How to Deal With a Low Appraisal

Closing When the Appraisal Comes in Low

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Are you worried about receiving a low appraisal, or has your appraisal already been completed at a value less than you expected? In seller's markets, multiple offer situations often drive up the purchase price higher than any comparable sales in the area; which is why in those instances many sellers worry the appraisals will come in low. In buyer's markets, when prices are soft or falling, sellers are also concerned that the appraisal will be a low appraisal. Low appraisals can happen in any marketplace, though: hot, cold or neutral.

Why Do Low Appraisals Happen?

The National Association of Realtors reports in its monthly REALTOR® Confidence Index Survey for sales between November 2016 and January 2017, 22% of the respondents faced appraisal issues. In NAR's Survey of Mortgage Originators, 55% of the respondents for that time period reported appraisal issues.

There are a number of reasons why homes do not appraise at the sales price and appraisals come in low. Here are a few:

Colleen Tighe. © The Balance 2019
  • Rising market values due to limited inventory and few comps.
  • Appraiser overlooked pending sale data, which could reflect higher comparable sales when closed, or the appraiser selected comparable sales from the wrong neighborhoods.
  • Buyer receives cash back from the seller, causing lender to believe the price has been inflated.

One factor that does not come into play is whether the lender wants to make the loan. Lenders want to lend money, and lenders are prohibited from redlining.


Solutions for Low Appraisals

Don't panic if the appraisal comes in low. It's tough to remain calm when it appears the pending sale will fall apart, but both parties have options:

  • Buyer can make up the difference in cash. The lender cares about the appraisal only to the extent it affects the loan-to-value ratio. A low appraisal does not mean the lender won't lend. It means the lender will make a loan based on the ratio agreed to in the contract at the appraised value. Sometimes the buyer's lender will not allow the buyer to give cash for the difference and, in that event, have the buyer pay instead some of the seller's closing costs.
  • The seller can lower the price. If the home was overpriced or the value was inflated, often this is the best solution. It makes the buyer happy and the lender is satisfied. There is no guarantee that if the buyer walks away, the seller won't receive a low appraisal from the second buyer's lender, not to mention the time and trouble it takes to sell the property again. Sometimes a bird in the hand is best.
  • The seller can offer to carry a second mortgage for the difference. If the buyer really wants the home but cannot come up with the difference in cash, making payments or a lump sum payment at a later date to the seller is an option. After the escrow closes, sellers often retain the right to discount the second mortgage, sell it for less than face value to an investor.
  • Dispute or order a second appraisal. If you're a seller, request a copy of the report from the buyer. Contact the lender and ask about their dispute practices. Only the lender can insist upon a second appraisal, and typically only the buyer can make a request for another, which may not be honored. If you're a seller, you can offer to split the cost of the second appraisal. Sometimes the second appraisal will come in higher than the first, especially if the first appraiser was made mistakes.
  • .comparable salesSupply a list of Ask the agents involved to put together a list of recent comparable sales that justify the agreed-to sales price. Submit that list to the underwriter and ask for a review of the appraisal. Try to use comps closer to the subject property than the comps used by the appraiser.
  • Also, ask the agents to call the listing agents of pending sales to try to find out the actual sales price of those properties. Listing agents do not have to disclose the sales price, but many are happy to help out because they could find themselves in the same situation. You can always ask if the agent thinks your price will appraise if the agent refuses to divulge the pending price.
  • Compromise on the value. Sometimes sellers will back off a little bit on the buyer paying the entire difference and will settle somewhere between a full cash contribution and completely lowering the price. Regarding a difference of say, $10,000, a seller might agree to accept $5,000 in cash and lower the price by $5,000.
  • Ask the seller to pay for an independent appraisal. If the buyer was putting down 20 percent, for example, the buyer could switch to a 10 percent down loan program and use that newly freed-up cash to negotiate a higher cash payment to the seller.

Likewise, the seller might sell for more by putting the home back on the market and looking for a new buyer. As long as the low appraisal was not FHA, the new appraisal could be very different. FHA appraisals are assigned a case number so if the first buyer was FHA and the second buyer was FHA, the same appraisal would be used.

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