The Baltimore Sun's Voter Guide 2016

Can a home seller see the appraisal of his own home?

We've had some homebuyers share their experiences. Now comes a seller.

Scott Frank had a contract on his Pikesville townhouse — a large model in a gated community — for $465,000. Then the appraisal came in. For $425,000.

Frank, a real estate auction specialist, said he suspected the appraiser came up with that figure by comparing to sales that weren't really comparable. Two other models in that community are much smaller, he said.

But he can't tell, because he never got to see the appraisal. And not for lack of trying.

He asked the lender and was told it doesn't usually share the document with sellers. So he asked the buyers. He says they gave permission for the bank to release a copy, but no one from the bank returned his calls before settlement at the beginning of this month. (Final sale price: about $433,000. The buyers agreed to pay more than the appraisal.)

"I was so infuriated," Frank said. "It's OK that it appraised for less, and if the comps worked out and that's the guy's findings, fine, that is what it is. But it's almost like they were hiding something from me. ... Why on God's green earth are you not entitled to see a copy of something that affects you so greatly?"

That seemed like a question other sellers might be asking right about now, so I called the state for an answer.

Kathie Connelly, executive director of the Maryland Real Estate Commission, said a buyer can see the appraisal because he paid for it. And the lender involved can see it because it's supplying the mortgage. No one else gets to without their say-so. "It's their prerogative," she said.

But she understands why sellers would want to see appraisals that come in lower than the price they negotiated with buyers. She thinks the key is what — if anything — the contract says the seller is entitled to if that happens.

Frank's contract didn't have an addendum about providing a copy of the appraisal, and he said he's never heard of anyone else having one, either. "Why can't we make future sellers aware such a clause is needed?" he asked.

For some sellers, an unexpected price drop days before settlement could be a disaster. Frank, at least, wasn't on the hook to buy another house with the money he'd expected to get from the Pikesville one. "Thank God," he added.

Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad