Your Move When Appraisals Lag Home Price Recovery

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HSH suggests that the seller be present during the appraisal to point out value-enhancing features the appraiser may overlook. The seller can also give the appraiser a written description of the home's merits, as well as a list of comparable homes in the neighborhood that have sold.

Buyer and seller should study the appraisal closely, looking for errors, oversights or the use of comparable sales that aren't really comparable. If that doesn't work, the buyer can ask the lender to allow a second appraisal.

The buyer should be sure the sales contract includes the standard language canceling the deal if the appraisal comes in too low. A low appraisal thus allows the buyer to negotiate for a lower price.

Finally, the buyer, if possible, can offer a larger down payment, reducing the mortgage required to a level below the appraisal.

None of these techniques is a surefire way to get the deal done, but they could close a modest gap. As the process continues, both parties should constantly scour the market for fresh comparables -- data all parties can use to keep abreast of a market that could change quickly as spring approaches.