Ask Henry

Comparable Sale Photos

Hello Henry,

I have been an appreciative customer and fan of your publications for decades. However, in your current online REV Magazine where an appraiser is complaining about having to take lots of comp photos, I submit the following sample of a letter received from one of our clients in this regard:

"There is commentary in the Addendum stating: "Some MLS photographs are used for comparable sales, as it had not been determined at the time of the property appraisal inspection which comparables would be most appropriate to use in the sales comparison approach." In the Appraiser's Certification, under Scope of Work (#3) [typically page 4 of the URAR form], it states: The appraiser must inspect each of the comparable sales from at least the street. Please address whether or not the appraiser inspected the comparables used in the appraisal report.”

Our clients insist that if the appraiser inspected the comps (as the Appraiser’s Certification indicates), then why couldn't they takea picture to show they were there? They can provide MLS photos in addition, if they better represent the property. Hopefully you can get the word out as to why this is simply good practice, as not doing so can delay the mortgage process.

A Concerned Fellow Appraiser
Name and email withheld by request

Dear Friend:

Keep in mind that the USPAP does not even require the the property be inspected. The URAR Fannie Mae #1004 - Freddie Mac #70 was created by Fannie and Freddie to codify some of their "Scope of Work" requirements which they require from Lenders selling mortgages to them.

I agree that in this age of digital cameras (and camera enabled cel phones) it would be prudent for the appraiser to photograph every potential comparable sale they inspect, and then select those photographs later for the comparable sales they use in the report. If the MLS photograph provides better information about the comparable sale, it should also be included in the report. The USPAP requires that there be a dialogue between the lender/client or their representative as what they require for each appraisal. This would be the appropriate place for the photo requirement to be communicated to the appraiser.

Back in the 1980s, we had a large appraisal company which at its peak had about 50 appraisers. This was before digital cameras were common. We had special 35mm cameras that recorded the date, time and address of each photograph. We required that our appraisers photograph every potential comparable sale when they inspected them from the street. We also keep all of these photos in the permanent work files. It was costly at the time, but in our judgment a worthwhile requirement. Now, with digital cameras and cheap CDs, mini-zip drives, and other storage capacity, I recommend that all appraisers follow this procedure.


Ask Henry

Number of Comp Photo Reshoots

Dear Henry,

A larger appraisal management company is now requesting that the comp photos be recent to the season in which the appraisal is being completed. If a home is being appraised in the summer, they do not want comparable photos with snow or fall colored leaves on them.

How many times can an appraiser afford to retake old comp photos with gas at $3.15 a gallon, never mind the time consuming effort of going there in the first place. Some of my comps are in rural areas where each one could be 20-30 miles away from the other.

Is this a legal and legitimate request?

Jean Black

Dear Jean,

Often AMCs do not realize that their requests substantially increase the appraiser's costs. The USPAP requires that you have a scope of work dialogue with the lender/client. Unless something they requests conflicts with the requirements of the USPAP they are not in my opinion illegal or illegitimate. You really have four choices as to what to do. 1. Try to talk them out of the requirement. 2. Tell them that it requires extra work for which you expect extra pay. 3. Do what they request. 4. Refuse to do the assignment.