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Snow Country: Adjustments for Northern Exposure and Steep Driveways?

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Metamorphic

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Mar 15, 2008
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Certified Residential Appraiser
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Has anyone successfully substantiated adjustments for properties that face north vs. comps that face south in snow country? Also, would that kind of adjustment be compounded on a property that has a steep driveway?

I've spent enough time in snow country to know that "I" would spend a lot less for this subject I'm working with (that faces north and has a steep drive), but I've never tried to substantiate an adjustment like this one. It seems it would be a very difficult one to prove since the subtleties of seasonal sun exposure, snow and ice accumulation, plowing and snow clearing activities, make for the potential problem that's difficult to predict....doubly so when its summer.

I made notes on the exposure and driveways of all of my comps and none seem to have as much negative potential as the subject.

Between google earth and the MLS the north vs south thing isnt that hard to work out, but my sense is that there's minimal if any adjustment there because of the confounding effects (every house has a north facing side, but you'd almost have to live there for a winter to know if it was a big negative given the detials of layout and tree cover). Its the drive way thing, made worse by the exposure, that I'm most worried about. I'm debating with myself whether to just mention it in the report and leave it unadjusted, mention it and make some sort of token adjustment (bleh), or spend most of the day mining the MLS and potentially making another (long) trip to the neighborhood trying to find some properties that will substantiate an adjustment.
 

Mike Boyd

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Jan 18, 2002
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Retired Appraiser
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California
Never having lived or appraised in snow country, I can only imagine the impact on value of a northern exposure, ice covered driveway. However, I am often confronted with steep driveways. A steep driveway may require the occupant to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle. It might also depend on the adequacy of street parking. There is almost no alternative to finding comps with similar driveways. Search until you drop, no matter how far back in time you have to go in order to develope a percentage.
 

Terrel L. Shields

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May 2, 2002
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Certified General Appraiser
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Arkansas
I think it might be like in the Ozarks wanting a farm on a stream or river. Lots of cattlemen say, gee, if i had a creek I wouldn't have to cut ice in the winter....they forget about the fences washing away. So they don't realize some of the negatives until its too late and they certainly aren't going to highlight that feature when they go to sell.
 

airphoto

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Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
Pennsylvania
My experience has been that the average potential homeowner is too wrapped up in themselves (read: stupid) to consider such situations .. only 'oh look, what a wonderful kitchen!' .. even after the fact they don't have the mental capacity to recognize increased heating costs, etc.
 

Ray Miller

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Feb 20, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Wisconsin
I never have. Living in snow country in AZ, CO, MT, MO, WI, UT, NV, WY. I don't think it makes a difference, when you need to pull the D-8 out to open the road so the six wheel drive maintainer that is chained up can clear the road who is going to worry if it is north facing or south facing or east facing or west facing. Snow is Snow and it comes down reguardless of the direction.
 

Metamorphic

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Certified Residential Appraiser
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California
Normally I'd be inclined to agree about people being to stupid to notice, but I lived in Colorado as a kid and currently have a family cabin high in the sierras. As a kid I remember our south facing driveway was clear unless it had just snowed meanwhile our across the street neighbor was scraping and salting regularly into April....and mighty PO'd about it. Walking around the neighborhood up at the cabin, I've found a very high degree of sensitivity amongst the owners to the detials of sun exposure, drive ay length and slope (the size of check you write for your snow clearing contract depends directly on how hard the drive is to clear), show shed locations, roof configuration, etc. I'm confident that the people that have owned up there before consider all that heavily in future buying decisions. Sliding out of control down your drive way into traffic is a fast way to learn a lesson. First time snow country buyers are probably not going to think of it if they're buying in summer though.

I ended up tossing this in my supervisors court. He said just to make all the other adjustments to the comp grid then see what's left. It ended up that the comps with short level drives were worth about $15k high, and the subject and another with a bad drive were about $15k low, one with an in between driveway was priced in-between, so I made a fair-average-good, set of adjustments at a $15k step rate. These are $500k "cabins" so its not big deal; less in fact than the view and location adjustments I was making. I also found a problem with the driveway retaining wall that will need attention in the near future; its not a repair item right now, but it will be in the forseeable future. I figure that size of adjustment is also in the ball park of the cost to reconfigure the driveway while the wall is rebuilt so there's 2 ways of seeing it as a reasoanble adjustment.

Its not as tidy as I'd like but my super is satisfied, and my conscious is clear that I've rendered an honest opinion.
 

Craig Farr

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Sep 26, 2004
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Arizona
The other side of that coin is the west-facing patio in Phoenix and burbs. Personally, I would NEVER buy a house with a west-facing patio. It is an oven during 8 months of the year. I tried once to pair-sale west-vs-other patios but couldn't find a value difference. I've talked to new-home sales people (now standing in Goodwill's breakfast line) and they usually can't remember a buyer terribly worried about the west-facing oven. Think about it.....one fourth of houses in Phoenix have west-facing patios. If there were a problem it would be nearer 5%, huh? So the public doesn't really care enough to be measurable.
 

Restrain

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Florida
I talked with an agent one time about this issue, as there was a home up the hill, with a narrow, steep switchback access to it and another home that didn't have nearly the access issue. The agent said that the home with the switchback access was having trouble selling at the price that the other home had sold for simply because of the access (Colorado area).

I would survey real estate agents in the area and get their opinion. That is considered an acceptable method as they deal with potential purchasers daily and have much more customer feedback than we get.
 

Mike Boyd

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Joined
Jan 18, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
California
I

I would survey real estate agents in the area and get their opinion. That is considered an acceptable method as they deal with potential purchasers daily and have much more customer feedback than we get.

Excellent suggestion.
 

Metamorphic

Thread Starter
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2008
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
California
I talked with an agent one time about this issue, as there was a home up the hill, with a narrow, steep switchback access to it and another home that didn't have nearly the access issue. The agent said that the home with the switchback access was having trouble selling at the price that the other home had sold for simply because of the access (Colorado area).

I would survey real estate agents in the area and get their opinion. That is considered an acceptable method as they deal with potential purchasers daily and have much more customer feedback than we get.

The realtor that let us in actually mentioned the drive. She said that its not a problem in a sellers market, but these days its a bit of a hitch. She also gave me an MLS print out with some recent sales she's aware of that had sloped drives. I looked at them and used a couple, but none were as bad a the subject. If the buyer's smart they'll wrangle some cash out of the deal to fix the retaining wall and get the drive regraded.
 
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