Apprisal Situations – Low Appraisals in 2020/2021!

Heres some tips on how to navigate a low appraisal:


PLAN FOR IT:  When The Caton Team sits down with our buyers to prepare an offer – we provide the data we use to guide our clients so we can discuss an offer price and terms strategy.  Sometimes we’ll find ourselves in uncharted waters – where current demand is not reflected in the data.  I.E. Pending Sales are higher than Closed Sales. If an appraiser uses the older data and that data doesn’t reflect current demand – here lies the gap between contract price and appraised value price.

So what do you do as a buyer?

Plan for the appraisal gap.  When you’re writing that non-contingent offer make sure you’re not maxing out your bank accounts. (If you are maxing out the accounts – it’s time for a pivot but that’s another conversation.) When writing that strong offer – make sure you have ‘competition reserves’ IE money to fill that apprisal gap. Because if your offer is accepted and it doesn’t appraise – the home is most likely still worth it and worth the buyer filling the gap. Why you ask?  The stats. If you’re in an inclining market – as the pending sales close and become sold data – the next home may not have an appraisal issue – and most likely the next home will be priced higher than that offer you’re worried about today. However, even situation is unique and requires care and diligence.

ASK FOR A REVIEW: When the appraisal arrives – send it to The Caton Team. We will pull up each address of the homes used in the appraisal report (usually 3) and evaluate if it is a fair comparable. If not – we will submit the challenge with you through the review process with the lender however; just know, the appraisal is often not adjusted. So it’s back to Plan A – Plan For It. When the housing market is in high demand and inclining, it usually pans out for the buyer in the long term to pay the gap today. History will show you – the value of California Real Estate, even with its dips and drops over the years – has been appreciating since 1849. However, this blog post is for general information – each client situation is unique and requires its own course of action.

GET UNDERWRITTEN FOR YOUR HOME LOAN: A buyer is only as solid as their home loan. It’s  best to get fully underwritten with your lender. It’s imperative to know your budget inside and out. To understand the monthly outlay, the closing costs, reserves, and a cushion for competition and appraisals gaps. If you’re comfortable with the numbers it’s time to get serious about buying. If the numbers don’t sit right – it’s time to adjust strategy and long term goals. Be open to each adjustment.


Even with a non-contingent offer – sellers still need to be aware of the market and appraisal issues. Even if your buyer has great reserves, they’re only human and there is a finite amount of money in the bank – no matter how wealthy. 

REVIEW BUYERS PROOF OF FUNDS: When The Caton Team reviews offers with our sellers, we take the time to look into the reserves and speak to the lender to discuss these possible pitfalls and ask – point blank – how the buyer will respond to possible situations. Will the buyer agree to pay the appraisal difference? With the buyer ask for a price adjustment to the appraised value? The Caton Team believes open and honest communication is the cornerstone of good business – so we ask these questions to our fellow agents and open the dialogue towards solutions. 

BEST OFFER VS HIGHEST OFFER: When reviewing offers the highest offers doesn’t always mean it is the best offer. There is a limit to what a market can hold. So be considerate when accepting an offer and review the various terms and proof of funds. If one offer is so high – there is no chance it will appraise – that’s not your best offer.  If one offer is so high there is no chance it will appraise – unless it is a cash offer – that may not be the best offer.

CONSIDER ADJUSTING THE PRICE: Sometimes, even with a non-contingent offer it would behoove a seller to adjust the offer price down to the appraised vaule. Why??? Appraisal issues do not magically disappear. If the difference is data driven, the data is pubic and doesn’t change until new sales close escrow. So two appraisals done the same week could result in the same situation. Of course this is multifaceted as well and some sellers may not need to adjust if they have new or back up offers.

BACK UP OFFERS: Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt a seller to place an offer in back up position. There are various reason why this is a good idea and why this is not necessary. It all comes down to demand. How many offers did the home receive? How many of those offers would the seller consider? Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of Real Estate – so I’ll save that for a private consultation.

Real Estate is a meeting of the minds, not a twisting of the arm. The Caton Team believes in being kind and mindful to our clients and our fellow Realtors – together – we make Real Estate dreams come true.

Hello readers – things have changed since the article below was originally posted. However, things are always changing so we’re keeping this post here as sometimes a home doesn’t appraise.

– Written in 2021…

If the Bay Area Real Estate Market wasn’t exciting enough, now we have a new problem – the data on current home sales is lagging, so much so, that appraisals are coming in low. 

The 2021 San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate market is a far cry from 2020. The demand for housing in the Bay Area is at an all time high – higher than ever.  It’s typical for agents with single family home listings to receive over 100 calls just from Realtors within days of coming on the market.  Some home are selling quickly while others are setting firm offer dates to mitigate the chaos. It’s definitely no time to panic if you’re selling Real Estate in the Bay Area – demand is there.  It’s also no time to panic if you’re buying in the Bay Area – as long as you’re focused on a realistic goal and pivot when needed. 

With many homes selling in under 7 days and low interest rates spurring a bonanza of refinances, banks are overwhelmed. The pool of local appraisers are backlogged, thus bringing in ‘out of area’ appraisers who are not familiar with the micro-climate of SF Bay Area Real Estate.  This pent up demand for appraisers has turned the customary 10 day turn around into a two week wait for the initial appointment and another week for the actual appraisal report. Closing escrow in 30 days has turned into a three ring circus, any sooner – well – I wouldn’t count on it. 

But that’s not the half of it! Even if your appraiser is local – we’re seeing dated comparables used, sales data from 2020 even 2019 not adjusted for appreciation or current demand. Though never an exact science; this gap in current value and sold data is effecting everyone – buyers and seller combined. 

The Industry Standard is to select comparable properties that sold 1 to 3 months back but no more than 6 months, then the appraiser must adjust accordingly for variance in condition, location, market, demand etc. But some are NOT doing what they should be doing and it shows.

Real Estate is a living, breathing entity.  It is constantly changing due to various factors – the economy, interest rates, stock market, consumer confidence, buyer demand, supply etc – So using sales data from 3rd Quarter 2020 – truly doesn’t reflect current demand as we begin Q2 of 2021. Because demand has increased significantly since then – and our buyers feel it. 

With pending sales taking 30-40 days to close, that valuable sales data doesn’t become official until after the closing and it’s mucking up the works on appraisals. In a multiple offer situation it may be difficult for a buyer to determine how much is too much to pay and the question remainds – will it appraise? Regardless, the home may be still worth the offer price and often paying the difference today helps a buyer get into a home as this market continues to see home prices increase and demand outpace supply. What you pay today may save you from paying more in the future. Please note, each client and situation is unique and this blog post does not apply to each situation.

If you’re a buyer in this market – and we know – The Caton Team loves to represent  buyers – it feels like homes are appreciating week over week – rather than month over month. With multiple offers – you’ve got to be aggressive, write your best offer, often non-contingent and hope for the best.  This pace is horrible and buyers (not to mention their agents) are exhausted and rightfully so. This market truly needs some tempering. Clients need time to review disclosures to make sound decisions with the greatest purchase of their lives.

When The Caton Team represents sellers, we encourage our clients to allow the home to be marketed for at minimum 1 week before reviewing offers. I even remember the days we used to say 2 weeks!  But with so great a demand for housing, even one week is hard – with many Pre-Emptive offers scooping up homes.

All of this does sound like madness, but have no fear – The Caton Team has been through it – with over 40 years of combined local experience – The Caton Team is here to help!

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