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



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


Cheltenham: Why are values not keeping up?

Cheltenham SealThe economy appears to be improving.  We had a strong Spring/Summer selling season in the Philadelphia region and indicators point toward a pretty “normal” Fall selling season.  Then, why aren’t Cheltenham’s home values keeping up with areas like Abington, Springfield and Upper Dublin?

Well, Cheltenham represents a classic case of where local taxation and zoning policies can actually handicap a community’s property values.  However, in order to fully understand the implication of the township’s tax situation, it’s also important to understand what the township has to offer. When fully put on the table and compared to competing local townships, the existing tax structure becomes even more burdensome to the potential buyer or seller.

As a whole, Cheltenham town has a lot going for it.  It’s a desirable community, safe, clean, and great for raising a family.  It has easy access to employment centers in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.  The housing stock is varied and appealing.  It has an “average” school system that has continued to sustain itself for generations, although it’s not quite what it used to be.   There are also community groups, parks, as well as arts and crafts and extracurricular events regularly scheduled.

Unfortunately, despite all the above, Cheltenham levies the majority of its tax base onto residential property owners.  Compared to neighboring communities like Abington, Upper Dublin and Springfield, Cheltenham has very few commercial usages that contribute to the tax base.  This issue dates back to when Cheltenham was being developed and the zoning code was created.  The zoning code that was put in place at that time did not adequately allow for the future expansion of commercial and industrial properties in the area.  As a result those entities were attracted to other neighboring townships, along with their tax dollars.  With only limited commercial, industrial and institutional usages the majority of the tax burden has been placed upon the residential properties. (Remember, Cheltenham was once the preferred address of many local industrial-era elite.  Which, in part, laid the groundwork for an underdeveloped non-residential tax base.)

How does this affect home values?  Well, look at it this way.  Let’s say we are looking to buy a 3 bedroom, detached home in the area for $250,000-$255,000.  Here’s how the houses and taxes would stack up.

Abington               $252,500               Taxes     $3,906 – $4,586

Springfield            $252,250               Taxes     $4,334 – $5,142

Upper Dublin       $253,650               Taxes     $4,604 – $5,216

Cheltenham        $251,250             Taxes    $6,680 – $8,044

As you can see, for roughly the same price, a house purchased in Cheltenham can, in some cases, nearly double a buyer’s tax burden.   It’s at that point that a buyer has to ask himself, “Why would I live in Cheltenham and be subject to the high taxes when I can buy a similar house in a neighboring township and pay much less?”  This is the very question that is keeping housing prices down in Cheltenham.  

The answer to the question for many buyers is to simply not consider buying in Cheltenham.  With fewer buyers seeking houses in the township, the housing inventory increases.  When inventory increases, values will drop accordingly.  This is why the collapse of the housing market affected Cheltenham more deeply than surrounding communities.  It continues to hurt Cheltenham because while values were dropping, taxes were not.  In fact, they were increasing. 

The answer is not an easy one.  The zoning and tax situation in Cheltenham combined with other factors such as an aging demographic, “average” schools and increased municipal spending have come together to form a perfect storm over the township.  Values in Cheltenham will continue to lag behind competing townships until something is done about the residential tax burden and municipal spending.

If there is a certain market or neighborhood that you would like to see discussed on PAB, just click on the “Ask PAB” link above and send your suggestion.  For more information please visit our website at  For assistance with appraisals pertaining to Estates, Bankruptcy, Divorce or Tax Appeal please contact The Coyle Group at 215.836.5500 or


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 Makes a Divorce Appraisal Different?

Let’s face it, going through a divorce is an emotionally challenging time for everyone taking part.  It involves many difficult decisions about the kids, investments and marital assets, including who gets the house.  When it comes to the house and other real estate, the two most common choices are selling and dividing the proceeds, or one party can “buy out” the other.  In either case, one or both parties will order an appraisal of the residence and other real estate holdings.

A divorce appraisal is not the same as your typical appraisal used for lending purposes.  Some of the differences are:

  • The divorce appraisal is likely to have a retrospective date of value, meaning the value of the property will be based upon a date in the past (perhaps the filing date, the date of marriage, the date of separation or the date of purchase) rather than the current date.
  • In some cases the appraisal will provide both a retrospective value as well as a current value.
  • Occasionally, in a divorce situation, the appraiser may be called upon to testify is count as an expert witness.  As a witness, the appraiser may not be an advocate for either side of the proceedings, regardless of who may have hired him.  The appraiser may only testify about the appraisal and the data/analysis contained therein.
  • Since a divorce appraisal is not related to financing or lending, it does not have to comply with Fannie Mae guidelines (or UAD Guidelines).
  • Typically, a divorce appraisal is completed on non-Fannie Mae forms such as the GPAR forms or it is written in a narrative format.
  • In completing a divorce appraisal, the appraiser is bound the same confidentiality and USPAP requirements that he would be in completing a lending appraisal.  That means that the appraiser cannot share information about the appraisal with any party other than his client and/or his client’s attorney, unless legally required to do so.

If you are going through a divorce or are an attorney or mediator and are in need of a divorce appraisal, market research or just have a general real estate value related question, please fee free to call 215.836.5500 or email 


Assessment Appeals 101

Spring only officially began less than a week ago but, it’s not too early to start thinking about appealing your tax assessment.  Sure, you might think “the deadline for filing an appeal is still months away”…”there is plenty of time to work on the appeal in the Summer”…”geez, it’s not even Memorial Day, why worry about an appeal now?”  

Well, you would be surpized at how many people do begin thinking about their property tax appeal this early in the game.  It ususally occurs to folks when they receive their real estate tax bill in January and February. 

It’s this time of year that we receive hundreds of phone calls and emails from property owners who what to know if appealing their assessment is feasible.  One thing we’ve noticed is that many property owners have a fundamental misconception about their property taxes and how to go about appealing them. Most people think that they can appeal their taxes. Unfortunately, we can’t appeal our taxes. Sorry, folks, no such luck.

However, it is your right as a property owner to appeal your assessment. Your assessment is the underlying factor upon which your taxes are calculated. Given that most properties are taxed on an “ad valorem” basis, meaning the tax is based on the value of the real estate, your assessment should represent the current fair market value of your property.

Now, most counties in the Philadelphia metro region (including Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Berks, Lehigh & Northampton) have not been reassessed in years (it’s very costly to do a countywide reassessment). What this means is that the assessments may present an inaccurate representation of current fair market value. Now, as a means of trying to keep the assessments current with the real estate market, equalization rations have been developed in an attempt to make the assessments echo the current market. These ratios don’t always succeed in reflecting the market, especially the turbulent markets of the past 3-4 years. As a result, the assessment of a given property may be over stated, which translates into taxes that may also be overstated.

So, it stands to reason, if real estate values are declining your assessment should mirror those declines…right? This is done by filing a tax assessment appeal with your county board of assessment. Along with filing the necessary appeal paperwork, it is your responsibility to demonstrate that the assessment does not reflect the current fair market value of your property. The best way to do this is to present an appraisal report to the board at the time of your hearing.

Appraisals should be completed by a state certified appraiser (or licensed appraiser depending on the state) who is familiar with your area. In Pennsylvania, for instance, only a certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of your property. Anything completed by someone other than an state certified appraiser is not an appraisal.  Real estate agents and brokers cannot provide appraisals in Pennsylvania.

The deadlines for filing a tax appeal are usually in Bucks, Delaware and Chester Counties August 1, 2010 and September 1, 2010 for Montgomery County.  If you reside in any other Pennsylvania counties, please check with your county tax assessor’s office to confirm your county’s deadline. Remember, if you miss the deadline, you miss the opportunity to appeal and will have to wait another year (paying the same high taxes).

For more information or to see if you are a candidate for tax assessment appeal, please contact The Coyle Group. 

Note:  Be sure to visit our site from time to time over the next few months as we present a series of posts that relate to Tax Assessment Appeals and property tax reduction.

The Coyle Group provides appraisals for tax assessment appeals in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Lehigh, Berks and Northampton Counties.  Call us at 215.836.5500 for more information.


Price vs Value

I was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of local Caldwell Banker Agents and Brokers. I was there to discuss the appraisal process, recent market trends and how the HVCC is affecting agents and their clients.

After speaking, I opened up the floor to questions. One of the first questions was a great one. The agent asked me to explain the difference between Price and Value. I’ve been thinking about it and have come up with the following explanation.

When viewed against the backdrop of recent marketplaces shifts both locally and nationally over the past few years, the difference between Price and Value has become more and more important to understand. In fact, I feel that most Agents and their clients are using the terms incorrectly.

When discussing a property most Agents and their clients are thinking in terms of price. “What is the price of the house”, “will they come down in price”, “that price is high/low” and my favorite “did the appraisal come in at the selling price?” The fundamental problem in these scenarios is that it is not about price, it’s about value. The focus should be on what the value of the home is, not the price. Value takes into consideration today’s market and underlying market conditions. Price often does not.

Price is a marketing tool. By setting a price, the Seller is actually choosing a segment buyers who will hopefully see the price as being the value of the property. The closer the Seller positions the price to the true value of the property, the larger the pool of potential Buyers the house will appeal to. Just the opposite is true, as well. The further the price is placed from the actual value of a property, the smaller the pool of buyers who will see that value.

An example of this was this property in Gladwyne. This property was listed in 2009 for $19,500,000. It was eventually withdrawn from the market. In 2010, it was re-listed for $17,900,000. All totaled, the house sat on the market for more that 660 days.

This is a situation where the Seller priced the house so far above the perceived value placed on it by the market, that they effectively diminished the pool of potential buyers to zero. This market did not support the price that was being asked

Remember value is guided by the market. Price is guided by the individual Selling the property. If the price is not supported by the market, no sale will occur.

Common perception is that price and value are interchangable. They are not. Value relates to what something is really worth.  That is, what could one expect to receive in terms of money in the free market?  It doesn’t matter what the value was last year, last month, or even last week. Value is determined by the conditions and influences of the current marketplace. Too often, sellers get hung up on that fact when the marketplace moves in the other direction. They don’t want to acknowledge the fact that their home was worth $800,000 a year ago and, based on supply and demand, is only worth $700,000 in today’s market. Value is determined by the scarcity of something and the ease of replacement with similar, equal, or better products or service (i.e. The Principle of Substitution).  In its most basic form, this is a simple function of supply and demand.