By Dan Krell @dankrell
It’s normal for homeowners to think about their home’s value. After all, home sales and values have been making headlines for well over a decade. But you certainly can’t get your home’s value from a headline, nor can you assume it from a neighbor’s sale. The reality is that your home’s value could vary depending on whom and when you ask.
A timely and important review article by Michael Sanders recently published in the Appraisal Journal asks the question “what does Market Value Mean?” (Market Value: What Does It Really Mean?; Appraisal Journal. Summer2018, 86:3, p206-218). The article correctly points out that determining “market value” can realize different results depending on the scope and purpose of the appraisal. You can see how this might be problematic if you’re trying to determine a home’s value when divorcing or trying to sell an estate property. Some mortgage lenders even have different value criteria depending on the loan product and purpose.
Sanders suggests that “market value” undergoes scrutiny when valuations are difficult and appraisals are questioned (e.g., during a recession). However, having a discussion about the meaning of “market value” now, when there is relative market stability, is probably meaningful for the industry and consumers. Interestingly, the semantics of “market value” have changed through the years, and ultimately depends on the application. He points out at least twelve similar but different legal definitions of “market value.”
Sanders suggests that Richard Radcliff, an appraisal pioneer of the 1960’s, was ahead of his time by advocated for most probable price valuations. An ongoing debate in appraisal circles is whether “market value” is the highest price or probable price. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s when appraisal articles academically contemplated the association of “probable sale price” and “market value.”
Sanders quotes Richard Ratcliff saying, “appraisal is largely the predicting of human behavior under given market conditions.” Sanders quips about an “ideal world”, where “appraisers would apply market value definitions using a relatively consistent and objective standard, and reflect conditions in the market as they exist, rather than how others might wish them to be.”
Although the accepted dictionary definition of “market value” is the price a buyer is willing to pay for your home, market value and sale price could be different (and often is). And according to Sanders, an appraised “market value” isn’t necessarily the price for which your home may sell.
At this point you may be asking yourself, “how much is my home really worth?” For the answer, you may have to ask a Realtor.
Realtors use market data to prepare comparative market analyses (CMA) that can help buyers and sellers decide on a sale price. Although a CMA is not an appraisal, it is a technical and methodical professional analysis that provides a snapshot of the market. The CMA is typically more refined in scope than an appraisal, such that it is usually limited to a neighborhood and home criteria. Additionally, depending on the location and availability of comparable sales, it can provide a 30, 60, and 90-day probable sale price range based on market trends.
If you’re planning a home sale, a Realtor’s CMA may be your best source of information to decide on a listing price. Even mortgage lenders have relied on Realtor CMA’s, in the form of Broker Price Opinions, to help decide on sale prices for short sales and bank owned homes.