Appraisals are causing problems again for buyers and sellers for the first time in many years. Many appraisals are not coming in at value, despite comparables that support contract prices, leading to problems between buyers and sellers.
Prices have come up quite a bit in many areas in the last few years, San Diego County included. That means that when an agent goes to list a home there are usually comparables to support a higher price. But I keep hearing stories about homes that are not appraising, and it just happened to my buyers as well (even though the offer we wrote and had accepted had comps that supported our price).
So what is a buyer or seller to do if the appraisal does not come in at value?
1. Renegotiate. The first thing to do is to try and renegotiate the contract price. I had a home that appraised $8,000 under contract price (which was completely ridiculous given a smaller home had sold for more just months before). We tried to get the seller to drop the price to the appraised value, or at least meet us in the middle but he would not. He had received multiple offers and there were buyers waiting in the wings who would still move forward with the higher price.
2. Buyer contributes the cash difference. This means that the sales price will remain the same, and the buyer will have to put the difference between it and the appraised value on the table (come up with more money) in order to close. The bank will only lend on the appraised value, but this option allows the buyer to move forward and purchase the home.
3. Challenge the appraisal. This can be done only when there is information that the appraiser did not take into consideration that could alter the evaluation, such as comparable homes that were not reviewed, or maybe a comparable sale that closed immediately after the appraisal was issued which had a higher price, or a sale that closed which was not on the MLS. Or, there may be upgrades to the home of which the appraiser was not made aware. But a challenge needs validation, so the fact that parties do not agree with the appraisal is not a reason for a challenge.
4. Cancel the contract. This is the buyer’s right when an appraisal does not come in at contract value. However, it is important to take into consideration the status of the market – if inventory is low and there is a lot of competition it may be smart to stick with the sale, since getting another contract accepted could be difficult and the buyer could wind up paying even more money for the next opportunity.
In my buyers’ situation they decided to stick with the contract price (after the seller would not negotiate) and pay the cash difference. Since it was only an $8,000 difference this was the smart choice, as they ended up with a beautiful home that likely would have sold for even higher than their contract price had they canceled.
It is important to discuss options with your real estate agent and tax adviser or financial planner if needed. Every situation is different and buyers have to feel comfortable in their decision. But it is tough out there in certain price ranges for buyers right now, and inventory is low, so oftentimes it makes sense to stay the course.