I do pre-foreclosure and home equity work for several clients, and their assignments include some Exterior-From-Street appraisals. Insurance companies and agents request this type of report as well. Recently, I heard from an appraiser who doesn't do "drive-by" Exterior-Only assignments. I understand, as part of managing businesses appraisers make different business decisions related to the nature of the work they will and will not accept. And I'm never about to tell another appraiser what work to accept and what work to avoid. (I enjoy a good Full interior-and-exterior inspection and I often hear from homeowners they are impressed that I spent more than 15 minutes at their house – so, I'm not advocating eliminating Full inspections!) But it's the reasoning I've heard over the years, for not performing Exterior assignments, that I don't always agree with…
"How can I appraise it? I don't even know what's inside!"
That's exactly why extraordinary assumptions are used. The Exterior-Only appraisal scope is specifically based on NOT knowing 100% about the property – that's the point.
"I'll do the sales comparison approach, but not the cost approach – after all, I don't know the quality or condition!"
My next question is always, "Then how are you developing a sales comparison approach without knowing the quality or condition?" The extraordinary assumption enables you to "know" subject characteristics for purposes of the appraisal.
"How can I make an extraordinary assumption? I don't know what's in the property!"
Right. That's what an extraordinary assumption is.
"But it's a manufactured house and the form needs the HUD tag for me to appraise it!"
A lender might need the HUD information for lending policies, but certainly an appraiser can opine value without knowing that HUD information. And since when is a form in charge of the appraisal process?
Now, I know that there are sometimes good reasons for NOT performing an Exterior-Only, and we need to consider the availability of information, the intended use, the complexity of a property, conflicting available information, etc.. For example, I was recently asked to appraise a property from the exterior for a refinance, but county records indicated it had two single-family detached houses and a detached garage with what appeared to be sq.ft. above it. In this situation, I messaged the lender that I believed the appropriate scope of work for this assignment would be an interior-and-exterior Full inspection of the property and I insisted on an "upgrade" to that scope of work. After I quoted my fee and turn-time, they agreed, and I'm going next week.
On the other hand, an agent recently talked to me about her current listing which has had few showings and no "bites". She has a prior appraisal (sketch, etc.), a virtual tour and MLS information and photos, and of course these sources are available to me. For this listing-related assignment, it may be possible to have a desktop scope, using data from the county, the sketch, the tour, the MLS and other sources to establish the characteristics of the subject through extraordinary assumptions, for the intended use of this assignment.
When an appraiser automatically refuses to do any Exterior-Only work, I sometimes ask, "So, does the property not have a value if you can't see inside?" I realize they're not really claiming that (and my response is a bit tongue-in-cheek), but for partially- or fully-destroyed properties, hostile occupants, pre-foreclosure, portfolio or retrospective work, it may not even be possible to gain access. So I maintain my point does stand: the property still has a value even if you can't get inside, and a client may need an opinion of that value.
The question is, Can you develop a credible report by making reasonable extraordinary assumptions for the intended use of the appraisal?