When the Data Lags – The Current Real Estate Situation – Low Appraisals!

Hello Caton Team Readers – I took pen to paper today to share what we’re experiencing 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!

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? Will 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 offer 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 – 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.

This year The Caton Team has faced it all.

If you’re thinking of selling or buying Real Estate in the San Francisco Peninsula – contact The Caton Team for a private consultation. We love what we do and would love to be of service to you and your friends.

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Got Real Estate Questions?   The Caton Team is here to help.

We strive to be more than just Realtors – we are also your home resource. If you have any real estate questions, concerns, need a referral or some guidance – we are here for you. Contact us at your convenience – we are but a call, text or click away!

The Caton Team believes, in order to be successful in the San Fransisco | Peninsula | Bay Area | Silicon Valley Real Estate Market we have to think and act differently. We do this by positioning our clients in the strongest light, representing them with the utmost integrity, while strategically maneuvering through negotiations and contracts. Together we make dreams come true.  How can The Caton Team help you?

A mother and daughter-in-law team with over 35 years of combined, local Real Estate experience and knowledge – would’t you like The Caton Team to represent you? Let us know how we can be of service. Contact us any time.

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A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

With 25+ years of combined Real Estate experience, The Caton Team is blessed with working with our clients one home after the other.

When Michael bought his first condo with Susan years ago – it was only natural for him to call her again now that he was ready to buy his next home.  By now Susan & I had teamed up and I had the joy of working with Michael as well.

Such a professional and patient gentlemen, we started our journey early in 2013.  Faced with limited inventory and competition we took our time to find choice properties and enjoyed finding the right condo complexes that would fit his lifestyle.

Finally on a sunny Tuesday we found a great 2-bedroom 2-bath condo in San Mateo.  It was a short sale but we were up for the task.  Offer in, up against three other offers – we were so happy to let him know his offer was accepted.

Then the wait begins.  For a short sale, the seller has a long to-do list.  Great clients do what they need to do to get a short sale approved.  Other types of people brush their responsibility off.   We knew short sales take time to get approved.  We knew short sales are a LOT of work. Each week we checked in with the seller’s agent and received short and useless updates.  We grew suspicious and Susan hit the Internet to do some investigating.  Much to our surprise, the unit was set for foreclosure auction the following day!  Quickly The Caton Team reached out to the seller’s agent to implore the urgency of a true update.  Sadly, not all Realtors are created equal and this particular agent brushed us off again.  We did all we could do as the buyer’s Realtor and the following day, with baited breath, we watched the auction site to see if it would be postponed.  Right before our eyes the unit was sold at auction.  When we called the sellers agent to get a handle on this situation – she kindly hung up the phone.

Without missing a beat Susan called Michael and we hit the ground running looking for a new home.  It didn’t take long, another unit, very similar to the one we just lost, was for sale – but they were taking offers the following day!

Michael is a trooper; he met Susan at the home the next morning, saw it, wrote the offer and submitted by the deadline.  By that evening we had the joy of telling him is offer was accepted!  Within less than 24 hours we went from bad news to fantastic news.

It ain’t over till it’s over though – that is a fact.  As the escrow proceeded we had a hiccup – the unit did not appraise for our offer price….which was less than the last sale of an identical unit.   When interest rates went up – the market had turned from a sellers market early in the year to a different market in a matter of weeks.  The appraiser was cautious – and we can’t blame him for being prudent.  No one wants another bust!  Thankfully both the listing agent and the sellers understood the situation and we were able to re-negotiate a win/win deal that evening.

The best feeling in the world is handing over the keys.  Though it was a long and bumpy ride, The Caton Team was able to get our client a better home and in the end Michael is happy – and that makes everything worthwhile.

How can The Caton Team help you?

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call The Caton Team at 650-568-5522

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Eight Ways To Improve Your Home Appraisal

When I read this article I had to share it.  The Caton Team always provides comparable properties for our buyers appraisal.  But when you are refinancing on your own – don’t hesitate to call us – we’ll provide comparable properties for you!  What can the Caton Team do for you?

Eight Ways To Improve Your Home Appraisal

When Kellie and Michael May decided to refinance their home in the New York suburbs, they wanted to take advantage of historically low interest rates. But before landing a new 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, they had to get through a home appraisal.

“It was a major stumbling block,” says Kellie May, who has owned the 4-bedroom, 3-bath colonial for seven years. Not that she and her husband were unprepared; they’d been through an appraisal for another refinance in 2010, so they knew to point out improvements they’d made to the 3,400 square foot home, and supply prices for other neighborhood properties that had sold recently.

But the appraisal came back roughly $70,000 less than the $1,230,000 the Mays were expecting, and too low to support their new loan.

They responded with a paperwork arsenal aimed at their lender, asserting that the appraisal had been based on faulty recent sales data. The loan squeaked through, after the bank crafted an exception for the Mays. It was able to do that because their loan was a jumbo loan, not subject to the more rigid underwriting standards they would have encountered if it were a conventional loan aimed at secondary buyers like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Low appraisals are becoming a bigger problem for many would-be buyers and refinancers as home values have started to stabilize and rise in some markets.

In Leesburg, Florida, for example, low appraisals have caused the cancellation of as many as 15 percent of home sales for local real estate broker Gus Grizzard.

“We are seeing higher price appreciation and are starting to run into appraisal problems,” said Charlie Young, chief executive officer of ERA Franchise Systems, a firm with a national network of real estate brokerage offices, including Grizzard’s. The National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday that inventories of homes were low and the median price a home resale was, at $180,800 in December, up 11.5 percent in a year.

Appraisals are based on recent sales prices of comparable properties. And in rising price markets, those sales prices might not be high enough to support the newest deals. Young said there were many places in California reporting appraisal problems.

On Friday, the federal government issued new rules aimed at improving the appraisal process as it pertains to high-interest mortgages on rapidly appreciating homes.

But those rules don’t go into effect for a year, and don’t apply to most conventional loans. It pays to protect your own loan before the bank even thinks about sending that guy with the clipboard over to your house.

“The reality is that the appraiser is only there for 30 minutes at most,” says Brian Coester, chief executive of CoesterVMS, a nationwide appraisal management company based in Rockville, Maryland. “The best thing a homeowner can do to get the highest appraisal possible is make sure they have all the important features of the home readily available for the appraiser.”

Here are eight ways you can bolster your appraisal:


Is the appraiser from within a 10-mile radius of your property? “This is one of the first questions you should ask the appraiser,” says Ben Salem, a real estate agent with Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills, California.

He recalled a recent case where an appraiser visited an unfamiliar property in nearby Orange County and produced an appraisal that Salem said was $150,000 off. “If the appraiser doesn’t know the area intimately, chances are the appraisal will not come back close to what a property is really worth.”

You can request that your lender send a local appraiser; if that still doesn’t happen, supply as much information as you can about the quality of your neighborhood.

PROVIDE YOUR OWN COMPARABLES – Call The Caton Team – We’d be happy to help you!

Provide your appraiser with at least three solid and well-priced comparable properties. You will save her some work, and insure that she is getting price information from homes that really are similar to yours.

Websites including Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia offer recent sales prices and details such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a home.

KNOW WHAT ADDS THE MOST VALUE – Not sure where to put your money?  Call The Caton Team – We’ll help!

If you’re going to do minor renovations, start with your kitchen and bathrooms, says G. Stacy Sirmans, a professor of real estate at Florida State University. He reviewed 150 variables that affect home values for a study sponsored by the National Association of Realtors. Wood floors, landscaping and an enclosed garage can also drive up appraisals.

DOCUMENT YOUR FIX-UPS – Keep those receipts!

If you’ve put money into the house, prove it, says Salem.

“Before-and-after photos, along with a well-defined spreadsheet of what was spent on each renovation, should persuade an appraiser to turn in a number that far exceeds what he or she first called out.”

Don’t forget to highlight all-important structural improvements to electrical systems, heating and cooling systems – which are harder to see, but can dramatically boost an appraisal. Show receipts.


If your town has recently seen exciting developments, such as upscale restaurants, museums, parks or other amenities, make sure your appraiser knows about them, says Craig Silverman, principal and chief appraiser at Silverman & Co. in Newtown, Pennsylvania.


Many homeowners covet that refinished basement, but that doesn’t mean appraisers look at it the same way. “Improvements and additions made below grade, such as a finished basement, do not add to the overall square footage of your house,” says John Walsh, president of Total Mortgage Services in New York. “So they don’t add anywhere near as much value as improvements made above grade.”

According to Remodeling magazine, a basement renovation that cost $63,000 in 2011-12 will recoup roughly 66 percent of that in added home value. That’s not as good as an attic bedroom, which will recoup 73 percent of its cost. Even similar bedrooms typically count for more if they are upstairs instead of downstairs.


Even jaded appraisers can be swayed by a good looking yard. “Tree trimming, cleaning up, a few flowers in the flower beds and paint touch up can all help the appraisal,” says Agnes Huff, a real estate investor based in Los Angeles.

That advice holds true indoors, too. “Get rid of all the clutter in your home,” says Jonathan Miller, a longtime appraiser in New York. “It makes the home appear larger.”


Don’t follow the appraiser around like a puppy. “I can’t tell you how many homeowners or listing agents follow me around in my personal space during the inspection,” he says. “It’s a major red flag there is a problem with the home.”

And while you’re at it, make the appraiser’s job as pleasant as possible by giving your home a pleasant smell. At a minimum, clean out the litter box. Baking some fresh cookies and offering him one or two probably won’t sway your appraisal, nor should it. But it couldn’t hurt.

I read this article at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/22/us-usa-housing-appraisals-idUSBRE90L0ZE20130122?VBd0T4I3F0KvenaC7w1NXQ=1

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:


Thanks for reading – Sabrina