A matter of values.

Author:Hewitt, Janet Reilley

As we near the end of 2012--live years or so after the housing meltdown--it seems fair to ask: Are home values starting to recover? Or do they still have farther to fall? Or is it all in the eye of the beholder?

Trying to assign accurate property values these days is an exercise that's giving appraisers fits. In a profession where there's always been a hit of a subjective bent, valuing properties has become harder than ever. Complicating things more than usual is the fact that a huge share of properties is still being sold under distressed circumstances.


Short sales and real estate-owned (REO) properties sell at a discount. That ends up masking real values for non-distressed properties in any market where distressed sales are prevalent. That makes what's typically a tough job for appraisers and other valuation experts--next to impossible.

In our Marketrace [R] section in this issue, CoreLogic reports that the Las Vegas--Paradise, Nevada, metro area leads the nation in the percentage of its house sales that are distressed sales. Fully 46.17 percent of home sales in the Las Vegas market during August were distressed sales. The average price for REO sales sold in that market during August was $126,686. The average price for short sales was $146,642. That's a $20,000 difference just between those two categories. So when you average those discounted sales prices in with full-market-priced properties, it drags down prices for the whole metro area. No wonder it's so hard for appraisers to find comps and accurately assess values.

The Marketrac table shows that nine metro...

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