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.


Celebrating 10 Years!

On January 1, 2018, The Coyle Group celebrated the beginning of our 10th year in business!  We owe our success to the countless real estate agents, property owners, attorneys, banks, credit unions and mortgage professionals who have come to trust us and rely upon our services.  Every day we strive to serve our clients and provide value.  We appreciate your loyalty and business as we look forward to the next 10 years!

To show our appreciation we are offering 10% Off all Pre-Listing, Estate, Tax Appeal, PMI Removal, Bankruptcy and Divorce appraisals ordered throughout the month of February 2018!  Just mention this post or coupon code:  10FOR10

Eligible properties are non-complex Single Family Dwellings located in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware & Chester Counties.  The appraisal must be paid for by Check, Cash or PayPal at or prior to the time of appointment.

Thank you!

TCG Logo

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia Real Estate Appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. We also provide “footprint” sketches for determining a more accurate square footage of a property.  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


Do Comps need to be within a Mile?

the-coyle-group-one-mile-philadelphia-appraiserThis post is basically a follow-up to my last post, The 6 Month Rule.  If you recall, I discussed how far back in time appraisers can go when selecting comparables.  In this post I’d like to address a similar misconception brought up in a comment by Portland, OR appraiser, Gary Kristensen.  He suggested that we answer another question that appraisers hear a lot…

Can you only use comparable sales that are within one mile away?

Well, as most appraisal answers begin…that depends.  It depends on the location of the property.  Are we talking urban, suburban or rural?  It depends on the type of property.  Is it a 3 bedroom Twin in Roxboro or a custom-built Mansion in Bryn Mawr?

In urban settings, like Philadelphia, were homes are often very similar and the housing stock is dense and sales are plentiful, it can be easy to find comparables.  In situations like this an appraiser may only need to search a few blocks away to find appropriate comps.  Going a mile for comparables in a place like Philly will likely put you in a completely different neighborhood, zip code and market.  Unless the property is extremely unusual chances are the appraiser will be well within a mile when selecting comps.the-coyle-group-maple-glen-house-philadelphia-appraiser

Suburban settings tend to be less built up with fewer sales.  In cases like this an appraiser may have to go more than a mile for comparables.  Even if they are more than a mile from the subject they may still be located in the same municipality, school district and general market place.  For instance, if I appraised a house in Maple Glen and went over a mile away I could still be in Upper Dublin Township & School District and the 19002 zip code…the same general market.

Appraisers have even more latitude in Rural settings.  While most of my experience has been appraising in the greater Philadelphia region in an urban/suburban market, I know appraisers who do work in Rural markets.  For them it’s not uncommon to go 10 or more miles away or into different counties (and states) in order to identify appropriate comparables.  Think about it, the market for a 500-acre horse farm could easily span across miles, counties and state borders.

The Coyle Group - Exeter - Philadelphia AppraiserNow suppose you have that custom-built Mansion that I mentioned earlier.  There may not be many sales in the immediate area that would be considered comparable.  An appraiser may have to go 4-5 (or more) miles away to find a suitable comparable.  In cases like this it may even be appropriate to go outside Lower Merion Township (Montgomery County) into neighboring Radnor Township (Delaware County) to find comps.

If the appraiser stays within an area that would be considered to be the same real estate market place*, the comparables are likely going to be appropriate.  It’s also very important for the appraiser to explain their rationale for expanding the search for comparables. This is necessary to help the end user of the appraisal understand the appraiser’s reasoning and methodology.

Bottom-line, there is no rule or law that compels an appraiser to select comparable no more than a mile from the subject.  This is a guideline established by underwriters/lenders and has nothing to do with good appraisal practice.

* A real estate market place is where forces of supply and demand operate, and where buyers and sellers interact to trade real estate for money.  Market places have mechanisms or means for (1) determining price of the traded item, (2) communicating the price information, (3) facilitating deals and transactions, and (4) effecting distribution. The market for a particular property is made up of buyers who need a home and have the ability and willingness to pay for it.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia Real Estate Appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. 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




Attention Agents - The Coyle Group

Attention all Real Estate Agents!  Do you want to stand out from the crowd and really stay in the minds of your clients and prospects?

Well, you’re in luck…its tax appeal season!  For the next few of months homeowners across the Philadelphia region will have a chance to appeal their tax assessments.  This is a great opportunity for real estate agents to reconnect with current clients, old clients and prospects!  It’s also an opportunity to bring real value and show them that you’re not just any-old real estate agent but, a trusted partner who is looking out for their best interest.

Over the next few weeks, try reaching out to your old clients and prospects suggesting that they might want to consider appealing their taxes.  Show them that you’re looking out for them and want to help them save money.  Imagine how happy your client would be if you were able to help them save hundreds or thousands of dollars off their tax bills each year!

If you have any questions on how the assessment and appeal process works (in Philly, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester or Berks Counties) or how to figure out if your clients/prospects would be good candidates for an appeal, please feel free to contact our office.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. 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


Spring Cleaning time!

Spring Cleaning Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.

It was almost 60 degrees this past weekend and really started feeling like Spring. I know I just probably jinxed us into another blizzard or two in March and April. Regardless, the weather got me in the mood to do some clean-out in our garage.

While moving some things around and tossing others, it got me thinking that now is the time for agents to start doing “Spring Cleaning” with their current inventory. We all know Spring is when the Buyers come out of hibernation and savvy Sellers want to list. Now is the time to revisit those listings that maybe haven’t moved as quickly as once hoped. Perhaps, the sellers have been “stuck” on a price or maybe the original list price was just too aggressive. What ever the case, if your listing has been on the market for longer than the average days on market for your area, it’s time to rethink your pricing.


There are thousands of shiny, new listings on the horizon. These listings are going to compete directly with your older listings. Many of the buyers currently in the market are anxiously waiting to see these new listings, even holding off pulling the trigger until they arrive.  Some of them are the same buyers that may have already seen and passed on your listing. The only way to get their attention again is to make a calculated change to your pricing and marketing strategy.

When looking to make a pricing change consider these points…

Be honest…with yourself and your client. If the pricing of the house was off from the beginning, admit it and start fixing the problem.
Be realistic…sometimes real change hurts. Adjusting the price by a couple hundred dollars just to have the listing show up on the hotsheet probably isn’t going to do it. Real change will involve careful thought and meaningful action.
Be in the market, not just on the market. If your listing is priced higher than the immediate competition, it will be passed over. Look at it this way, why would an informed buyer purchase your listing when they can get a very similar home down the street for less? The answer is “they won’t.”
Be willing to seek help. We all like to be the real estate expert. We all like to think we have our finger on the pulse of the market and our pricing is spot on. Well, this goes back to point one. Be honest with yourself…sometimes we need help or a fresh set of eyes to look at the situation. Be willing to get help from another agent, your broker or a real estate appraiser.
Be willing to walk away. Sometimes cutting ties is best for all involved. Maybe your Seller is unwilling to budge on the price or “has to get” a certain number. This is where you have to make a sound business decision. Are you able to help your client to the best of your ability in a situation like this? If not, it’s probably time to step away and direct your talent, effort and energy elsewhere.

The 2016 Spring Selling Season is poised to be pretty significant. Low inventory, low rates and pent up buyer anticipation are going to add up to a hot market. Hopefully, you and your clients can take full advantage of it with adjustments to the pricing of your older inventory.

If we can be of assistance to anyone considering making some changes please feel free to contact our office. We are always helping agents and their clients with Pre-listing and Market Value Appraisals as well as Home Measuring Services.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. 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
* Data obtained from TReND MLS. Average Days on Market measured from February 1, 2015 thru February 22, 2016.


Zillow vs Appraiser Part IV

Zillow vs The Coyle Group, Part IV

It’s been a pretty busy 2015 and I really haven’t had much time to blog. However, this is probably my favorite post to write each year. Since 2011, we’ve had a little contest between Zillow and The Coyle Group (see prior years). We randomly select a number of appraisals recently completed by our office and see how our appraisal values match up against Zillow’s Zestimates. This year we chose 16 properties across Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Bucks County, Delaware County and Chester County. Housing styles ranged from Roxborough rows to Center City condos flats to Main Line mansions.

Below is a chart of the results. The first column shows where the property is located, the second The Coyle Group’s appraised value and the third Zillow’s Zestimate. The last column shows how high or low Zillow was relative to our appraised values.

The Coyle Group - Zillow 2015

Once again, the results are pretty astonishing. Now, Zillow was pretty accurate on the Ambler Golf Community home; and the Merion Station Tudor was right on target. I’ll even concede that the Center City Condo was in range as well.  But when Zillow is off, it tends to be way off! For instance, with the Parkwood Row in Northeast Philly, Zillow understated the value by 34.62%. That’s a big miss considering how “data rich” the Northeast is. Also, it just so happens that this property is currently active for $190,000.  Zillow missed that little fact.  This is where having a human being analyze the market data is so important.

Another interesting example is the Wyndmoor Colonial. This property was over valued by more than 22%.  You see, what Zillow didn’t know was that this property was in original condition.  Original kitchen, baths, fixtures, shag carpeting, wallpaper, etc.  It was like stepping back into the 1960’s.  Again, this is where having a certified appraiser physically inspect the property really matters. Algorithms don’t differentiate between “Brady Bunch chic” and a knocked-out kitchen with granite and high-end stainless appliances.

It just so happened that only four of the sample properties were under stated by Zillow.   Granted, is a very small sample but, on average the Zestimates were under the appraised value by 22.98%. This is important to consider. If you are a homeowner selling your property and relied on a Zestimate to price your home, you could potentially under-price your house and leave some serious money on the table.

The other twelve value samples are all over-stated by an average of 8.83%. As a seller, if you over price your home in a competitive market, buyers will pass you by in favor of more competitively priced homes. Eventually, you’ll probably have to lower your price and run the risk of losing buyers that may have otherwise been very interested in your home.

Philadelphia and the surrounding markets are so nuanced that computers and algorithms can’t accurately take into account all of the individual market factors. For instance, things like specific location can’t be accounted for by Zillow. If your home is next to a garbage dump Zillow will look at it the same as if it were next to a park. As pointed out above, Zillow also has trouble factoring condition and updates into their Zestimates, as well. As of right now, there is no technology that beats having a knowledgeable appraiser to determine an accurate value on a property. Granted, the technology is getting better, quickly but it’s still not as reliable.

Don’t get me wrong, Zillow has it’s place. It’s great for gathering information on neighborhoods and general market trends. It’s comparative tools and graphs are very useful.  Zillow is a good place to start.  However, in the end, Zillow’s Zestimates are not appraisals at all and should not be relied on as such. If you need assistance in pricing a property, I suggest getting some input from a from a good local agent or a certified appraiser and passing on Zillow.
The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing. 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


What Happend to the Spring Market?

In a post earlier this year I interviewed four of the top real estate agents in the Greater Philadelphia Metro area about their thoughts on the market. All four felt that inventory, namely the lack of, was going to be the biggest factor in the market going forward…and I totally agreed with them.

Well, here it is half way through 2014 and I’m seeing some odd trends. Take a look at the numbers below that were taken right from the TrendMLS.  Thank you, TReND MLS for publishing this great info.

The Coyle Group - Philadelphia Stats - Appraiser

The Coyle Group - Bucks Stats - Appraiser   The Coyle Group - Chester Stats - Appraiser   The Coyle Group - Montgomery Stats - Appraiser

In Philadelphia and the surrounding “collar” counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery) all of the inventory levels increased over the 2013 levels.  Adding to that, the data indicates that settled sales are flat or down compared to last year.  In fact, Philly, Bucks and Delaware counties are showing signs of over-supply (7 months of inventory being the lower end of what many in the industry would classify as an over-supply).

What?! The inventory levels were supposed to be low. It was a Buyer’s market, no one was selling. Buyers were chomping at the bit to jump on any listing that popped up. There were going to be bidding wars and homes selling for thousands over asking price. What happened?!?!   (Now, I know there are agents out there who are having a fabulous Spring and Summer.  I’m just pointing out that the numbers suggest a different trend.)

Well, I honestly think it was the brutal winter we had. It forced Buyers to the sideline and effectively killed the Spring Selling Season. Essentially, the Spring Selling Season never happened and inventory began to pile up as Buyers went into Summer-mode.  Now, typically we will see a bump in Buyer activity once Summer is over and school starts, again.

Hopefully, that will be the case this year, too. What are your thoughts on how the 2014 market is playing out?


The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia appraisers is a leading provider of appraisals for Estate/Probate, Divorce, Bankruptcy, Tax Appeal and Pre-Listing appraisals.  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


2013 Tax Appeal Deadlines are Approaching!

The Coyle Group - Tax Appeal 2013It’s Tax Appeal Season, again.  If you haven’t already started the process, you better get moving! The deadlines are approaching quickly.  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, 2013
  • Bucks County, August 1, 2013
  • Chester County, August 1, 2013
  • Delaware County, August 1, 2013
  • Lehigh County, August 1, 2013
  • Montgomery County, August 1, 2013
  • Philadelphia County, October 7, 2013

If you’re not represented and 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 doesn’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.  Please feel free to call us at 215.836.5500 or email  For more information please visit our website at .


Zillow vs Appraiser 2013

 Zillow vs TCG

“Zillow told me that my home is worth…”

Appraisers across the USA hear those words at least once a week from well-meaning homeowners.  What many homeowners don’t realize is that Zillow, while a very useful tool, is not always the best indicator of the actual value of their home.  A Zillow Zestimate is not an appraisal.  In fact, if homeowners use Zillow to help them price their home for sale, they could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table, as we will show you.

Below is a chart of 18 randomly selected appraisals that The Coyle Group completed in the past 3 months.  The houses are located throughout Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester County.  The chart is a comparison of our appraised value and the Zestimates produced by Zillow.  Keep in mind that our appraisals have the benefit of a full property inspection by a human being and nuanced market knowledge.   Zillow’s Zestimates rely on public records, complex algorithms and no physical inspection of the property.  Here are the results: 

Maple Glen Colonial Appraisal: $430,000 Zillow: $351,050


Conshohocken Single Appraisal: $370,000 Zillow: $329,924


Collegeville Cape Cod Appraisal: $364,000 Zillow: $355,012


Bryn Mawr Mansion Appraisal: $2,000,000 Zillow: $1,662,317


Lafayette Hill Colonial Appraisal: $550,000 Zillow: $470,806


Chestnut Hill Colonial Appraisal: $635,000 Zillow: $686,018


Gladwyne Cape Cod Appraisal: $745,000 Zillow: $697,428


Condo – The Murano Appraisal: $575,000 Zillow: $458,870


Art Museum Condo Appraisal: $280,000 Zillow: $257,852


Condo – The Dorchester Appraisal: $345,000 Zillow: $339,499


South Philly Row Appraisal: $110,000 Zillow: $157,378


Berwyn Colonial 1 Appraisal: $750,000 Zillow: $886,168


Berwyn Colonial 2 Appraisal: $1,200,000 Zillow: $1,153,633


Doylestown Townhouse Appraisal: $325,000 Zillow: $294,410


Fishtown Row Appraisal: $225,000 Zillow: $211,700


Villanova Mansion Appraisal: $2,450,000 Zillow: $2,544,935


Mount Airy Twin Appraisal: $285,000 Zillow: $324,137


Roxborough Row Appraisal: $245,000 Zillow: $235,076


As you can see there are some pretty dramatic deviations between Zestimates and the appraisals.  Based on our appraised values Zillow under valued 13 of the properties.  In some instances Zillow was almost right on, take for instance the condo in The Dorchester.  They were only off by 1.62%…that’s pretty good if you ask me.  For the condo at The Murano, they were off by more than 25%…waaaay off!  On average, Zillow under-valued the properties by 12.39%.

In the case of the South Philly row, the Zestimate was over by more than 30%.  However, I can’t fault Zillow on this one.  The property was really dated and needed a great deal of work.  But this does illustrate how having a full interior inspection of a property can lead to more accurate values.  Also, the Mount Airy twin was over-valued by 12%…but this doesn’t surprise me, everyone in Mount Airy thinks their home is worth more than it is.  Just kidding.

Now imagine that you’re a homeowner getting ready to sell.  You hop on your computer, plug-in your address and Zillow says your home is worth $300,000.  Based on our findings, if Zillow under-values properties 12.39% on average, you (the homeowner) could potentially be leaving $37,170 on the table.  That’s serious money!

This illustration underscores the importance of consulting with a knowledgeable real estate agent or Certified Real Estate Appraiser.  Getting a Pre-Listing Appraisal prior to putting your home up for sale and knowing the true market value of your home can save you time, money and effort when it comes to selling. 

As for Zillow, keep in mind that it is a tool…a starting point.  It’s great for neighborhood data, graphs, general sales information or for seeing what your new neighbors paid for their house.  It’s probably not the best place if you’re looking for assistance with making definitive decision or properly pricing your home for sale.

If you want to know more about our Pre-Listing Appraisal services or have any real estate appraisal related questions please visit  You may contact us directly at…215.836.5500 or


Disaster Inspections 101

I hope that everyone is well and safe after our brush with Hurricane Sandy.  I know that as of the writing of this post many of you are still without power (my own house included).

In the next few days and weeks as things get back to normal, some of you will become familiar with the term “Disaster Inspection”.  If you recently refinanced, purchased a home or applied for a Home Equity Line of Credit where an appraisal was completed on your property, you will almost certainly come to know what a “Disaster Inspection” is.

Whenever there is a significant natural disaster or catastrophic event (such as Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and, yes, even 9/11), many lenders will require that Disaster Inspections be completed on loans that are in process, have recently settled and some that may have already been moved to the secondary market.  This is done so the lender is able to better assess the risk a particular disaster has on their loan and portfolio.  It also, in many cases, lets the lender know if the property is still standing or if it has been heavily damaged.  From there the lender can take the appropriate actions.

Having a Disaster Inspection done at your home is a painless process.  It involves a inspector (sometimes an appraiser) visiting your property.  Depending on the needs of the lender, an Exterior or Interior inspection will be necessary.

An Exterior inspection is just that, a visual inspection of the exterior of the property.  Photos are taken of the front, back and street.  If there is apparent damage, pictures will be taken of that, too.  Oftentimes, there is no need for an appointment to complete an Exterior inspection.

Interior inspections are just as painless as an exterior, with the exception that the inspector is required to view and photograph the interior of the property, as well.  The inspector will usually call to schedule an appointment to see the property.  The actual visit will take no more than 5-10 minutes, or as long as it takes the inspector to get the necessary photos of the property and any damage.

If you or one of your clients recently went through the refinance/lending process, chances are you will have a Disaster Inspection completed of your property.  So, if you see someone taking pictures of your home, it may just be a Disaster Inspection.

If you are in need of Disaster Inspections in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Berks, Lehigh and NorthamptonCounties, please feel free to call The Coyle Group at 215.836.5500 or email us at