Appraisers Helping Philadelphia Realtors

AppraiserHelpingPhiladelphiaRealtors - Cover Page

Hi Everyone.  Thank you for all your support of the Philly Appraisal Blog over the past couple of years.  In an effort to take the Appraiser/Realtor interaction to the next level I’ve created the Appraisers Helping Philadelphia Realtors Facebook group!!

The group was created to be “THE” go-to source of help and information for realtors in the Greater Philadelphia region looking for answers to their appraisal questions, to stay at the forefront of appraisal issues that are affecting the real estate industry and to bridge the gap of misinformation that often exists between realtors and appraisers in Philadelphia’s ever changing marketplace.

As part of this group, we have assembled a network of “THE” top appraisers locally and nationwide whose focus is on helping Philadelphia Realtors. You’ll notice that some of the leading real estate professionals in the Philadelphia area are also members, including the top agents, brokers and mortgage professionals. All are here to share ideas, provide information and help realtors and their clients in making informed real estate decisions and provide solutions to your valuation questions.

From time to time we will spotlight members of the group so that you can hear their story, learn from their experiences and network with your peers.

We will also be posting PDF files that may be helpful on topics such as “FHA Repairs”, “How to Contest a Low Appraisal” and “How to Calculate the GLA of a House.” So, be sure to check the “File” button under the cover photo.

Please accept this invitation to join the Appraisers Helping Philadelphia Realtors FB Group by clicking on the link or image above.  You are encouraged to introduce yourself to the group, get involved, share your stories and ask questions. Also, please feel free to tell other Philadelphia real estate agents and brokers about the group.

Get involved, ask questions, share your experience and add value!




Are Tankless Water Heaters Money Down the Drain?

Like most homeowners, you’re probably looking for ways to both save money and increase the value of your home. You may be surprised to learn that one of the most efficient ways to accomplish both is to install a tankless water heater in your home.

Philadelphia AppraiserA tankless water heater functions differently than a traditional water heater but you most likely couldn’t tell the difference when using it. A traditional water heater pulls water in and then stores it in a tank for future use while a tankless water heater immediately heats the water as it pulls it in and does not store water in a tank, hence the name.

Tankless water heaters operate much more efficiently and are able to provide hot water almost instantly. And the best part is, you never have to worry about running out of hot water as is the case with traditional water heaters because tank-less water heaters heat the water as they bring it in providing you with virtually an unlimited supply of hot water.

A tank-less water heater typically improves the value of your home because it drastically cuts your energy costs. Not only are tank-less water heaters more efficient and environmentally friendly but they’re also safer than traditional water heaters since you don’t have to worry about water leaks causing extensive damage to your home. Like other improvements designed at driving down energy costs on your monthly bills, a tank-less water heater can improve the value of your home because it makes your home more efficient for future buyers.

Often times you can expect your energy bills to be cut in half by the use of one of these systems and as a result, they also have the potential to drive up the re-sale value of your home often by several thousand dollars. They’re one of the most effective ways to cut energy costs while you live in your home and they also allow you to make additional money when you decide to sell. Finally, they also provide you and your family the ability to work with and enjoy using a far more efficient system.

I hope you found this helpful and if you have any additional questions, thoughts, or comments please leave them down below.

The Coyle Group, LLC is one of the most well-respected and sought after appraisal firms in the greater Philadelphia area specializing in residential and commercial appraisals for divorce, bankruptcy, estate, date of death, tax appeals, pre-listings, and more. For more info contact us at 215-836-5500,, or email us at



Don’t Trust Your Divorce Appraisal To Just Any Appraiser


Is a BPO the Same as a Professional Appraisal?

BPO’s, otherwise known as ‘broker price opinions’ are often used by lending institutions to obtain the current market value of distressed properties including short sales and foreclosures. In addition, brokers and realtors often use BPO’s to help justify a suggested list price for those looking to sell their home.

The Coyle Group - BPOBPO appraisals are NOT completed by professional real estate appraisers and instead, are usually completed by real estate brokers and are far less detailed than that of a professional appraisal completed by a professional real estate appraiser.

Depending on the type of information required, brokers may provide either a drive-by or internal BPO. Drive-by BPO’s are often used for properties that have gone into foreclosure as they allow brokers to gather enough information without having to contact or dialogue with the foreclosed property owners.

Internal BPO’s require more detailed information on the property which can only be obtained by gaining interior access to the property. Internal BPO’s are often used for homeowners involved in a mortgage refinance, loan modification, or short sale.

During an internal inspection brokers gather information about a property’s interior and exterior condition allowing them to more accurately report gross living area, condition of the ceiling, walls, flooring, mechanical systems, countertops, sinks, tubs, fencing, roofing, siding, swimming pools, and more.

Both internal and drive-by BPO reports include year built, lot size, gross living area, number of rooms, property condition, information pertaining to the immediate neighborhood, and often additional information regarding the number of homes listed for sale or rent in the area.

BPO’s and their subsequent property value assessments often require listing the total number of foreclosure properties within a 5-mile radius because when a high number of foreclosed homes are present, most often property values of all homes in the area decline.

In short sale situations, accurate BPO appraisals have often been known to reduce principal loan balances by as much as 15-25%. While this amount is substantial for mortgage lenders it’s still more cost-effective than going through the process of foreclosure.

One important note is that the ‘The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act’ prohibits BPO appraisals from being used as the primary basis for determining property value when real estate is used as collateral to secure the loan. So in any situation, it is always best to consult with an attorney or real estate broker to ensure a BPO is legal and acceptable in your case, as your situation may require a more detailed appraisal performed by a professional state certified real estate appraiser.

I hope you found this helpful and if you have any additional questions, thoughts, or comments please leave them down below.

The Coyle Group, LLC is one of the most well-respected and sought after appraisal firms in the greater Philadelphia area specializing in residential and commercial appraisals for divorce, bankruptcy, estate, date of death, tax appeals, pre-listings, and more. For more info contact us at 215-836-5500,, or email us at


Why and When You Need a Real Estate Appraiser

The Coyle Group - Money HousesA real estate appraisal is one of the most critical parts of the real estate process. The appraisal benefits everyone involved in a real estate transaction including a buyer, seller, investor, trustee, heirs, and more. Although it may not be required in every situation it should always be considered as one of the first steps you take when the sale or division of real estate is involved.

An easy definition of a real estate appraisal would be; “the process of estimating the fair market value of your home or property at any given point in time.”

The following are common situations in which real estate appraisals are often needed:

  • You’re applying for a loan against a property as part of a refinance or equity line of credit on your existing home
  • You’re applying for a home loan against a property you’re planning to buy
  • You need to know the retrospective or historical value of a property as of the date of one’s passing for estate purposes
  • You’re going through a divorce involving the division of real estate
  • You’re going through bankruptcy in which a home or property value is needed by the courts as part of the settlement process
  • You’re a homeowner looking to lower your property taxes because the county has over-assessed your property
  • You’re a realtor or FSBO looking to establish current fair market value for list purposes

What to Look for in an Appraiser

The first thing you should check is an appraiser’s qualifications including their certification and/or licensure. Every state requires that real estate appraisers be licensed in their state of residence. You should avoid working with any appraiser who is unable or unwilling to provide you with their license information.

Here are a few other items you should look for when hiring an appraiser:

  • Reputation is a valuable tool in choosing a good appraiser. Although the lender will usually select their own appraisers for most lending situations, in other cases it’s always best to ask for referrals from someone you know and trust. You should also always check online to see if the appraiser you’re looking to hire has any reviews worth noting.
  • Is the appraiser willing to walk you through the appraisal process including going over the final report with you and answering any questions you might have.
  • Professional, experienced, and geographically knowledgeable should be the key hiring factors you look for in an appraiser and NOT cheap and fast. Appraisers must also be impartial and give their honest, unbiased opinion of the value of the property without favoring one “side” or the other. Any conflict of interest should be revealed and dealt with upfront and in some cases the appraiser may have to refer you someone else to avoid any possible conflicts.

An appraiser’s fees are usually based on their level of expertise and experience in the industry as well as the complexity of the assignment. Considering the importance of an appraisal, you should never use the appraisal fee as the main determining factor as far as which appraiser to work with, as that could cost you dearly in the long run.

I hope you found this helpful and if you have any additional questions, thoughts, or comments please leave them down below.

The Coyle Group, LLC is one of the most well-respected and sought after appraisal firms in the greater Philadelphia area specializing in residential and commercial appraisals for divorce, bankruptcy, estate, date of death, tax appeals, pre-listings, and more. For more info contact us at 215-836-5500,, or email us at


Fighting a “Low Appraisal”

A friend of mine, who is an agent, called me the other day complaining about an appraisal that was completed on one of her listings. The appraiser (from a neighboring county) arrived at a value almost $45,000 under the contract price. She asked me if I could take a look at the appraisal and provide any insights that I might have.

It’s not unusual for values to come in lower than the contract price; and we all know that value and price are two separate things. However, there was such a large discrepancy, it warranted a closer look. After reviewing the appraisal, I did notice some issues that were of concern.

I recommended that the she ask for a Reconsideration of Value. A Reconsideration of Value is a formal request submitted to the lender asking their appraiser to consider additional information and/or sales data that might aid the appraiser and cause them to change their opinion of value.

Here are the steps that I suggested she take:

  • Go through proper channels.  The appraisal is the property of the Lender who ordered the appraisal.  You will have to submit your request for Reconsideration of Value to the Lender, usually in writing.  The Lender will then decide whether or not the request has merit.  If so, they will forward the request to the appraiser for review and response.  Do not contact the appraiser directly.  Remember that the appraiser’s client is the Lender; not the agent, the Seller or the Buyer.  The appraiser can’t act on your request or revise his report without permission from his client, the Lender.  Please note that the Lender can use their discretion and may deny your request without even presenting it to the appraiser.
  • Practice the 3 “Ps”.   Be Proactive – initiate the request promptly.  Be Professional – don’t get bogged down in personally attacking the appraiser or his skills, present your case in a professional, well-supported manner.  Be Polite – appraisers are people, too.  Really, we are.  You will get further with your request if you simple practice good manners and politeness.
  • Support your request with good sales information and insights.  Simply saying that “the value is not high enough” will not cut it.  Be prepared to provide additional comparables and explain why they are more appropriate that those used in the report.  If you have comments about the comparables used in the report, be specific and detail exactly why the comparable used in the report was not the best one available.  If you work frequently in a certain market and have intimate knowledge of sales in the area, use that information to support your point.  “Comp 3 was a nasty divorce situation and they needed to sell quickly.” Or “Comp 2 is actually 500sf larger due to a finished attic that is not noted in the public records.” Good, well-supported information will go a long way.  And, if you are going to provide additional sales, make sure that they are truly comparable.  Don’t just look for sales that will support your price. The appraiser and the Lender will see right through that. If your property is 3 bedroom Rancher, don’t include the 5 bedroom Colonial as a comp, even if it is located across the street. They’re just not comparable.
  • Be Specific. If you want to know why the appraiser made or did not make a certain adjustment or did or didn’t use a certain comparable, address it directly and specifically in your request. “Can the appraiser explain why he only made a $5,000 adjustment for the subject’s inground pool?” Or “Why did the appraiser elect not to use the sale at XXX Main Street, one block away?”
  • Keep it Short & Sweet. Don’t write a novel. Don’t get emotional. Get to your point, present your case coherently and concisely, provide supportive information and then, move on.

I hope these steps will help you if you ever find yourself in this kind of situation. Should you ever need any assistance with contesting an appraisal or submitting a Reconsideration of Value, please feel free to contact our office. We will gladly do what we can to advise you.

The Coyle Group, LLC is a Residential & Commercial Real Estate Appraisal firm serving the Greater Philadelphia Region and New Jersey.  215.836.5500


What is an Absorption Rate?

The Absorption Rate measures the relationship between a real estate market’s supply and demand.  The total number of available homes (inventory = listings and pending sales) is divided by the total number of homes sold in the previous month.   The resulting number represents the number of months it would take, at that same pace, to sell the entire inventory of homes.  It this does not take into count the number of houses which will eventually come on the market in addition to those already for sale.

Knowing your area’s Absorption Rate (AR), can help you track trends.  Understanding your market and where it is headed is very important for both sellers and buyers.  It allows buyers and sellers to understand better why some homes may sell faster than other and to develop effective pricing strategies.

Calculating an AR is not difficult but you will need access to the following information:

  • How many listings are currently on the market in a given area? Be sure to include both active and pending homes.
  • How many homes sold last month?

Once you have those numbers, you will need to:

  • Add the number of Active/Pending Listings together
  • Multiply the number of homes Sold Last Month by 12.  Then, divide that number by 52 for the weekly number of homes sold.
  • Then, divide the number of Active by the number of sold per week
  • This will give you the weekly AR.  For a monthly AR simply divide the weekly AR by 4.

Here’s an example for Montgomery County.  In November 2011 there were 554 settled sales.  Currently, there are 4,481 active listings and 230 pending sales.

Listings + Pendings = Actives

4481 + 230 = 4711

Homes Sold  X 12 = Annualized Sales

554 X 12 = 6,648/52 = 127.85 Week

4711 / 127.85 = 36.84 Weeks

36.84 Weeks / 4 Weeks per month = 9.21 months of inventory

The result is an Absorption Rate of 9.21 Months.  What this really means is that it will take 9.21 months for the market, at the current rate, to absorb the current inventory of homes.  This assumes that no new homes will be added to the existing inventory.

One good thing about absorption rates is that they can be tailored to specific neighborhoods and price ranges. So how can an absorption rate study assist buyers and sellers?

Narrowing an absorption rate study to a certain type of home, in a specific neighborhood, at a particular price point, enables a buyer or seller to first determine the nature of their local market (is it a buyer or sellers market) and then establish a listing or offer price, accordingly.

For instance, in Lower Merion, the overall AR for the township is 8 months.  However, if we take a look at the luxury market within Lower Merion (homes over $2MM) we see a very different picture begins to appear.  The luxury market currently has a 44 month inventory.  Meaning if you have a luxury home in Lower Merion, it could take over 3.6 years for you to sell it.  This could be a problem for someone who needs to sell quickly.  In this case, having the AR could prompt the seller to rethink their asking price.

Once we know the AR, we can determine what kind of market we are in.  That information can then be used by sellers to price their homes more effectively and hopefully reduce days on market.  For buyers, this information can help you determine if you are in a Buyers or Sellers Market and to structure your offer, accordingly.

Buyer’s Market: Over 7 months of supply
Balanced Market: 5 to 7 months of supply
Seller’s Market: Less than 5 months of supply

The AR is not the only thing you will need to determine a market’s condition.  Specific property features, condition, location and of course price will typically be more important in determining how fast a property will actually sell than any statistical formula.

If you have any questions about Absorption Rates or need assistance calculating the AR for a specific market or property type please feel free to contact us through this blog or email us at


Another Reason to get a Pre-Listing Appraisal

Just the other day, I received a phone call from a Mortgage Broker friend of mine. Yes, appraisers and Mortgage Brokers are still allowed to be friends.

He wanted my input on a situation in which one of his former clients found themselves.  Let’s call them the Utley’s. (For the privacy of the parties involved, I will not use the actual names, streets, pricing or house photo in this post.)  The Utley’s currently have their home listed for sale in Springfield Township, Montgomery County for $345,900.  There home has been on the market for 39 days and they have an offer on the table for $339,000.  The Utley’s are concerned about whether or not they should accept an offer this “low”.

I began buy pulling up the information on the Utley’s home in the MLS and public records.  It is a nice 1939 colonial with three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, approximately 1,500 Sq.Ft.  A very common home in this area.

Then, I took a look at the sales and listing activity in the immediate area for similar homes.  What I found was surprising.  The last three sales in the neighborhood in the past year sold for $370,000, $370, 000 and $412,000.  There are currently two competing listings in the neighborhood listed for $370,000 and $469,900.  The home listed at $469,900 was a larger, four bedroom that was completely renovated, probably not the best comparable.

However, there was also one pending sale right around the corner from the Utley’s.  This house was last listed for $339,900 but, it lacked a powder room and was roughly 220 Sq.Ft. smaller.  It had also been on the market for over 160 days with an original list price of $364,000.

After looking at this information, my question to my Mortgage Broker friend was “why did they list it so low?”

By listing at $345,900, the Utley’s are basically telling the market “Hey, this is my pie-in-the-sky, hope I can get it number…but, I am probably willing to take less!”  The reason they are receiving “low” offers is because they apparently under listed their home, based on available market data.  They (and their agent) may have shot themselves in the foot.

To compound the issue, it turns out, the Utley’s agent is a “friend of the family” (probably not for much longer after this experience) that is a licensed agent but, who is not very familiar with their neighborhood.   In the end, the Utley’s may be leaving thousands of dollars on the table or may have to re-list at a higher price.

This is a perfect example of why Sellers and Agents need to have a Pre-Listing Appraisal completed prior to listing a property.  A Pre-Listing appraisal can assist Sellers and their Agents maximize their selling price without over or under pricing.  If the Utley’s and their Agent had an appraisal of the home done prior to listing they might have developed a different price point and might not be in a situation where they are entertaining such “low” offers.

For information on The Coyle Group’s Pre-Listing Appraisal services, please call our office at 215.836.5500 or visit this link.


Tax Appeal Deadlines

We received a question today that was posted to our Ask PAB! page.  The question was a simple one but very important if you are considering to appeal your tax assessment.

“How strict are the deadlines for county tax assessment appeals?”

Simply put, they are very important.  If you miss the filing deadline you miss your opportunity to reduce your assessment for another year.  No excuses, no second chances.  In fact, not filing on time could cost a property owner thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes.

The deadlines for the counties in the Philadelphia region are as follows:

  • Berks County, August 15, 2011
  • Bucks County, August 1, 2011
  • Chester County, August 1, 2011
  • Delaware County, August 1, 2011
  • Lehigh County, August 1, 2011
  • Montgomery County, September 1, 2011
  • Philadelphia County, October 6, 2011

If you are filing an appeal this year, we strongly recommend filing in person at the county assessor’s office.  When delivering your documents be sure to request a receipt from the clerk.  This creates a paper trail that shows when you filed and who took receipt of your documents.   If you are mailing your documents send them certified mail, so that there is a record of them being received.  The counties receive thousands of appeals each year and sometimes things fall through the cracks.

When filing be prepared to pay any necessary filing fees.  The fees will vary from county to county.  For any fees that pertain to your specific county we recommend visiting the Assessor’s website or calling their office.

You should also note that if the filing deadline falls on a weekend the assessor’s office may move the deadline to the following business day.  Again, this is something you should verify with your county’s assessor’s office. 

The appeal filing must be completed with appropriate documentation and fees no later than the end of business on the deadline date.  However, that does’t mean that you can’t file days or weeks prior to the deadline.

If you have any questions about tax assessment appeals please contact our office.  We will be glad to assist you.


Land to Value Ratios

The Coyle Group - Land - Philadelphia Appraisers

We received this question from a local Realtor concerning land to value ratios as they relate to the appraisal process.

“I remember hearing percentages thrown around with regard to land value vs house value in appraisals for conventional financing.  Is it true that the land can only be worth a percentage of the total price being paid and if so, what is a good percentage/number to be working with as a rule of thumb?”

Great question, thanks for submitting it.

As for the land to value ratio, there really is no number set in stone by appraisers or the appraisal profession.  From an appraisal point of view the land value will be based on comparable sales and the Highest & Best Use of the land.  In some cases, the land value will comprise a large part of the overall value of a piece of property.  This will depend on location, permitted usage, etc.  An example of this would be down the Shore where the land value makes up the majority of the of the total improved value a given property.

From what I understand, the idea of a percentage is something that created by loan underwriters and evolved out of the Great Depression.  At that time, the old home loan organizations lost millions making loans on vacant parcels.  Now, when the market goes south, the last thing a bank wants to have in it’s portfolio are loans on vacant land.  Vacant land is the one of the hardest things to get off the books in a down economy.  Hence the 30% rule grew as an arbitrary benchmark.  If the site value was more than 30% of the total value of an improved property, the property was considered to have too much land.  This is also why many lenders will not touch unimproved land for lending.

That being said, generally speaking, most loan underwriters are looking for a land to value ratio of 30% or less.

The Coyle Group, LLC is one of the most well-respected and sought after appraisal firms in the greater Philadelphia area specializing in residential and commercial appraisals for divorce, bankruptcy, estate, date of death, tax appeals, pre-listings, and more. For more info contact us at 215-836-5500,, or email us at