Tree against home in Monson_twgHours before severe storms and tornadoes tore through central and Western Massachusetts last week, Peter Mitchell, a real estate appraiser in East Brookfield, appraised a house in Wilbraham.

“I’m wondering now if that house is still standing,” he said on Friday.

Stacie Chandler, a real estate appraiser in Spencer, had similar concerns about the appraisal of a $300,000 single-family home in Monson she completed on Friday, May 27.

Because Monson is one of the communities hardest hit by last week’s tornadoes, Chandler said she is expecting a phone call from the lender who ordered the appraisal to determine whether the house was damaged, and to what extent.

For appraisers like Chandler and Mitchell, who work in central and western Massachusetts, the tornadoes that ripped through the area last week have rendered their recent appraisals meaningless.

That’s why, several appraisers said, they are bracing for calls from lenders demanding re-inspections of recently appraised properties.

“What we’ve started to see is that with loans that are in process – even in towns that weren’t affected – lenders are starting to call us to make sure there was no damage before they close,” explained Maria Hopkins, a veteran real estate appraiser in Paxton.

“If there was damage, the loan is going to be on hold, or the lender may just say the seller has to fix it before they close,” she added.

Chandler, who works on behalf of lenders for refinancing agreements, foreclosures and short sales, said half a dozen appraisals she recently completed may be affected.

Mitchell said he may have to update up to 50 single- and multi-family home appraisals he completed within the past two months.

“I do the Springfield area, Sturbridge, Southbridge, Monson – all those areas where the tornadoes came through,” he said.

Mitchell said he is uncertain how the tornadoes would affect overall housing values in those communities. Because of the tornadoes’ arbitrary path, some houses were destroyed, while adjacent houses were untouched or sustained only minor damage.

“We can still do comparables,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to have to take pictures and talk about it, but as long as we know something is going to be rebuilt in the neighborhood, I don’t think it’s going to affect a house that wasn’t damaged. In towns like Monson, it’s a different story,” she said.

Because of the extensive damage in that town, buyers “may be a little put off in that area where there’s going to be major construction for a long time,” she said.

‘Unbelievable’ Devastation

Peter Mitchell’s brother, William, a real estate appraiser in Sturbridge, said the biggest headache was “just getting around, being able to assess property damage.”

“The challenge is that the devastation is unbelievable in Sturbridge,” he said. “You can actually see the path of the tornado that came through here.”

William Mitchell, who is also the town’s assessor, said three homes were destroyed in Sturbridge, and another and 30 to 50 sustained severe damage.

Riding in the fire chief’s SUV with the fire chief and building inspector Friday, William Mitchell said he was under pressure to appraise damaged homes before July 1 so that town tax bills issued in October reflect the accurate, post-storm value of homes.

He said he expected to be inspecting homes throughout the weekend.

Paul King, an appraiser in Sturbridge, said he hasn’t received any requests from lenders yet, but that he dreads being sent out to inspect homes in hard-hit communities.

“To be totally honest, I don’t want to do them – to drive by and say the bank wants to see if your house is still standing,” he said.

Tornadoes Toss Real Estate Appraisals Up In Air

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min
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