THE SECOND STORY | November 20th, 2008

To Comp(are) or to Contrast…That is the Question.

Photo taken 11/15/08 corner of Cambridge and Northwood

I’ve received several emails and calls recently pretty much with the same questions: “What would it sell for?” and “Can you send me comp information?”

One was this week from an elderly woman who owns a condo that has been a rental for a long, long time. And it apparently is a mess. This woman has been a licensed real estate agent for over 50 years but has not been active for several years.

Another a few weeks ago was from an owner I’ve worked with two times previously.

Another was today from an owner who is anticipating a re-fi.

I almost always choose not to answer the first question until I have actually seen the location and the interior of the property. And the answer to the second question is almost always yes.

My qualifier to that answer is that I can send along (email or snail mail, as appropriate) the market activity for a rather generic grouping of properties into which the subject may fall.
It at least allows an owner to start to see where the market activity is (or isn’t). At that moment since the owner knows more about his/her property than I do it does provide some significant info. And of course, we have the usual conversation including “Why now?” and “Can we explore some other options rather than selling now?”

The word comp is rather a misnomer. Way back when I was in junior high we had an English lesson about the words compare and contrast. I’ve never forgotten it. To compare is to find the similarities. To contract is to find the differences.

In real estate we do both. One property sells for more because it may be in a better location, be in better condition, was priced more aggressively. Those are contrasts, differences.

Comparing is much easier to do when the subject is mostly like other properties. Commonality is the key. Like apartment style one bedroom condos. Or a Waterford floor plan out in the master planned Community of Harbor Bay Isle. Many similarities are already in place.

But that’s where contrasts come in once again. If there are upgrades, or a better location within a complex or development or neighborhood, or the subject only has three neighbors who can be seen from the master bedroom instead of 19. Those are distinct differences. (Sidebar, yep, I counted 19 homes I could see from the second floor of a master bedroom out at Harbor Bay one day).

So how do appraisers do it? Especially if they do not live in the area, do not necessarily go on the broker tour, or do open houses. Well, the really good agents find out who the appraiser is, where the person is from, how much work they do in the area, and then offer to really help the appraiser.

A few years ago I did almost everything but write the thing. I met the appraiser at the subject property. The guy was from Marin County, didn’t have a clue about Alameda, and was having a hard time making it ‘work’. The comps he was using were a joke. So I asked for his comp requirements: how much was the spread either side of the contract price, how far away could a comp be, what was the spread between the square footage of the subject and the comp, and how far back could he go for a sale. It wasn’t easy, but I gave him everything he needed and each place fit his requirements. And the property appraised.

What’s that got to do with today? Everything. I got a call about three weeks ago from an appraiser asking why a property was priced so low compared to the comps. The lady was calling from out of the area, doing an appraisal for a refi. When I quizzed her about what she was using for comps, she gladly gave me the addresses. I knew every house. And not one of them was suited as a comp for the subject. And then I explained why. She had not even gone by the properties but she had what they are told to be the important data: lot size, improvement square footage, properties within her distance and pricing requirements. But did she know about mixed used neighborhoods? NooOOOooo. Completely clueless. I asked her what she was trying for on a value and I told her I wasn’t sure it could be done. The owner put too high a value on the application and it just wouldn’t work. So if you are that owner, I killed your deal. Sorry.

But can you see how it pays to do your homework upfront? Don’t pay hundreds of dollars for an appraisal that won’t work. Call your agent! If you didn’t like your agent or don’t know one that is local, call your friends or ask your neighbors who they have used or would recommend.

And this is not just for refinances, this is for when you are making offers! So that means your agent needs to know it, and your lender should have access to appraisers who know it, too. Ya gotta know the territory…and so should everybody you have on your real estate team!

Real estate this week in Alameda….

Speaking of comps….click here to see recent sales trends . Harbor Bay Realty has an exclusive arrangment for obtaining this data. Kind of interesting….residential only (condos, townhomes, single family).

Active listings 185, 192 last report

Pending listings 66, 70 last report

Highest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Lowest priced new listing Click Here to View Listings

Tuesday tour 8 with 3 repeats Click Here to View Listings

New listings 7 Click Here to View Listings

Price changes 7 Click Here to View Listings

Pending 8 Click Here to View Listings

Sold 10 Click Here to View Listings

Expired 8 Click Here to View Listings

Withdrawn/cancelled 9 Click Here to View Listings

Listing awards this week…remember this is only my perspective!

WinnerClick Here to View Listings I never thought that I’d ever give this to a unit at The Willows. Well, it happened – light, bright, bay views, tidy, and some room in the price I expect. Even my client Jackie, to whom I showed it gave me the “ooowww, The Willows.” when I told her. Well, her “oowww” became ‘WOW!” once she saw it and she just kept saying “Wow”. No sale there though. Jackie wants to give HOA fees the boot. I’ve done two transactions with her previously. She’s fun to work with, and thank goodness, patient.

Get Me to Rehab Click Here to View Listings

Have a great weekend!

And Happy Thanksgiving. I expect we are all looking a bit differently at things this year and making special notes of things specially worth noting. To my extra special dear clients and dear friends – Thank YOU for sharing your lives with me, for making my work challenging and always new, for the opportunity to help you with your real estate needs, for keeping me grounded in the present but looking to what’s ahead! Carry on! Marilyn

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I arrived in Alameda in 1973, as a new bride...with husband Carl Schumacher, both of us from Newport Beach. He was embarking on his career as a Naval Architect (i.e. yacht designer) under Gary Mull. Please see the 'ABOUT ME' page in this website! to see how it has all turned out! I'm so blessed!