A home reappraisal meeting for Cuyahoga County homeowners got a little too dramatic for a Westlake, Ohio homeowner this August. He claimed to have almost had a heart attack when he learned the value of his home had increased $80,000. He and many of his neighbors have recently seen the value of their homes rise dramatically, raising concerns about how changes in their property value may affect their tax liability. Homeowners on fixed incomes and young homeowners are particularly concerned about how the recent round of reappraisals will affect them financially.
As this illustrates, home appraisals are critically important to homeowners. Getting appraisals right is a crucial service that appraisers perform for their clients. Some of the factors that can impact a home’s value are obvious, but others are hidden and can take an experienced eye to detect. Here’s a look at five hidden factors that can affect a home’s value to make sure you include in your home appraisal checklist.
1. Privacy Score
In an age where consumers are increasingly concerned about protecting their privacy, a home’s privacy score is one hidden variable that can impact a property’s value. A privacy score quantifies how much privacy a property has in comparison to other properties. It takes into account variables such as home density, distance to neighbors’ homes, backyard exposure to neighbors’ view, and whether a backyard slopes up or down, which can have an effect on both a property’s visibility to neighbors and its accessibility to potential intruders. This type of information can be partly extracted from aerial photography and lidar, which can identify certain property features such as distance to nearby buildings quickly, although other features such as window locations should be studied from the ground level.
In some property valuation model scoring systems, privacy scores are ranked like golf scores, with low scores indicating better privacy and high scores indicating lower privacy. For instance, in one test study of five properties, the two properties with the best privacy had scores of 0, 1, and 25, while the properties with the worst privacy scored 705 and 1,234, for an average score of 534. The impact privacy score has on property value varies by location, having a greater weight in neighborhoods where privacy is scarce.
2. Backyard Exposure to Neighbors
Backyard exposure to neighbors is another variable that affects home value. This measures how much of a property’s backyard can be seen by neighbors. Backyard exposure correlates with privacy score.
Backyard exposure is measured in degrees from 0 to 180. When the neighbors have no view of a property’s backyard, the backyard has 0 degrees of exposure, while full view is equivalent to 180 degrees of exposure. In general, higher backyard exposure lowers property value, especially in urban areas such as Boston. However, in some areas such as Wyoming, backyard exposure may raise property value.
3. Backyard View Angle
One of the biggest variables affecting property value is backyard view angle. This quantifies how much scenic view a property’s backyard commands. For instance, a property that is surrounded by streets would have a minimal scenic view, while a property on a lakefront in a forest would have a high scenic view.
Backyard view angle is literally measured in degrees of viewing angle. A home where the entire backyard opens up on a scenic view has a 180-degree backyard view. A home where only an alley is visible from the backyard would have a 0-degree backyard view. Backyard view is particularly prized in Midwestern cities such as Indianapolis, but brings less of a premium in Western cities such as Las Vegas.
4. Frontage Length
Another variable affecting a home’s value is frontage length. Frontage length expresses the length of a home’s lot, which faces the street. As one of the dimensions that determines the area of a lot, it figures significantly into property value. It also may have a practical value to home owners for reasons such as measuring available parking space.
Frontage length is measured in feet. It is typically a direct function of lot size, but not in all cases, since some lots are not square in shape. For irregularly-shaped properties, the direct measure of a property’s actual frontage may be adjusted to describe effective frontage. For instance, if a lot is triangular in shape with the base of the triangle on the street side and the back of the property having no rear lot line, actual frontage length may be divided in half to yield effective frontage length. Frontage length tends to be more prized in the South than in the West.
5. Backyard Slope
Another hidden factor that can influence property value is backyard slope or grade. This describes whether a backyard slopes uphill or downhill. Backyard slope affects where water flows on the ground and below the ground of a property, as well as how fast it flows, which helps determine the effect erosion has on a property and its susceptibility to flooding. It also determines whether a property can be used for activities such as playing baseball or sledding, as well as how easy it is to perform maintenance tasks such as mowing.
Backyard slope is measured like slope in algebra, by calculating rise over run. This is done by planting stakes every eight feet from the top of a slope to the bottom, tying strings between the bottoms of the stakes, taking the distance from the ground to the string on the lowest stake for rise, and taking the length of the strings for run. Slope is then defined by dividing rise over run and expressing the result as a percent.
Downhill slope is generally more desirable than uphill slope. Backyard slope is most valued in parts of the country with a mixture of flat terrain and rolling hills, such as Minnesota. DataTree offers Automatic Map Results you can use to obtain this data without having to visit a site in person.
Privacy score, backyard exposure to neighbors, backyard view angle, frontage length and backyard slope are some of the top hidden variables that can influence a property’s value. Knowing these variables can help you make a more accurate appraisal for your clients. Using service providers can make it easier for you to obtain this important data. Check out DataTree’s time-saving tools and services to help you make faster, more accurate appraisals.