Conformity of Improvements to Neighborhood
The improvements should conform to the neighborhood in terms of age, type, design, and materials used for their construction. If there is market resistance to a property because its improvements are not compatible with the neighborhood or with the requirements of the competitive market because of adequacy of plumbing, heating, or electrical services; design; quality; size; condition; or any other reason directly related to market demand, the appraiser must address the impact to the value and marketability of the subject property. However, the lender should be aware that many older neighborhoods have favorable heterogeneity in architectural styles, land use, and age of housing. For example, older neighborhoods are especially likely to have been developed through custom building. This variety may be a positive marketing factor.
Unique Housing Types
In the appraisal and appraisal report review processes, special consideration must be given to properties that represent unique housing for the subject neighborhood. Mortgages secured by unique or nontraditional types of housing, including, but not limited to, earth houses, geodesic domes, and log houses, are eligible for delivery to Fannie Mae provided the appraiser has adequate information to develop a reliable opinion of market value. It is not necessary for one or more of the comparable sales to be of the same design and appeal as the property that is being appraised, although appraisal accuracy is enhanced by using comparable sales that are the most similar to the subject property. On a case-by-case basis, both the appraiser and the underwriter must independently determine whether there is sufficient information available to develop a reliable opinion of market value. This will depend on the extent of the differences between the special or unique property and the more traditional types of houses in the neighborhood and the number of such properties that have already been sold in the neighborhood.
When appraising unique properties,
- if the appraiser cannot locate recent comparable sales of the same design and appeal, but is able to determine sound adjustments for the differences between the comparables that are available and the subject property and demonstrate the marketability of the property based on older comparable sales, comparable sales in competing neighborhoods, the existence of similar properties in the market area, and any other reliable market data, the property is acceptable as security for a mortgage deliverable to Fannie Mae;
- if the appraiser is not able to find any evidence of market acceptance, and the characteristics of the property are so significantly different that he or she cannot establish a reliable opinion of market value, the property is not acceptable as security for a mortgage deliverable to Fannie Mae.
Fannie Mae does not specify minimum size or living area requirements for properties with the exception of manufactured housing (see B4-1.4-01, Factory-Built Housing: Manufactured Housing). There should be comparables of similar size to the subject property to support the general acceptability of a particular property type.
Actual and Effective Ages
Fannie Mae does not place a restriction on the actual age of the dwelling. Older dwellings that meet Fannie Mae’s general requirements are acceptable. Improvements for all properties must be of the quality and condition that will be acceptable to typical purchasers in the subject neighborhood.
The relationship between the actual and effective ages of the property is a good indication of its condition. A property that has been well-maintained generally will have an effective age somewhat lower than its actual age. On the other hand, a property that has an effective age higher than its actual age probably has not been well-maintained or may have a particular physical problem. In such cases, the lender should pay particular attention to the condition of the subject property in its review of any appraisal report. When the appraiser makes adjustments for the “Year Built,” he or she must explain the adjustments that were made.
Remaining Economic Life
Fannie Mae does not have any requirements related to the remaining economic life of the property. However, related property deficiencies must be discussed in the sections of the appraisal report that address the improvements analysis and comments on the condition of the property.
Fannie Mae’s appraisal report forms are designed to meet the needs of several different user groups; consequently, the report forms address the remaining economic life for the property being appraised. However, appraisers are not required to report this information. If appraisers report this information, lenders do not need to consider remaining economic life because any related property deficiencies will be discussed in the sections of the appraisal report that address the improvements analysis and comments on the condition of the property.
Energy Efficient Improvements
An energy-efficient property is one that uses resource-effective design, materials, building systems, and site orientation to conserve nonrenewable fuels.
Special energy-saving items must be recognized in the appraisal process and noted on the appraisal report form. For example, when completing the appraisal report (Form 1004), special energy-efficient items are to be addressed in the Improvements section in the Additional features field. The nature of these items and their contribution to value will vary throughout the country because of climactic conditions, differences in utility costs, and overall market reaction to the cost of the feature. Some examples of special energy-efficient features may include, but are not limited to energy efficient ratings or certifications, programmable thermostats, solar photovoltaic systems, low-e windows, insulated ducts, and tank-less water heaters.
Appraisers must compare energy-efficient features of the subject property to those of comparable properties in the Sales Comparison Approach adjustment grid. If the appraiser’s analysis determines that an adjustment is warranted based on the market reaction to such item(s), the adjustment must be included in the adjustment grid.
Layout and Floor Plans
Dwellings with unusual layouts and floor plans generally have limited market appeal. A review of the room list and floor plan for the dwelling unit may indicate an unusual layout, such as bedrooms on a level with no bath, or a kitchen on a different level from the dining room. If the appraiser indicates that such inadequacies will result in market resistance to the subject property, he or she must make appropriate adjustments to reflect this in the overall analysis. However, if market acceptance can be demonstrated through the use of comparable sales with the same inadequacies, no adjustments are required.
Gross Living Area
The most common comparison for one-unit properties, including units in PUD, condo, or co-op projects, is above-grade gross living area. The appraiser must be consistent when he or she calculates and reports the finished above-grade room count and the square feet of gross living area that is above-grade. The need for consistency also applies from report to report. For example, when using the same transaction as a comparable sale in multiple reports, the room count and gross living area should not change.
When calculating gross living area
- The appraiser should use the exterior building dimensions per floor to calculate the above-grade gross living area of a property.
- For units in condo or co-op projects, the appraiser should use interior perimeter unit dimensions to calculate the gross living area.
- Garages and basements, including those that are partially above-grade, must not be included in the above-grade room count.
Only finished above-grade areas can be used in calculating and reporting of above-grade room count and square footage for the gross living area. Fannie Mae considers a level to be below-grade if any portion of it is below-grade, regardless of the quality of its finish or the window area of any room. Therefore, a walk-out basement with finished rooms would not be included in the above-grade room count. Rooms that are not included in the above-grade room count may add substantially to the value of a property, particularly when the quality of the finish is high. For that reason, the appraiser should report the basement or other partially below-grade areas separately and make appropriate adjustments for them on the Basement & Finished Rooms Below-Grade line in the Sales Comparison Approach adjustment grid.
For consistency in the sales comparison analysis, the appraiser should compare above-grade areas to above-grade areas and below-grade areas to below-grade areas. The appraiser may need to deviate from this approach if the style of the subject property or any of the comparables does not lend itself to such comparisons. For example, a property built into the side of a hill where the lower level is significantly out of ground, the interior finish is equal throughout the house, and the flow and function of the layout is accepted by the local market, may require the gross living area to include both levels. However, in such instances, the appraiser must be consistent throughout the appraisal in his or her analysis and explain the reason for the deviation, clearly describing the comparisons that were made.
Gross Building Area
The gross building area
- is the total finished area including any interior common areas, such as stairways and hallways of the improvements based on exterior measurements;
- is the most common comparison for two- to four-unit properties;
- must be consistently developed for the subject property and all comparables used in the appraisal;
- must include all finished above-grade and below-grade living areas, counting all interior common areas such as stairways, hallways, storage rooms; and
- cannot count exterior common areas, such as open stairways.
Fannie Mae will accept the use of other comparisons for two- to four-unit properties, such as the total above-grade and below-grade areas discussed in Gross Living Area, provided the appraiser
- explains the reasons he or she did not use a gross building area comparison, and
- clearly describes the comparisons that were made.
Fannie Mae will purchase a one-unit property with an accessory dwelling unit. An accessory dwelling unit is typically an additional living area independent of the primary dwelling unit, and includes a fully functioning kitchen and bathroom. Some examples may include a living area over a garage and basement units. Whether a property is a one-unit property with an accessory unit or a two-unit property will be based on the characteristics of the property, which may include, but are not limited to, the existence of separate utilities, a unique postal address, and whether the unit is rented. The appraiser is required to provide a description of the accessory unit, and analyze any effect it has on the value or marketability of the subject property.
If the property contains an accessory unit, the property is eligible under the following conditions:
- The property is one-unit.
- The appraisal report demonstrates that the improvements are typical for the market through an analysis of at least one comparable property with the same use.
- The borrower qualifies for the mortgage without considering any rental income from the accessory unit. (See B3-3.1-08, Rental Income, for further information.)
If it is determined that the property contains an accessory dwelling unit that does not comply with zoning, the property is eligible under the following additional conditions:
- The lender confirms that the existence will not jeopardize any future property insurance claim that might need to be filed for the property.
- The use conforms to the subject neighborhood and to the market.
- The property is appraised based upon its current use.
- The appraisal must report that the improvements represent a use that does not comply with zoning.
- The appraisal report must demonstrate that the improvements are typical for the market through an analysis of at least three comparable properties that have the same non-compliant zoning use.
(See B4-1.3-04, Site Section of the Appraisal Report, for subject property zoning information.)
Additions without Permits
If the appraiser identifies an addition(s) that does not have the required permit, the appraiser must comment on the quality and appearance of the work and its impact, if any, on the market value of the subject property.
Properties with Outbuildings
A lender must give properties with outbuildings special consideration in the appraisal report review to ensure that the property is residential in nature. Descriptions of the outbuildings should be reported in the Improvements and Sales Comparison Approach sections of the appraisal report form.
|Type of Outbuilding
|Minimal outbuildings, such as small barns or stables, that are of relatively insignificant value in relation to the total appraised value of the subject property.
||The appraiser must demonstrate through the use of comparable sales with similar amenities that the improvements are typical of other residential properties in the subject area for which an active, viable residential market exists.
|An atypical minimal outbuilding.
||The property is acceptable provided the appraiser’s analysis reflects little or no contributory value for it.
|Significant outbuildings, such as silos, large barns, storage areas, or facilities for farm-type animals.
||The presence of the outbuildings may indicate that the property is agricultural in nature. The lender must determine whether the property is residential in nature, regardless of whether the appraiser assigns value to the outbuildings.