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


How You Can Assure an Accurate ARV Appraisal

It seems like everyone is flipping houses here, in Philadelphia.  Why not?  Certain markets continue to be red hot, housing stock is plentiful (if you know what to look for and where to look) and relatively speaking, Philadelphia is still somewhat affordable when compared to other Metro areas like New York, Boston and DC.

But flipping houses is not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced.  It takes some chutzpah and serious knowledge to be efficient and profitable when flipping.  The foundation of determining the profitability of a flip project is determining an accurate “As Is” value for the property.  From there the As Repaired Value (ARV) can be developed.  The ARV includes both its purchase price and the value of its renovations.  It’s used to by investors and lenders to estimate the future sale price of the property once renovated.  It’s important for flip investors to know the ARV of a property because it helps measure whether or not there is enough margin for the flip become profitable.

If the person doing the flip is obtaining funding from a bank, hard money lender or private lender, this is often where an objective Certified Real Estate Appraiser is called in to determine the ARV.  Most folks figure that from this point, it’s up to the appraiser and there is little that can be done.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  There are certain things that you can do proactively to help assure that you get an Accurate ARV Appraisal.  Let’s take a look…

  • Make sure the appraiser knows the market. If the appraiser is coming from Berks County to appraise a property in Philly, it should raise a red flag. Ask the appraiser if they work in this market often?  Do they have the tools necessary to appraise in this market, like access to the MLS, public records, zoning records, etc?  If not, insist on using an appraiser that does.
  • Make sure the appraiser has experience completing ARV assignments. ARV Appraisals are not like regular appraisals.  There are nuances to an ARV assignment that set it apart from standard lending appraisals.  Be sure the Appraiser has the experience and necessary skill sets to do this type of work.  Not all Appraisers are created equal.
  • Make sure Appraiser takes plenty of photos. These help the end-user/investor (whom are often located in other parts of the country with no real understanding of Philly markets) fully understand your project.  Don’t leave it up to the Appraiser to explain.  Again, some Appraisers just don’t have the proper skills to adequately describe what’s going on at your project.  This is where photos come in handy.  Remember a picture is worth 1,000 words.
  • Make sure the Appraiser understands the level of communication you expect and that they can expect from you. This is a two-way street.
  • Bring Comparable Sales with you when you meet the Appraiser. Some Appraisers may not accept them, most will, even if they don’t use them.  Just be honest with yourself and the Appraiser when providing Comps.  Make sure they are recent, within 6 to 12 months.  Use settled sales rather than listings.  Settled sales are facts, listings are “hope to get” prices and may distort your ARV numbers.  Make sure they are similar in terms of design/style (avoid bringing Detached homes as Comps if your subject is a Row).  Choose Comps with a similar location, preferably from within the neighborhood (if your project is in Philly, you shouldn’t have to go more than a few blocks).  Make sure the subject and Comps are similar in age (if your home is a 95-year-old row, maybe that new construction townhouse around the corner isn’t the best comp).  Lastly, take into consideration the quality of the improvements and be honest.  Are you comparing a project that may have been finished with builder-grade materials to a Comp with all high-end custom finishes?  If so, it will skew your ARV numbers and potentially impact your investment.
  • The Scope of Work (SOW), Plans & Specifications and Construction Budget are the nuts-and-bolts of your project. They should be as detailed as possible and leave nothing up to guess or assumption.  For example, if you’re SOW states only that you’re “installing a new kitchen” that leaves a lot of room for guessing/assumption on the part of the Appraiser.  In the Appraiser’s mind a “new kitchen” might be a “Home Depot special” when, in reality, your project calls for a custom kitchen with granite counters, tile floors/backsplashes and high-end appliances.  Can you see how the lack of detail could impact your ARV?  Be super specific.

Using these points will help you assure that you are getting an accurate ARV Appraisal.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact our office.  We’ve been appraising and completing ARV Appraisals for over 18 years and look forward to assisting you with your future projects.

The Coyle Group’s team of Philadelphia Real Estate Appraisers are a leading provider of appraisals for ARV (for Investors, Hard Money Lenders & Private Lenders), 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



Let’s End the Trend

For the past few years I’ve been noticing a trend in how homes, particularly new construction, are being marketed.  Perhaps you’ve noticed it, too.  What I’m referencing is the inclusion of finished basement space in the overall Gross Living Area (GLA) calculations. (I’ve even seen it where one agent included the roof deck in the overall GLA because the deck was covered)

I get it.  From a marketing perspective, bigger is better.  Everyone wants to be able to say that their home is larger.  I guess size does matter when discussing square footage.  The only problem is that this practice can be misleading and can contribute to inaccurate appraisals and failed deals.

Picture this.  There is a property in Point Breeze.  It’s new construction, three stories, finished basement, roof deck…the same house that everyone is building right now.  The agent and developer market the property as being 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and 2,400SF of living space.  Now, 600SF of that space is entirely below grade in the basement and contains one of the bedrooms and a full bath.

Along comes the appraiser.  From the appraiser’s point of view the house is a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house of 1,800SF above grade.  There is also a 600SF finished basement that contains a full bath and a room that could be used as a 4th bedroom.  The appraiser will assign contributory value to the finished basement and the rooms down there but, they will not be included it in the above grade GLA.  The reason being, most appraisers adhere to the ANSI Guidelines for measuring a dwelling.  These guidelines state that only above grade living space is to be included in the overall GLA for a property.  Anything below grade is finished basement space.  (For a copy of the ANSI Guideline, just email me)

This trend can effect the selection of comparables and by extension have an impact on the appraised value of a property.  If an appraiser inspects a property and determines it to have 1,800SF above grade and 600SF below grade, the appraiser is going to select comparables that are closer to 1,800SF, not the 2,400SF reported in the MLS listing.  This could result in the selection of comparables that are smaller and worth less money.  This could adversely impact the sale.

Also, imagine the confusion of the new homeowner when he reads the appraisal.  Here, he thought he just bought 2,400SF home but, the appraiser says it’s only 1,800SF.  In the buyer’s mind, they just overpaid.  There are likely to be some angry phone calls as a result.

But there’s hope!  The Trend MLS allows agents to separate the above grade from the below grade living space when listing a property.  This helps paint a more accurate representation of the living space within a building.  It also helps appraisers make more accurate comparisons to other homes.  I would love to see this become the new trend in Philadelphia real estate, where agents and appraisers are on the same page and above grade and below grade living spaces are separately reported.

NOTE:  If you ever have a question as to what the actually GLA is for a given property, have the house measured.  Many appraisers will perform this service as will a number of “measuring” companies.

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


2014: Year of Recovery

Happy New Year!  I’m confident that 2014 will be the year of real estate recovery, in the PhiladelphiaThe Coyle Group Philadephia Appraisers 2014 region.  With that optimistic statement out of the way, let’s get down to reality.

While I do expect markets to appreciate (yes, remember that word), I don’t expect to see a huge upswing in value.  Instead, I expect that we will return to nice, steady, predictable increases in value.  Think in the range of 2-4% per year.  Sure, there will be some areas in the Philadelphia market that will outperform but, for the most part measurable, healthy growth will be the new norm.

What will keep values from ramping up like back in 2004?

Inventory is relatively low.  However, there is a huge shadow inventory of foreclosed properties that banks will start releasing to take advantage of the healing market.  In fact, a trend that I’ve noticed in the past few months is that more and more banks are pumping money into rehabbing their stock of foreclosures in an effort to get top dollar.  In 2014, it’s pretty likely that foreclosures will compete rather strongly with conventional sales in some Philly markets and the surrounding suburbs.  This, along with the typical Spring listing surge, will influence supply.

Agents tell me that there are plenty of buyers waiting in the wings.  However, interest rates are expected to increase.  This will keep some buyers sidelined, especially the first-timers and low-income groups.  This will influence demand.

It all boils down to Economics 101, supply and demand.  It always does.  I think that each will be kept in check by the other and that growth will occur, it just won’t be a rocket ride.  That being said, I expect a pretty healthy Spring Selling Season as eager Sellers and Buyers enter the market.  This should facilitate an evenly paced recovery with real legs.

What are your predictions for the 2014 Real Estate Market in the Philadelphia region?

Best of luck in 2014!

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


Agent Alert!

AGENTS!  Spring is here and these warmer temperatures will only help to heat up the Spring Selling Season.  If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to take a hard look at your older listings and think about how they will compete in the Spring market.  Perhaps, it’s time to do a little Spring cleaning and meet with your Buyers to decide whether they need to “reposition” (re-price) their listing. 

You can bet this new crop of inventory will be priced to sell.  If you want to contend with these new listings, you need to have a competitive price.  Proper pricing is the key!

One way to test the market is to have a Listing Appraisal completed.  Now, having an appraisal completed on a listing is not necessary for all situations.  However, if you have a unique property or a stubborn Seller, a Listing Appraisal may be the way to go.

The obvious benefit is that a Listing Appraisal will provide you and your client with an unbiased, professional opinion of the property’s current fair market value.  Aside from that important fact, there are other benefits to having an appraisal completed on your listing. 

As an agent, having a Listing Appraisal completed allows you to still “be the good guy” and maintain your client relationship while adjusting your Seller’s expectations.  Unfortunately, some Sellers refuse to believe that their home has been affected by recent real estate trends or, perhaps, they feel that shag carpeting and pickled-wood cabinets are making a come back with Buyers.  Having an impartial appraiser look at the property could provide you with the insight and feedback necessary to help your Seller “see the light.”

A Listing Appraisal also gives agents and Sellers an idea of how a potential Buyer’s appraiser may view the property when completing an appraisal for mortgage financing.  This way you limit the chance of being hit with any last-minute surprises or having to renegotiate your contract price because of a Buyer’s appraisal.

If your listing falls under the FHA program limit of $420,000 for Philly region, having a Listing Appraisal can provide added benefit.  Some appraisers will actually perform an FHA-style inspection when looking at your property and incorporate their findings in their appraisal report (our office does this as standard practice).  This will give you and your Seller a heads-up on any potential FHA issues that may affect your Listing.  That information can be used to correct the problem, possibly eliminating future headaches, negotiations and wasted time.

So, what’s the cost?  Well, typically a Listing Appraisal will be in the $300-$450 range (sometimes more if the property is unusually large or complex).  However, if you think about it, this is a relatively small investment if it can minimize your listing’s time on the market.  Or look at it another way…would you (or your Seller) be willing to pay $300 if you knew that your listing could sell faster and that you wouldn’t have to waste weeks dealing with hidden FHA issues, negotiations and stress? 

Think about it…and have a great Spring!

If you have any questions about Listing Appraisals or any other appraisal related question, please feel free to contact our office at or 215.836.5500.


Mount Airy Trends

Being located in Erdenheim, just outside the city limits, we are frequently asked to appraise properties in northwestern Philadelphia, especially Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, Roxborough and Manayunk. 

The other day we received our first question for the Ask PAB! section of the site.  It was submitted by a local agent who works primarily in the northwest section of Philly.  She typically deals with entry level and first time buyers.  For that segment of the market, Mount Airy offers a great selection of housing options for her clientele, in a wide range of price points and design styles.   It has very appealing housing stock, access to transportation, shopping, proximity to Center City and the suburbs and very unique community atmosphere.  Her question was simply:

 “How have Mt. Airy twins and rows been performing over the past couple of years?”

Below is a chart of the sales of 3-4 bedroom twins and rowhomes in Mt. Airy from January 2008 through December 2010.  Click on the chart to enlarge.

The blue dots indicate the sales of 3 bedroom homes; the red dots represent the 4 bedroom sales.  Our sample produced 341 sales of 3 bedrooms and 105 sales of 4 Bedroom homes, in Mt. Airy, during that time period.  The green and yellow lines depict the linear sale price trends for 3 and 4 bedroom houses, respectively.

The trend lines indicate that both 3 and 4 bedroom homes are moving downward.  However, it appears as though the 4 bedroom properties are experiencing a deeper shift that the 3 bedrooms, which are riding a flatter trend.  This is likely due to the fact that there are fewer 4 bedrooms homes and, as a result, fewer 4 bedroom sales.  With a smaller sample, it is easier for a few sales to influence the trend.  Conversely, with a greater number of samples it is less likely that a handful of sales to move the trend so dramatically.

If you have a question about real estate markets and trends in the Philadelphia region, please visit our Ask PAB! page to submit your inquiry.


The Lanesborough

Purchase Decision – The Lanesborough, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia

This was an interesting appraisal assignment. We were contacted by a perspective Buyer to help determine whether or not he was going to purchase the condo unit that he was currently renting. The unit was located on one of the upper floors in the landmark Lanesborough Building in the Rittenhouse Square section, of Philadelphia.

The Lanesborourgh is a luxury residential condo conversion of a classic 1929 building. It is a very exclusive building with direct elevator access into each unit and only one unit per floor. Units are valued in the millions of dollars.  Personally, I think that it is one of the most elegant buildings in the Rittenhouse Square market.

Due to the limited number of units in the building, there were no recent sales to analyze. The most recent sales in the building were between 16 and 24 months old. But there were two listings in the building.

In developing our appraisal, we looked at current market sales and listings within the immediate Rittenhouse Square market. We focused our search for comparables to included units with similar square footage and amenities, as well as intangibles such as building prestige.

What we were able to find was that there was a market for a unit like the subject. We also found two current comparables from competing buildings that sold previously, in-and-around the same time as the most recent Lanesborough sales. This allowed us to see how the Lanesborough sales competed with comparable market sales, in Philly, at that time. By looking at the relationship of the prior Lanesborough values to the comparables back then, we were able to draw correlations and projections to the current values. The listings in the subject building and competing buildings also gave us indications as to the market trends over recent years.

In the end, we were able to present our client with a well researched appraisal that aided in his decision whether or not ownership in the prestigious Philadelphia building was right for him.