Q: My wife and I purchased a home in 1992; it was appraised at $157,350. In January, we refinanced, and the bank's appraisal was only $131,000. How can we correct this?
J. Silver, Owings Mills
A: When faced with what you believe to be a low appraisal, either meet with or write to the appraiser. To make your case, you must be able to support with objective facts a higher valuation. Merely stating that your house is worth more or that you paid more for the house will not work.
You must obtain "comparables" -- recent sales of houses that are similar to yours. You can also bolster your case with details about your house -- upgrades (wall-to-wall carpeting), improvements (decks, porches, patios) and other features (larger lot or back yard) -- which would add to the value of your home, compared with similar homes in the area.
To find comparables, you may talk to a real estate agent or go to the library and consult reports of recent realty sales activity -- Rufus S. Lusk & Co., for example, compiles lists of recent home sales, as well as property assessment information.
And do not be too upset about a "lender's appraisal" used to support a refinance. These appraisals are often low. As long as they provide a valuation sufficient to allow the loan to be made, there is no cause for concern. Price your house at a level that you believe the market will support. The truest test of a house's value is, after all, what a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller.
Q: I am interested in a career in real estate. How do I get started? What is the average starting salary?
C. Versace, Ellicott City
A: The state and local boards of Realtors and many large real estate brokers offer education, training and licensing courses to those interested in becoming licensed agents.
These same groups also offer career guidance and counseling -- and, at the realty companies, perhaps a job.
To start working, agents must pass a real estate course and a state exam, then hook up with a broker.
Real estate salespeople work on commission, and earnings are based on performance.