Archive for January, 2016

Kitchen 101….

I viewed a house today which an investor renovated. Spent over $22K in repairs and upgrades. The starter home looked nice. He even added this nice granite countertop. But why in the world would someone cheap out on the cabinets. By keeping those very old cabinets he essentially wasted the money he spent on that fabulous countertop. The kitchen is probably the most valuable room when it comes to resale. I think by adding basic, but new cabinets this little house would have “wowed” someone and commanded a higher price.  


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If you are hiring an appraiser to do an appraisal for you or to be an expert witness, BEFORE you divulge too much information you should disclose to the appraiser all parties of the litigation to insure he/she does not have a conflict of interest with anyone.

It is my standard practice to ask these questions upon receiving the inquiry before getting into too much detail. As example, if you are going through a divorce I will ask you who your spouse is and the attorneys who are involved. It would be a shame to ignore this step and later find out your appraiser hangs out at the same golf course as your soon to be ex-husband.. NOT GOOD!!!

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Throughout my workday I regularly receive calls and emails with questions regarding a wide range of real estate related topics. I have come to realize that many of these questions are of interest to my page followers. Therefore, starting this coming Monday and every Monday thereafter, I will be submitting by “Monday Mail bag” blog post. The weekly post will cover and answer many of the questions I receive during the week. Go ahead and subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter @JackLavoie, as my blog automatically gets sent to my Twitter account.

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I know what your thinking. I just said I was “not competent”.  Did you know that EVERY assignment an appraiser receives he/she MUST declare themselves competent for the assignment if they are to accept it. Today I was asked to do an appraisal on a special purpose type of commercial property in a location outside of my market area.  I was had limited experience in that geographical area and NO experience for this unique type of property. I declined the assignment. So YES, I declared “incompetency” 🙂 

The lesson I’m trying to make is just because the appraiser has the appropriate license, does not mean they are competent for the job. An appraiser who accepts a job he/she is not qualified for is in violation of Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). 

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Follow Jack Lavoie, SRA @jacklavoie on Twitter.

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DIVORCE…..We all know someone who is going through a divorce. It may even be yourself. I am not going to give you general divorce advice, but I am going to offer you divorce real estate advice….

Divorce is a terrible thing. It is a polarizing event in which every body takes sides.   Everything “he” does is good…Everything “she” does is bad and vice versa. While I don’t think divorce should be war, it is important that you take the financial part of it seriously and thoroughly. Too often one side gives in too easy because they “just want it over” giving away thousands of dollars in the settlement. Don’t be bullied!

THE HOUSE…. Even if you are in agreement WHO gets the house, you may not be able to agree on how much its worth. How much it’s worth effects the equity and is the basis for one side buying out the other.   I have a few important thoughts regarding the appraisal of the house. In no particular order they are:

  • Even if the value the spouse places on the property seems right, get an appraisal to 1) make sure it’s right and 2) to give you the comfort of knowing its fair. SADLY, I see VERY often one side of the divorce “tricking” the other side into false value.
  • Ask your lawyer what effective date the appraisal should be. Depending on your attorney’s strategy, they may want it effective separation date, date of court filing, date of appraisal inspection (current date) or some other date.
  • When selecting an appraiser hire some with a STRONG background in non-bank appraisal work. Many appraisers only do sales and refinance appraisals and are not experienced in non-lender and Litigation appraisals. YOUR appraiser needs to have a “Bullet-proof” file with support and documentation in his/her file. If the file is not complete the opposition attorney will have a field day. Your appraiser needs to be able to explain, and justify each of the methods and adjustments,
  • The goal is to settle, but hire an appraiser who is willing to testify in court and have the experience in doing so. Choose someone who can stand up to hostile cross examination.
  • Hire someone with vast experience in YOUR area. Real estate is local and local experience really is important and will be crucial if the value of the house is litigated in court.
  • Consider using a professional, designated appraisal from a highly recognized organization such as the “Appraisal Institute”. AI offers an SRA designation for residential and MAI for commercial appraisers.
  • Make sure the appraiser is using the correct forms or format for appraisals. If the appraiser uses the same form they use for the bank they are; a) in violation of standards and b) obviously the wrong person for the job for not knowing this.
  • Don’t price shop. Qualifications, education, experience and knowledge is VERY important. Do you hire the “cheapest lawyer” or do you hire the best attorney to get the job done? Saving $100 on an appraisal and putting tens of thousands of dollars at risk is like stepping over $50 dollar bills to pick up pennies.
  • The appraiser can work for you directly meaning that YOU are the client. In some circumstance when husband and wife are amicable and working together they can order a joint appraisal in which the appraisal is completed for BOTH of them and they are BOTH the client. Be sure to ask your attorney about this option. If you do this, you want to make sure both of you choose THE best appraiser in the area as the appraisal will hold strong weight in front of a judge.
  • When meeting the appraiser, be sure to point out all important aspects of the house specifically items not necessarily obvious during inspection, such as defects, broken items and overall condition. It is even better to provide a list.  You may be hoping for a low appraisal, but may be disappointed if you don’t let the appraiser know that “the septic system has failed” or the “roof leaks” when those items affect value.
  • Before sharing the results with your spouse and his/her attorney, carefully review the appraisal for factual accuracy. If you find an error (ie. appraiser indicated fuel is “gas”, then it is actually “oil”), then inform the appraiser to correct the appraisal BEFORE providing the other side with the report. One little, typographical error can give the opposition to discredit what is otherwise a sold, sound, quality appraisal.
  • Consider the timing of the appraisal is that is an option. Residential real estate values in New Hampshire vary by season. Appraisal results can vary by season and it may be worth a discussion with your attorney.


If you have any questions regarding a divorce or any other appraisal, don’t hesitate to contact me at (603) 644-1000 or at appraisals@jacklavoie.com


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