The Seattle Condo Market: Are Sellers in La-La Land?

Having looked at several downtown condo listings lately (we have a client shopping for one right now), it seems to me that there is a real disconnect between comp values and listing prices. Based on my purely anecdotal investigation, condos are selling for less than $500/sf; many if not most condos on the market are listed at more than $500/sf. My client was interested in one listed well north of $600/sf, with two recent sales in the same small building (about 20 units), one just above $300/sf and one in the $430’s.

The listing agent and I exchanged emails. I expressed my concerns about the property appraising at a price that would be acceptable to the seller given the list price (and the agent’s admonition that the sellers are “motivated but not desperate”). In response I got this:

I have never in my long real estate career, had a problem with an appraisal–even in today’s market. One yesterday came in at 10% over list. I promise to justify the pricing if we can come to mutual acceptance with the appraiser. I have a way of doing it that seems to work well.

My client just forward me a link to this blog piece about this very topic, which includes this passage:

For just about every condo appraisal, the most suitable comparables are sales from the same building. That can lead to some appraised values that may disappoint some sellers/owners. The biggest item condo owners need to understand is that the appraised value of their unit will be determined by the most recent similar sales available to the appraiser.

So I’m curious to hear the experiences or insight of others: Does there seem to be a disconnect between list prices and “market value”? Or, more directly, has anyone had a problem with a downtown condo appraising for a sale price?

Please note: I am NOT calling ANYONE out…

HVCC…I’m not making this stuff up

I’m closing my first conventional purchase that falls under the rules of HVCC (a majority of my transactions have been FHA) which became effective at the beginning of this month.   Today I was asked by the Real Estate Agent, in disbelief:

“If I understand you correctly:

  1. We don’t know who the appraiser is
  2. We cannot contact the appraiser even if we knew.   [Note:  the real estate agent CAN contact the appraiser if they somehow know who it is…the loan production staff cannot].
  3. We have no idea when the appraisal will be done”

Yep.  In a nutshell, people who are considered a part of “loan production” including mortgage originators and loan processors have no idea who the appraiser is until we receive it from said appraiser with conventional financing.

HVCC does not prohibit the real estate agent from communication with an appraiserHowever, unless the appraiser contacts the agent to schedule an appointment there will be no way for a real estate agent to know who the appraiser is.

Note to Real Estate Agents:  please keep this in mind when you are writing up offers with conventional financing.  The mortgage originator has no contact with the appraiser and therefore, the Letter of Loan Commitment that is typically required within 20-30 days may still be subject to appraisal or the underwriter’s review of the appraisal.   We can request the appraisals are provided to us by a certain date; but I cannot contact the appraiser to say “what’s the e.t.a. on the Jones appraisal; we really need it by Friday”.

Currently FHA is not following HVCC however, FHA has been adopting some of Fannie Mae’s other appraisal guidelines and addendums.

Are we having fun yet?