season in Philly!!  If you ever have any appraisal related questions or are interested in learning more about the other services we offer (Pre-listing Appraisals, Home Measurements or speaking engagements) please feel free to contact The Coyle Group at or 215-836-5500.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. We also provide property measuring services.  If you need a guest speaker at your next sales meeting, please give us a call. We would welcome to opportunity to speak to your group and field any appraisal related questions you may have. For more information please visit our website at You can also contact The Coyle Group at 215-836-5500 or