Why sellers sell for below appraised value?

8 Replies

I'm learning how to fix & flip homes, and I've noticed cases when properties are listed on the MLS for below the appraised value of the property (or so they claim). In the current market, it seems that appraisers are much more conservative about their estimates than they once were. I can understand that a highly motivated seller might be willing to discount the price below (perhaps significantly below) the value set by an appraisal, but I don't have enough experience to understand how often this is really the reason.

Are there any hidden "gotchas" to beware of when investigating a property that has a listing price that is significantly below the appraised value? 

They might be distressed and need to sell quickly. The property might not actually sell at whatever the appraisal might be. Appraisers aren't buyers, buyers are buyers. I'm not sure I've ever experienced a seller having had their own appraisal done. Do you mean tax assessment maybe?

My observations have been the opposite, at least on the commercial side. Appraisals and valuation opinions go up and up.

Appraised value may or may not have a correlation to the actual market value of the property 

I'm guessing you are conflating tax assessor value with appraised value, since that's what you can see publicly.

Property tax assessments have little to do with market value. It's just a gov't number. The gov't also thinks pizza is a serving of vegetable since it has tomato sauce. Not credible. 

If you mean an appraiser has appraised the property then that value should be in the ballpark of sale price although often it isn't. Who knows why. IF you mean tax appraisal that has zip to dow with market value. You ultimately need to learn what houses are worth in the areas you're buying in.

I'll tell you about some properties I sold under the appraisal amount.

1.  I was relocating with a government position that paid me $20,000 if I sold my house and did not use the relocation service to sell my house.  Winter, slow selling season was approaching.  I knew the relocation service offer, the average of 2 separate appraisals.  I also knew if I did not sell soon, I would continue to pay property taxes, utilities, snow removal services, and the cost of all repairs.  I was already living and working about 2000 miles away.  I already was living in my new house, with both mortgages.  When I sold I could use the equity in the house to pay down the one I was living in, reducing the mortgage to just a few years left instead of 30.

So, if I sold at $20k under market, I still came out better because of the taxes, etc listed above  I did sell about $5k under the appraisal.  But would have gone up to the full $20k cash I was offered if needed.  I could afford 2 mortgages, but did not like it!

2.  Mom passed, druggie brother and wife moved into mom's house.  It had to be sold with 11 heirs splitting the money, most wanting it sold yesterday, not many happy with brother in house.  Brother was co Trustee on Trust that held property.  Everyday he trashed the house more so no one would want to buy it.  He called the potential buyers racial names (huge liability!!!), went swimming naked (no, not great to look at) when they came to see the house, locked the master bedroom, bath and den so no one could see in there, parked bikes, etc in the other rooms.  It was impossible to get anyone to see the house and actually want to buy it.  When an investor made an offer, well below market, I took it! It was a very nice house, although dated in a very desirable neighborhood.

3.  Aunt passed away.  Several relatives were unhappy that I inherited her property.  They made it a point to break into the property, often. Not to get anything, but to make me spend $ fixing it.   I was tired of fixing broken windows, doors, etc.  Property sales were slowing down then too.  Sold to a lieing, thieving wholeseller. (who reneged on the other property involved and was over a month late in closing escrow, promised he had $, was a flipper, not wholeseller, but he did not have $, only lies...promises...more broken windows...)  Property was wholeselled is still not flipped, they have held it for almost a year and still have not pulled permits.  Sold undermarket to sell it before they broke in again.  Regular realtors did not like Transfer on Death deed, which was new in CA.  It required title to do a painful mini-probate.  So I did not go the MLS route. 

Updated almost 2 years ago

Forgot to mention, but the loss on the Trust property was carried forward to the beneficiaries as a capitol loss for tax purposes, so it was useful for most beneficiaries to have that capitol loss to claim at $3k a year on their federal taxes until its used even if they do not have a capitol gain.

@Devin Bost what a property appraisers for is a lot different than what it will sell for on the open market in a lot of cases. Are you working with an agent? A good one should be able to tell you how this factor correlates in your market.

Your appraisal will often be for a little more than the selling price. Lenders often require the property "to appraise" to establish the value of the property and the LTV ratio. You have a mortgage application issue if you borrow 75% LTV against the selling price, but the appraisal comes in lower than the selling price.

Don't get too excited if your appraisal is over the selling price.  The market sets the price, not the appraiser.  Think of the appraisal as more of a ceiling on the value of your property at a point in time.  You can get a higher price with a cash sale, but it is harder with a lender involved.

The house is only worth what someone is willing to pay. Everything is for sale and negotiable.