3 minutes reading time (626 words)

What Builders Should Know About Appraisals & Lumber Prices

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As builders struggle with these front-end issues, they are also experiencing additional challenges on the backend, as appraisal standards make it difficult to recognize the full impact of sharp increases in the cost of building materials. In addition, appraisers often have limited access to information to accurately assess the value of a home.

“The appraisers use market value, so if we sold a house three months ago and just completed a new build with higher material costs, they only give a market value of the house that sold three months ago,” explained James Blyth, an affordable housing spec builder in North Carolina. “In our situation the appraisal came in $10,000 lower than our asking price. Our price increase was to cover cost increases. It forced the buyers to come up with an additional $10,000 out of pocket to cover our cost increases.

“We have 10 houses under construction right now that will be ready for early spring and summer occupancy,” he added. “Normally we would start marketing once the foundation is in the ground. I will not quote a price until we have all of our costs in.”

Cost-Based Appraisals Better Reflect Rising Material Costs

In order to best address these significant increases in the price of materials, it is important to understand that appraisers can incorporate three approaches to determine the value of a property: sales comparison, cost and income methods. Under the cost approach, the appraiser estimates what it would cost to rebuild or construct an equivalent structure. Because this component of property valuation considers the costs of materials used to construct the property, it is often very helpful in analyzing the value of a newly constructed home.

It is also important that builders understand that it is acceptable — and extremely important — for a home builder to speak with an appraiser and provide all the information the appraiser needs to perform an accurate assessment of value. One item that has proven effective in assisting appraisers in considering material costs in developing new home valuations is an “appraisal binder.”

An appraisal binder — which is given to the appraiser upon his or her arrival to the property — will provide the appraiser with a cost breakdown of all materials used in the construction of the home. This information will assist the appraiser in balancing the market value of the home with what it cost the builder in materials to construct the home.

Keep in mind that the cost approach to value is always used in combination with the sales comparison approach — with greater weight or emphasis given to the sales comparison approach, per Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines. Builders should also incorporate existing home sales as comparables if there is a lack of new construction comps that can be used.

One builder in Greenville, S.C., was recently able to utilize this appraisal approach for a spec home he was building. He had been able to successfully sell the same home recently for $711,000, but when he received the invoice for the lumber package on the new spec home, it was $56,000 higher than the home he had just sold. The initial appraisal for the new spec home was $711,000 — the same as the home he had just sold, but that had been built at a lower cost. When the builder revisited the value approach with the appraisal, he was able to secure a construction loan that reflected the increase in prices.

In a recent listening session with Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), NAHB suggested that more consideration be given to the cost approach to value new homes, particularly in rural areas where there may be few comps or sales to help produce a fair and accurate assessment of value.

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