Over the years, I’ve actually worked with inexperienced appraisers who’ve asked the question: “why are photographs so important?” Photographs reflect the condition of the property at the time of the appraisal inspection. Photographs prove that the appraiser was actually at the property despite allegations no inspection ever took place. Lastly, photos can simply help the appraiser remember the property. Again, with the ease of digital cameras, the appraiser can provide interior photographs to prove that no water stains were apparent at the time of the inspection and that any pre-existing stains must have been painted over. Photos would prove that the cracking, which is now evident around the doors and windows, must have been caulked and repainted, which served to conceal any problems from the appraiser. A photo of the garage filled to the roof with boxes demonstrates how the appraiser could not have seen the significant cracking now apparent in the garage floor.
Some exterior photos would prove that at the time of the inspection, dense shrubbery surrounded the home, thereby making it impossible for the appraiser to have access to the foundation. Without photographs, all you have to defend yourself with is your word. With photographs, you have solid evidence, which cannot be refuted. A photo is truly worth a thousand words, and with today’s technology it only takes a few minutes to take photos throughout the property. The moral of this story is that a successful real estate appraiser always makes it a high priority to take quality photographs of a property.
Let me share with you another story. I knew of an appraiser who appraised a single family residence that had been purchased in a foreclosure sale by an investor who specialized in rehabilitating distressed properties. Purchased for under $20,000, the subject property was in terrible shape, showing obvious signs of deferred maintenance. The investor installed new carpet, repainted the entire interior, and put new appliances and linoleum in the kitchen and the 2 baths. A new toilet replaced one that was cracked and stained. The property was under contract for $96,000 when it was inspected by the appraiser. He noted the prior sale, detailed all the rehab work done by the investor/seller and also took photos of the freshly painted walls, new carpets, kitchen, and baths. Little did he know how valuable those photos would eventually be.
The new buyer, an investor who unfortunately bought too many properties to manage them well, rented out the subject property. When the buyer defaulted on the loan, the lender took over. The tenant stopped paying rent because the lender refused to make minor repairs. Unhappy, the tenant vacated the property, taking with him light fixtures, kitchen appliances and even the new toilet. Months later, the lender had a realtor inspect the property for resale. The place was in deplorable condition: dirty walls, stained and torn carpeting, torn linoleum, no kitchen appliances, and only a hole in one bathroom floor where the toilet had been ripped out.
The lender sent a letter to the appraiser stating that the appraiser would be accountable for any losses incurred to resell the property under the value of the outstanding loan balance. The lender alleged the appraiser had misrepresented the rehab work done by the seller, as well as misrepresented the overall condition of the property. The appraiser pointed out that the property had been in excellent condition at the time of the appraisal, and provided file photocopies to back up the condition of the property reported in the appraisal report.