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Split-level Homes

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jsradcliffe

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
South Carolina
I went to measure a Split-Level home just the other day, which sits on a slab. You walk into the house and either go down or you up (two levels). Looking over some of my data I noticed that the tax records and redlink, another data source, said this home has a basement. Now, my problem is that there is no part of this house below grade. I thought for it to have a basement, it had to be below grade, am I correct? Not even one foot of the house is below grade.

This split-level house has a bedroom, bathroom, garage, and rec-room on the first floor which none is underground. The second level has a living room, dining, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. What am I missing? why would they consider the lower level a basement? This has happened to me a couple of times. My review appraiser says "Just go by the tax records and whatever the previous appraiser said", but I don't agree with that. Basically do the same as the others did. Someone please shed some light on this for me.

Thanks,
Jeff
 

Willie

Senior Member
Joined
May 30, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Tennessee
Sir, you are on the right track. It is or it ain't below grade. One or the other. Remember, that the Tax people basically have no liability. You do. Tell it the way it is. If I had a dollar for every screw up the Tax Assessors make in the State of Tn., I wouldn't be appraising and would be in the Carribean. What you will find out is some counties it have accurate records with diligent employees and some counties you can take the Tax Card with you the next time you go to the bathroom and use it for it's highest and best use. Good luck. Puzzled why mentor would say use tax info and what past folks have used. That is weak!
 

jsradcliffe

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
South Carolina
Thank you for your reply. I agree with the weak part. Not only was it on the tax records but it was also Redlink ( An appraiser's database where appraiser's submit the first page of there appraisal. If you have Redlink you can look to see if there has been appraisal on this house before and compare data or find some data you can't find anywhere else.) Its a subscription service in the metro Atlanta area.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
Florida
Sounds like the last appraiser that sent that info to Redlink might have been as incompetent as your mentor.

Welcome to this forum! Ask plenty of questions, sounds like you'll need to.
 

wyecoyote

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Gvmt Agency, FNMA, HUD, VA etc.
State
Washington
jsradcliffe,

Sounds to me what you are describing is what we typically call split entry houses. Most appraisers that I see do include the lower level as "basement" area and adjuste accordingly to other houses similar in style. There is only one county that this does not work in here due to all GBA gets lumped into one line. IMHO the lower level functions as a basement area even if it is not below grade. The biggest thing is consistency with your comps are all your comps the same style.

Ryan
 

jsradcliffe

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
South Carolina
But why would it be considered a basement if it is not below grade?
 
W

walt kirk

Guest
If the ground level space is built as a basement (masonry walls and floor) serves as a basement (heater room) water main, etc it is a basement.
 

Ben Vukicevich SRA

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
New Jersey
Js,

Why is it a basement? Good question. I'll try to give it a reasonable answer from my experience with reviewing assessors records.

If the builder offered the lower level as unfinished or finished, there's your problem. Even though the area is above-grade, if it was unfinished, how would the assessor handle it? Just what is unfinished area above-grade called on a multi-level dwelling? A basement is the best bet to the assessor. I'm currenty appraising some three story townhouses in DE that are all above grade but the builder only finishes a small foyer in the front by the built-in garage in the base price. The rear area finish is optional. I call it an unfinished lower level on the URAR. The assessor calls it a basement. Now, the problem begins. When the builder finishes the rear section, the assessor calls it a finished basement so he can keep things in perspective. Basically, his GLA calculation includes only the second and third floors. But it's not a finished basement as all three levels are totally above grade. Then, you go to the adjoining development and he includes finished below grade basement area in the total gross living area. Go figure.

Bottom line. Keep your method of comparison constant from the subject to the comparables and you'll be OK. Don't worry about what the assessor does.

Ben
 

Ross (CO)

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Colorado
Correct, ....don't sweat what the assessor calls it, or what one listing realtor "called" it 3 years ago when it last sold. You are the expert involved with the report you are writing, so you call it (describe it) like you see it. If the sold comps you find are just like your subject, then 90% of the battle is won. (Of course, it depends)

jsr, ....I'm going right to your posting, and you say..."you walk into the house and you either go down or you (go) up...". For me, it all starts with the home's placement of the recognized "front" door. For your property, does one approach a small series of steps to then follow them up... to reach the front door ? Upon entering the front door, I'll assume you have a small landing with the stairway option "split" for your up, and your down. Where are the soles of your shoes with respect to the threshold of (entering) the front door ? Forget any garage door, side door or rear door. If my shoes are in a level which is below the threshold of the front door, then I am in either a "basement" level, or I may be willing to call it a "lower" level. --- From the way you describe your house, it sounds like you truly do have a 2-story on a slab ! From that description your "living level" is the upper level or 2nd story. This is a unique situation, and not generally one many folks demand. There may have been a reason they could not develop a traditional basement there. I have seen a few of these, but they are not numerous out my way. Do your best to find comps of this same design. I will not press you about any earth-berming around that lowest level.....or I'd be inclined to "call" it a ranch or raised-ranch style having a built-in garage with a basement level nearly 100% finished.
 

jsradcliffe

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2003
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
South Carolina
Ross,

You nailed it right on the head. Thanks!
 
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