Geographic WHAT?!?!

The Coyle Group - Geographic Competency - Philadelphia AppraisersYou may have heard the term Geographic Competency as it relates to appraisers. It’s been a hot topic in the appraisal industry for the past few years. It basically means that an appraiser has to be knowledgeable and capable enough to produce accurate and reliable appraisals within a specific geographic area. The appraiser should also have access to data about a geographic area. It’s the coupling of local knowledge and accurate data that can make the difference between a reliable report and one that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

As the appraisal market began to change over recent years, many appraisers found themselves expanding their coverage areas in an effort to stay busy. For some appraisers this meant working in areas with which they were not familiar. This often resulted in reports that were poorly supported and wildly off the mark.

If an appraiser finds themselves in a situation where they do not feel Geographically Competent, they have a few options. All are designed to protect the user of the report from getting inaccurate information from the appraiser.

1) They can decline the assignment

2) They can obtain the knowledge necessary to become competent to appraise in a certain area

3) They can seek assistance from another person who is Geographically Competent in that area

Over my 15 years of appraising in the Philadelphia market, agents have shared stories about appraisers coming from miles away to complete appraisals. My favorite is a tale of an appraiser from Parsippany, NJ who drove two hours (both ways) to complete an appraisal in Philadelphia. That’s insane! Not to mention that after time and travel the appraiser was literally working for peanuts!

But keep in mind that an appraiser doesn’t have to live close to a property in order to be competent to appraise there. Most appraisers are capable of appraising in several different counties or even states. I have an appraiser friend who lives in Lower Bucks County and routinely appraises homes at the New Jersey shore. It turns out that he has a house down there and actually worked in that market for several years. He’s competent to appraise there even though he lives in PA.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are not sure if the appraiser has experience appraising in your area, talk with them about it. Interview the appraiser. Ask about their experience in your area. The answers you receive could save you from a “bad” appraisal.

Do you have any stories about appraisers traveling far and wide to look at properties? If so, please share them.


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




Camden’s Woes

Walt Whitman once called Camden, “A City Invincible”.  Undeniably, Camden is far from invincible at this point; perhaps, “unprotectable” would be more appropriate. 

Despite last minute efforts, ongoing negotiations and political wrangling, the fact remains that, Camden, New Jersey, laid off 168 police officers and more than 60 firefighters.  That’s more than 45% of the entire Camden Police Force.  Unbelievable!

Just to refresh your memory, this is the same Camden that was named the nation’s second most dangerous city in the United States in 2010…having lost it’s spot as the most dangerous city in the U.S. in 2009.

This situation is the result of a $26.5 million dollar deficit, declining State aid, dwindling tax revenue and inflexible unions.  Camden is one of the nation’s most impoverished, corrupt and violent cities.  The median household income is less than $27,000 per year.  Once an industrial hub along the Delaware, the city has been eroding and with no reason to stay, businesses and industry have been fleeing Camden for decades.  The most recent evacuee was Campbell’s Soup, leaving hundreds unemployed and a huge hole in the tax base.   

From a real estate value perspective, this could be the kiss of death for Camden.  Who wants to live or work in a community where you do not feel safe?  Granted, the feeling of safety is relative but, now with almost half of the “good guys” gone, the vulnerability felt by the average Camden resident and business is only going to be amplified. 

Many of the fundamental principles that drive real estate values are tied directly to human needs.  One basic human need is for a person to feel safe in their own home.  Another human instinct is flight from danger.  Inevitably, those residents who can afford to will leave Camden for safer havens.  Those remaining will be those who can’t afford to leave, the poor, and those who don’t want to leave, the criminals, the dealers and the addicts. 

When residents begin leaving, the ripple effects will be felt throughout the Camden real estate market.  Rental vacancies will increase resulting in decreasing rental incomes.  Listing inventories will swell and prices will begin to drop as more and more sellers try to attract fewer and fewer buyers.  Vacant and abandoned homes will also add to the problem as property owners decide to cut their losses and walk away.

The simple economic principle of supply and demand would point toward continued declining property values in Camden, in the near and foreseeable future, regardless of whether or not an agreement can be reached between the City and Police Union.

Despite all Camden’s social, governmental and economic woes, there is room for hope.  From a real estate viewpoint Camden does have some good things going for it.  It has the waterfront, bridge access to Philadelphia, rail access to New York, Cooper Hospital, Rutgers University, The Comcast Center, the Camden Adventure Aquarium and the Rivershark’s Stadium.

With luck, entrepreneurial spirits will step forward, and private investors and developers will decide to take a risk.  It may not happen in the next few years.  It may not happen in our lifetime.  However, I believe that the private sector will step in as some point and initiate a profitable effort to reinvent the decaying city, making it once again worthy of Whitman’s words.

In the meantime, we can only hope and pray for the safety and well-being of our neighbors (and remaining Police and firefighters), in Camden.