I have been a REO broker for almost five years now, but before I got into REO I was completing broker price opinions (BPOs) for banks. Broker price opinions help banks and other companies determine values on properties. When completing a BPO, there are certain guidelines that are expected to be met. Almost every BPO I do requires three sold and three active comparables and those comparables to be within certain guidelines of the subject property.
A BPO can be a great tool for a beginning or seasoned investor to determine values on properties. I can go into any town in the country and complete a BPO and come up with a somewhat accurate value. The trick in coming up with an accurate value on a BPO is making proper adjustments. Every house is different in some way and making accurate adjustments is how we calculate what those differences are worth monetarily. If you can complete an accurate BPO it can greatly increase your value accuracy.
Here are the typical guidelines that most banks and BPO companies require Real Estate agents to go by when completing a BPO
- Distance: All comps must be within 1 mile of the subject if it is in an urban or suburban neighborhood.
- Age: All comps must be within 10 years of subject, unless the home is over 50 years old. At that point the age brackets can be widened.
- Size/square Footage: Only above ground square footage is calculated in the square footage on a BPO. The square footage on the comps must be within 20% of the subject. Basement square footage and finish are calculated separately from above ground square.
- Property type: Comparable properties must be the same type as subject. Single family detached homes must be compared to single family detached, duplexes to duplexes, town houses to town houses, etc..
- Bedroom/bathroom count: Only above grade bedrooms and bathrooms are counted in the BPO information. Comparable Bedrooms and baths must be within one of the subject.
- Style: It is not required, but you should try to use the same style of home. 2 story to 2 story, split level to split level, ranch to ranch.
- Sale date: Sold comps should have sold in the last six months, although many banks prefer three months.
Exceptions to Guidelines
Not every property has three perfect sold and active comparables in the same neighborhood. At some point you will run into a property that has very few comps and you cannot meet the BPO guidelines. If you have to break the guidelines, extensive explanations must be written out to justify why the guidelines were exceeded. If a comp that was used is 20 years older than subject, then you must explain why this comp was used. If there are comps available that are within 10 years of subject, then the bank is going to want to know why those comps weren’t used.
The premise behind these guidelines is to use the most similar properties as comparables to the subject property. If there are other minor differences in the properties characteristics or condition, those can be taken care of with adjustments. I have to use many different BPO forms and some allow adjustments and some do not. I greatly prefer the forms that allow for adjustments, because I can put a monetary value on differences in condition, square footage or bedroom count.
Adjustments are made to the comparable properties to show if they are superior or inferior to subject. The adjustments are calculated on the comparable properties, not the subject. If a comp sold for $180,000, then you will add or subtract adjustments to account for positive or negative features. After the adjustments are made, we have a new price that shows what the subject is worth based on the comparable sale or listing.
It can be confusing at first determining if an adjustment should be positive or negative, but it gets easier with practice. Adjustments can be made for bedrooms, square footage, age or any other variable. The basic idea is to use a negative adjustment on the comparable property, if the comp has superior features and positive adjustments on the comparable property if the comp has inferior features to subject. A BPO looks much like an appraisal, and the adjustments work the same way.
Based on this comparable property the subject property is worth $194,500.
How to Calculate Adjustments
Calculating adjustments is a judgment call based on an individual market. There is no across the board figure for square footage, garages or lot size. It is up to the preparer to figure what the actual adjustment figures are. I will provide one tip. If it costs $100 a square foot to build a home, that doesn’t mean the adjustment for square footage should be $100. The $100 a square foot for a new build is factoring in the entire house into that figure, while BPO adjustments factor in many individual variables like bedrooms and baths as well as square footage. Usually you will see adjustments on BPOs of $20 to $40 a square foot for above grade square footage and less for basements. The higher range is usually for more a expensive house that has a higher build quality.
I (mostly my assistant) complete about 1,000 BPOs a year for banks and third party companies that specialize in BPOs. Whenever I am interested in a property for an investment, I will have my assistant complete a quick BPO on the property to see if her value lines up with mine. If you can learn to accurately apply adjustments to comparable properties like an appraiser or BPO preparer does, it can greatly improve the accuracies of your values.
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