Have you ever gotten into a disagreement over whether including listings in the sales comparison approach is inappropriate – or even misleading? I'd like to say I’m torn over the issue and just present my opinion as some middle-of-the-road approach; however, I really do see the benefits of including listings as part of summarizing my appraisal process in my written report.
First, some will say that the pre-printed URAR form states "Sale" at the top of the comparison grid, so it is a misleading report if a listing is included there. I disagree. It is a pre-printed word on the form, and if the appraiser states "Listing", "Active", "Under-Contract", "Comp #4 is a listing not a sale", etc. in the report (and even in the grid itself), then that report is only "misleading" if the User does not bother to read the whole report. The measure of “misleading” cannot be dependent upon a User ignoring portions of the report.
Others say that listings cannot be gridded, but can be included in the narrative portion of the report. The latter is a fine reporting style, and we need to remember that to write a USPAP compliant report, a grid has nothing to do with it. If you include a listing in your report, you’ve included it in your report – whether you’re gridding it or not. Your reconciliation will outline how much weight is given to the listing. Additionally, AI, FHA and other organizations have issued guidance in support of analyzing listings. (Perhaps some of your clients require it in engagement letters.)
A common definition of market value requires that the participants be "prudent", "knowledgeable", and "well-informed". Would not the subject’s competition (ie, listings) be a part of this knowledge base for buyers and sellers to make educated decisions? If we are analyzing the market, are we not taking a look at supply-and-demand, inventory, and other items involving the current activity? And don’t those components of market analysis include listings and then, in turn, effect values?
For most lending-related appraisals, we're asked to opine how much a typical buyer would pay today (basically). So for example, if the market has moved down and listings are lower than sales, we may be committing an error if listings are not playing a role in our determination of what a typical buyer would pay today. If he/she could buy a competing property today for $x, why would he/she pay more? "I look at the sales, because they are 'real' closed transactions" is a good start and is the entire basis of the comparison approach, but may not be a good place to stop if we truly want to summarize a thorough market analysis.
Listings are part of the market analysis that we should be conducting in our appraisal process. Some of the questions each of us must consider: “Do we grid them?” “Do we summarize our market and listing research in the report?” and “Are they given any weight in the reconciliation?”