Monday, July 27, 2015

Q: We lost out on the home we really wanted because the appraisal was too low.

Our real estate agent gave comparable sales to the appraiser but he said he would use his own. His comparables were really off the mark. It’s a four bedroom house on a really big lot and he even used small, two bedroom houses that closed last year! We’re heartsick and, it seems, our lender can’t do anything about it. There is no way we have enough money to make up the difference, so we’re getting out of the sale. How can this happen?

A: Very often the appraiser has far more power in a transaction than, perhaps, they should. The laws changed a few years ago so that lenders can’t choose the appraiser. They must go with the next person on a list. So, like a lottery, you never know who you’ll get. Although the appraisers must sign a statement saying they are familiar with the market in the area they are appraising, they often have no idea. I’ve spoken to appraisers who have never been to Vashon in their life but are doing an appraisal here.

We have a small market on Vashon and it’s never easy to find comparable sales. There are also subjective issues that someone from off the island may not understand. Generally people pay more for a house that’s close to the ferry or in some other particularly desirable location. Only our local appraisers know that. An older house that has had no updating may sell for more than a really lovely remodeled home because of its acreage, or great out buildings or location near a park or trails.

There are lenders who seem to be able to challenge a bad appraisal and get it reviewed and reconsidered. Other lenders don’t seem able to do this. In a fast paced market, prices can change too fast to keep up with for appraisers who don’t know and watch our local area. You might consider switching lenders for your next purchase and discussing this issue with them ahead of time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Q: All of this hot weather has really upset me.

I have a beautiful garden and the property is wonderfully landscaped. Many of my plants are dying and some are getting a fungus and look awful. I had a landscape expert out and she said I should switch to more drought tolerant plants. I don’t want to have a cactus garden! We plan on selling in a couple of years and I just know that will hurt our resale value. Any suggestions?

A: First, may I suggest you get online or go to the library and do some research on drought tolerant plants. There are many northwest natives that can handle some heat and large families of plants that are in no way cactus.  Keep in mind that unlike that phrase the landscape industry uses; “plant material” as if it were interchangeable fabric, plants are living things and do a lot of work for us as well as being beautiful. They offer food and habitat to birds, butterflies and other wildlife, they hold the soil from sliding or blowing way, they hold water which then percolates into our aquifer instead of just running off, and they can cool us in summer. You just need to find plants that can handle more heat. The fungus you speak of is probably one that comes on in warm weather when you over water.  Always check the soil before watering to be sure it’s dry before you do any watering.  Do a little homework to better understand your landscape and discover plants that can tolerate our changing weather. WSU Extension offers great online information.  As for resale value, we’re not talking about a quick change like painting your house. When you’re ready to sell, your listing broker might suggest toning down a less popular house color before putting it on the market, for instance. But plants are not like that. You can’t just rip out an entire landscape overnight and replant. Plan a gradual change rather than a huge makeover and your yard will stay looking lovely. Plus, don’t forget to amend your soil.