The Sound And The Fury Of Housing

This is an obviously incredible analogy for the excess demand we are seeing now after most U.S. housing markets were shut down or restrained by COVID in the spring, combined with a dusting of record-low mortgage rates.

But I digress…

Outbound Urban Migration Dramatization Keywords: Fleeing, Flocking, Exodus

The terminology for the outbound migration from America’s cities has its own language. If you use them in your article you get instant SEO love.

In many ways, the pattern of moving to the suburbs is an acceleration of what was inevitable. Affordability challenges that new urbanism brought pushed the creative class out because they could no longer afford it. The COVID crisis brought this phenomenon from a 5-10 year trend to a 6-month phenomenon. COVID exposed the problem and the drop in city property values may bring those who left, to come back in a few years as we’ve seen in the past?

Housing Prices Continue to Rise At An Unsustainable Rate

FHFA price trends reflect the bulk of the housing market but exclude sales that were made with a Jumbo mortgage or cash so these increases are likely conservative. I know housing affordability needs to consider mortgage rates and how they have been falling in recent years, but wage growth hasn’t been rising nearly as much. I don’t understand the math.

[click to see FHFA report]

Only by 2016 did median household income reach levels it saw in the late 1990s.

Manhattan Coop Condo Outdoor Space Is More Of A Premium Now Due To COVID

I took a look at the extra premium outdoor space is enjoying in the Manhattan resale market before and after the March 15 lockdown by bedroom in 2020. My attempt is obviously a little dirty given its based on closing data so there are pre-COVID data points in the after-COVID data, but that’s life. The overall premium is 5.4% but varies by bedroom in the chart they created below.


The outdoor concept applies to the suburbs too. Here is a chart on the market share of homes with pools sold in Greenwich during the second quarter. It was the highest market share by far in four years.

Getting Graphic

Our favorite charts of the week of our own making

Len Kiefer‘s Chart Handiwork

The Counselors of Real Estate® Presents: What’s Next for Real Estate and the Life Experience

Here’s an interesting free and open to all webinar I highly recommend:

[click on image to register]


(For earlier appraisal industry commentary, visit my old clunky REIC site.)

A Long Island Appraiser is Stealing Leads From Legitimate NYC Appraisers

A few years ago, maybe longer, I was fooling around on some map sites like Mapquest and Google and found that my company address was incorrectly presented as a townhouse on the Upper West Side, far from our actual office in Midtown. I thought it was odd and random so I submitted a request to change the address and then life moved on and I forgot about it. One of my readers of Housing Notes just sent me a screenshot of the same error I had complained about in the past. I called the number and got a Google Voice prompt and then a message after several rings that the person wasn’t available.

Except this was the tip of the iceberg.

This same Housing Notes Reader sent me the easily verifiable description of the appraiser who is gaming Google search to divert inquiries away from legitimate appraisal firms to profit from it:

An appraisal company based out of Long Island has been engaged in unethical business practices geared towards giving their business an unfair advantage and suppressing competitors. An investigation reveals that Rohit Sarin, Ashwin Sarin and Ashok Sarin, are all involved in operating appraisal businesses under A & S Real Estate Appraisals, Inc. and Home Land Appraisals, Inc. Rohit and Ashwin are Certified Residential Real Estate Appraisers in NY, and their father, Ashok Sarin, is a Licensed Real Estate Appraiser Assistant in NY. The Sarin’s market their businesses under a handful of different websites, with the primary websites including and

As of August 25, 2020, the Sarin family has over 24 Google Business Listings for their real estate appraisal business. The 24 listings found include links to four different websites and five different phone numbers. However, the Sarin’s have not registered 24 different businesses or DBAs to match the Google Business Listings.

This unethical business practices is meant to game Google Business Listings (Google search results) and guarantee that any time someone searches for a real estate appraiser in the New York City area, on the first page of Google Business Listing search results, 20% to 60% of the listings shown by Google will be Sarin controlled business listing. This deceptively tricks consumers into thinking they are viewing multiple companies, when in fact, they are viewing multiple listings for the same company. This is not only unethically suppressing other real estate appraisal businesses in NYC, but it is also doing a tremendous injustice to the general public.

The Sarin controlled website states that the company has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker and The Real Deal; however, no mention of the company could be found in any of the publications.

The purpose of USPAP is to promote and maintain a high level of public trust in the appraisal practice. Flooding Google with 24 duplicative business listings is far from promoting public trust. Its deceptive and in this case, and possibly illegal, since nearly all of the business names in the listings are not registered businesses or DBAs.

Consumers are hurt by the Sarin’s unethical business practices because when they search Google for a real estate appraiser and think they are being shown a list of say 20 businesses on the first page of listings, in fact, 20% to 60% of those listings are the same company. This tricks the consumer into thinking they are viewing 20 businesses; this is far from promoting public trust.

Appraisers are hurt by the Sarin’s unethical business practices because other appraisal business listings are being suppressed or pushed onto another page of listings, and in most cases, never seen by the consumer as a result.

Next Steps?

This isn’t simply an SEO matter. Do any of my readers know what can be done about this? I suspect public shaming won’t work.

It Took Nearly Two Years To Get A Response From Our Industry To Counter The Lack Of Understanding By The Brookings Institute Of What Appraisers Actually Do

The Appraisal Institute just sent a letter to The Appraisal Foundation to address things that have been floating out in the ether for nearly two years. The November 2018 Brookings Institute report blames appraisers without proof or logic for lower property values in minority communities and then the June 2019 Congressional Hearing amplified the Brookings misrepresentation of the appraisal industry. It’s taken 14 months to send this letter?

Interestingly, the chairman of the Board of Trustees that Jeff is writing to is a personal property appraiser and not a real estate appraiser. Real property appraisal is the reason for TAF’s existence and it is the trade that AI represents. This is why personal property appraisers should not be commingled with real property appraisers on the boards of The Appraisal Foundation.

Better late than never I suppose. Also, it was nice to see Jeff Sherman, president of AI, to extend an olive branch to TAF.

Is there racism in the U.S.? Of course, a lot of it and to me feels like its getting worse or just more overt. In fact, the American housing dream was built on racist neighborhood policies by government institutions in the depression era including awful things like deed restrictions.

The problem with this topic is that The Brookings Institute November 2018 The devaluation of assets in black neighborhoods showed a stunning lack of understanding about the very industry it was attacking despite a well-considered write up about the disparity between the value of homes in neighborhoods of black and white residents of selected U.S. cities.

They don’t connect the appraisal industry with the earlier presentation in the report. The methodology was clear: they looked at Zillow and homeowners’ self-estimated values (two wildly questionable sources I might add). They realized that since they generated some housing numbers and – a lightbulb goes off – appraisers work with housing numbers so…appraisers are the problem! That’s called a credibility leap. There is no actual connection to appraisers in all the fogging being presented in the report discussed at the hearing.

The report authors have demonstrated they do not understand what an appraiser does. A credible white paper would have gone through that process to build an understanding of the presentation for the reader. Doesn’t Brookings have a review process on white paper research or were they hoping for a controversial piece to garner attention and not really care? I co-authored a white paper on a completely different housing topic and understand the presentation process – peer review is a big part of the process.

You can see their misunderstanding of what appraisers actually do just by watching the hearing and listening to the logic presented by anyone in attendance who is not actually an appraiser. To appraisers, the lack of understanding of what an appraiser does is a painful listen, I can assure you.

Here’s what one of the authors of the Brookings report who spoke at the hearing said in a recent New York Times article (what I assume it prompted the AI letter to TAF):

“White appraisers carry the same attitudes and beliefs of white America — the same attitudes that compelled Derek Chauvin to kneel casually on the neck of George Floyd are shared by other professionals in other fields. How does that choking out of America look in the appraisal industry? Through very low appraisals,” he said.

That’s a stunning indictment of every single appraiser in America, from the author of a report that demonstrates they do not understand what appraisers actually do. It is reckless and dishonest.

In that same article, my good friend says it better than I ever could:

“Is there a problem with poor and underserved communities in the United States? Yes. Is it the appraisal profession’s fault? No,” wrote Maureen Sweeney, a Chicago-based appraiser in a letter to the house subcommittee following the hearing. “It’s like blaming the canary for the bad air in the coal mine, or blaming the mirror for your bad hair day. Appraisers reflect the market; we do not create it.”

Incidentally, the New York Times piece reported evidence of potential bias because of the racial composition of the homeowner. The difference between these examples presented in the NYT piece and the Brookings piece is that Brookings posits that the reason for lower-priced neighborhoods is because all appraisers value all properties lower in those neighborhoods because they are minority-largely owned.

The amazing takeaway from the Brookings study is that they believe real estate appraisers determine market value when they simply opine on it using empirical evidence. That opinion is based on comparing similar properties nearby.

Brookings assumes that appraisers literally walk into a home and bless it with its value. This shows a stunning lack of understanding of what appraisers do. As Maureen said earlier, we don’t create the value, we reflect it.

We compare the subject property to other sales nearby that are similar in size, condition, configuration, etc. We try to stick to the same neighborhood, same town, same township, same subdivision, same property type, same lot size, same square footage, etc. because the comparable sales are subject to the same external influences, such as proximity to amenities such as schools and transportation. A comparable sale is a sale that a buyer would consider as a reasonable alternative to the property being appraised. In most cases that report is reviewed by someone else at the lending institution who doesn’t know the racial makeup of the borrower or the appraiser.

Are some appraisers racist? Of course! Our society is full of racism, both subtle and overt. But the Brookings Report itself makes no connection between the act of doing an appraisal and lower housing prices in minority neighborhoods. None. And that gave them license to be reckless in their statements after the report was issued. Brookings needs to revisit the topic but this time provide a credible empirical approach to why housing prices are lower in certain areas than others.

The Appraisal Foundation Appraiser Qualifications Board Is Insulated From The Real World

The Appraisal Foundation’s board that determines appraisal qualifications (AQB) has demonstrated its insulation from the world as the number of appraisers in the industry continues to decline. Here are some issues to consider when it comes to the AQB – I am speaking to the entity itself, not any specific individuals.

Why on earth would AQB make it harder to enter the profession like the recent college requirement fiasco? Many of my peers who are already certified saw a college degree as the difference between appraisal as a profession or a trade. Personally I’d love to see AQB require a degree if we were in an alternate reality. I already have one so its not an issue for me. But we are in a time where the industry is struggling to stay relevant and starved for growth in membership. A stunningly tone-deaf action that has since be fixed.

Counting the entries on the TAF web site since 1990, I believe there have only been three women on the Appraisal Qualifications Board and only one(?) served their full term in office.

Reviewing the entries on the TAF web site since 1990, and relying on Google, I do not believe there has been a minority Appraisal Qualifications Board. Please correct me if I am wrong. If I am, I think it is safe to assume the number doesn’t represent anything close to the numbers in American society.

OFT (One Final Thought)

How the music sausage was made (hint: it was more than a feeling).

Brilliant Idea #1

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Brilliant Idea #2

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Jonathan J. Miller, CRP, CRE, Member of RAC
Miller Samuel Inc.
Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants
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