Top 6 items an appraiser takes pictures of

Curious about what items an appraiser takes pictures of?

What items an appraiser takes pictures ofAs a result of the recession that occurred around 2007, and the impact on the real estate market, appraisal requirements have increased significantly. One of these requirements is an increase in the documentation appraisers are required to include in their appraisal reports.

Photographs are an important part of that documentation and a requirement that the lender has expanded over the years. It use to be that appraisers would only need to include pictures of the front and back of the property as well as street scenes, but now this has expanded to include much more. A comment on a previous post I wrote about why appraisers take pictures of every room in the house prompted me to explain a little further about what items an appraiser takes pictures of.

Today we’re going to discuss what photos the appraiser includes in the report, either as a requirement of the lender’s underwriting guidelines or as supporting documentation and support for the appraiser’s final opinion of value.

So what exactly does the appraiser take pictures of?

Any item that adds to or takes away from the value of your home is fair game to have its picture taken. The items an appraiser takes pictures of can vary from things within the house and outside of the house to things that are located next to your house. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about.

  1. Description of improvements
    Appraisers take pictures of the various rooms in a house as a way to describe the property being appraised. Pictures can give the readers of the appraisal report, such as loan underwriters, a better understanding of what the various rooms in the house look like including their condition. Pictures, in conjunction with the floor plan sketch, helps to provide a more complete description of the improvements and provide support for the final opinion of value.
  2. Special Features
    If a home has special features such as a built in entertainment center or detailed crown moldings this can addhouse features value. Including pictures of these special features is the best way to document them and support conclusions that you arrive at within the report. Pictures can also help add support for quality adjustments between the subject and sales and can add credibility to the appraisal report.
  3. Deferred Maintenance
    Most appraisals are made with the property in “as is” condition and including pictures of items that require repair will paint a better picture of the property. Appraisers reconcile the final value of the home after making adjustments to the sales used in the report. The final value typically lies within this range and including pictures of where the home may need repairs can add support to the part of the value range that was reconciled. The more complete an appraisal is with written documentation and photographs the stronger it is.
  4. Attic and crawlspace
    Appraisers who perform FHA appraisals are required to perform at a minimum a head and shoulders inspection of both the attic and crawlspace. To prove this was done the appraisal must contain pictures of the attic and crawlspace. These pictures can show potential problems like prior fire damage in the attic or settlement cracks in the basement.
  5. External Factors
    External factors include things outside of the boundaries of the subject property. An example of this would be a property located adjacent to a factory that produced noxious odors that would have a negative effect on the marketability of the property. Including pictures of the factory helps to inform and educate readers of the report so they understand why the appraiser came up with the value they did.
  6. Updates, renovations, or remodeling
    Have you spent thousands of dollars on updates, renovations, or remodeling? If you want credit for it then you’ll probably be gung ho for the appraiser to take as many pictures as they want to add support to their final opinion of value in the appraisal report. Maybe the appraiser needs to make a larger than normal adjustment for an awesome renovated kitchen. Adding pictures can help the reader of the report understand why this was done.

Conclusion

When the appraiser takes pictures of your house it is because they are collecting evidence to support the final opinion of value they arrive at for the bank, or to support a value to set a list price as is done with a pre-listing appraisal. Don’t think of it as an intrusion of privacy since no one except for the lender and/or owner see the report. The more value related features your home has, either in a positive or negative way, the more pictures will probably be taken.

Question

Do you have any further questions or comments about what an appraiser takes pictures of? If so, leave a comment below and let’s keep the conversation going.

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Comments

  1. Greetings Tom, long time listener, first time caller. I absolutely agree that photographs are wonderful supplemental data for improvements, but they are not a substitute for documenting improvements within the body of the appraisal report. “Not enough space on the form” is not a very good excuse for lack of reporting the features of the property, including the good, the bad, the ugly, the inside, and the outside. If there’s not enough space on the form, most, if not all, appraisal software automatically generates a narrative addendum where the appraiser can describe the property, then reference the photos that are on the photo addendum pages. Unfortunately, some appraisers insist on putting 15 images on a page; this is great for paper consumption, but not so great for review appraisers and investigators who have aging eyes, or worse, no information in the body of the appraisal report telling us what is in those photographs. God help any of us who are stuck with a report that was printed in black and white, then copied; the photos eventually turn into blobs of black and gray ink in a square. Photographs should not be the only thing used to describe the interior and exterior of a property; words must also be used. Oh, and the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector requirements are an FHA thing.

    • Thanks for reading Maureen, and thanks for commenting. I agree that photos should not be the only form of description but instead should be supplemental to a good written analysis. I’m with you about the photo pages. 🙂 I try to always use 3 photos per page as it is a nice balance of saving paper and provides a photo that is easily viewable. Hope to hear from you again Maureen.

      • Baggins says:

        No way dude! Not enough! I stack an average of 100 photos per home. Front, rear, both street, municipal items like meters to show amenity, brick and trim, window photos, feature, door with frame and kicker, skylights, full baths, full kitchen, flooring example, material finish example, all rooms, all areas, 3x attic, crawl, stack attachments, any updated valves or handle valves in utility area, furnace whole, hot water heater top, bottom, and emergency discharge pipe in there somewhere, concrete wall and floor examples if possible, window wells, grates, covers, and ritzy if they have it like the marble, improved toppers, ss appliances, os disposal, and the list goes on. It’s good form and makes a nice show of the appraisers visit and adds material value in the borrowers consideration of what the appraiser does, and their respective price point for services. I’ve heard so many people complain; The last appraiser was in and out. I tell them the photo documentation is for my protection and to better assist their interests in a smooth reliable hassle free closing. I’m dealing with know nothing desk workers who may never have set foot on an actual piece of earth, from their cubicles in the sky. Pictures prove the point. Alamode offers 15 page legal photo pages which are key to great presentation. Benefit is pics are smaller and less scrutiny can be applied, but make nice appealing proofing points for compliance, and also to justify adjusts against other units if they had superior this inferior that. And to top it off, I take all photos on a grainy old Kodak DC2010 camera. I always have batteries and these bad boys go 10 bucks on ebay, I’ve got a glove compartment full of them. If I ruin one, I just swap the card and reach for another. I’m not trying to give the lenders high resolution detail. I want them to have grainy pics, and lots of them. Works like a charm and reduces stip count for the simple price of just an extra few minutes time with additional benefit of increased perception of service value to the borrower and subsequent reductions in possible complaints about service merit. Taking more pictures only takes a minute and digital storage is practically free these days; Priceless for me. The cost of a stipulation or clarification request cannot be measured, because I turn green with rage every time and I don’t know how the people around me have survived this long, given how many pointless stips I’ve had in the past. I’ve found a definite correlation between more pics, and less stips, especially in atypical or challenge scenarios.

  2. Bill Johnson says:

    Tom, to expand your headline one could say what is required per USPAP guidelines (photos), versus what has become standard practice within the often times 15 page engagement letters appraisers receive today. The next piece of that puzzle (extra photos), is at what cost are these photos to the appraiser? It’s hard to keep up, but in my area the following photos are often required. (Conv. loan) Street pictures in both directions, a picture of the physical address, a photo of the property across the street, side photos, pictures of common areas (PUD or condo), pictures of each utility (confirm there on), smoke detectors (state law, each Br, each floor level), CO pictures (one per floor), dual strapped water heater, bedrooms, and of course the not required original comp photos. If on average the taking of, documenting of, inclusion into the report, possible conditioning of, 5+ year records storage of, etc., takes 30 minutes per report (1.5 assignments per day), how much time per year are we not getting paid for. With 300 working days a year times 1.5 assignments a day times the 45 minutes we appraisers spend above and beyond what is required, the following happens. We spend 225 hours a year (5.6 weeks @ 40 hours a week) being asked to take extra photos that we all know we are not getting paid for. When states like Virginia have adopted appraisal law where customary and reasonable fees are to be tied to scope of work requirements (that of a VA assignment), an effort is underway to address what is required ($), versus what is being asked of use (extra ??.

    • Bill, you make some very good points. Nobody really considers how much time this takes when you consider the time involved on a monthly and yearly basis. And you’re right, we don’t get paid for this additional time and the storage digital space required and cost of such. In my area, and with the clients I have, I have not had to take as many pictures as you mention but I’m sure it may be coming. This is why it is very important for appraisers to stand strong on C & R fees and refuse to do work for those AMC’s and/or lenders that do not what to pay us for our professional services. It’s up to us to stand up for ourselves. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Thank you for the article Tom. When I did lender appraisal work, the photos requirements were starting to get crazy. Some lenders wanted photos of everything, in addition to the normal front, rear, street, kitchen, baths, living. I had one client ask for closet photos. Some wanted street scenes in both direction, some wanted smoke and carbon alarm photos, some wanted a photo of the printed address on house or mailbox, some wanted a photo of what the home faced. The breaking point for me was when a client sent me back to the property because my attic photo was too dark. I said the photo is to prove I saw the attic, not so you can check the attic yourself.

    • That’s crazy Gary. I don’t blame you for moving away from lender work to private work. My clients haven’t gotten this crazy yet and I hope they never do!

  4. Well said, Tom. Being that the appraiser is the “eyes of the lender” so to speak, photos can help show what an appraiser sees. You are right about regulations having changed. Lenders expect photos of every room. I used to have a lender client that even wanted pictures of every smoke detector.

    • Thanks Ryan. A picture of every smoke detector, huh? That is extreme. 🙂

    • Jason Roler says:

      I had a request just the other day from a lender to take pictures of the smoke detectors, and this was for a new construction property.

      • That’s interesting Jason, I know that is probably not a new requirement but I have not had anyone asking me for that yet.

        • Baggins says:

          That’s standard in Colorado and has been for some time. Lenders may seek to apply those additional points for value added services, but such requirements fall flat as a blanket policy and are more appropriately limited to local requirements. / I’ve had them ask me to report on strapped water heaters or not, and like what the heck, what is that anyways? Apparently it’s quake related and here in the high country, we never have and never will need htwtr htr straps. But we do have a new state rule that all homes sold which have either fuel burning items like furnace or ht wtr heater, or are physically attached to a structure with fuel burning or attached to garage, must have carbon monoxide alarms in place. So now a days, it’s old hat and you must include those photos to satisfy the typical lender requirements. Got so tired of the pointless final inspects for that single item, at one point before the realty guys caught up, I kept a stash of them in the car and would sell them at cost to the sellers on the spot to make sure I could get a picture of it. I’d tell them to pick one up, but they often did not bother. When I presented the choice of at cost and receipt to prove that, or me coming out for a final and delaying the process (also costing 150 more to that same individual, if it was just a refinance, suddenly the money to afford the device was available) Ha! / Jason, it’s local municipal coding based, those sorts of requirements. Lenders seek protection from obvious points of liability exposure and lack of fire or monoxide alarm are the easy ones which they all focus on now, based on local rules.

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