Portland Area Real Estate Appraisal Discussion

Portland Appraiser Spots UFO
January 27th, 2014 7:06 PM

Recently, I appraised a vacant home pending sale in SE Portland.  This is an older residence built in the 1940s.  The Listing Agent had correctly advertised in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) the finished area that the Multnomah County Assessor had identified — including a basement, main, and finished attic.  However, as I walked up the stairs to the second floor I spotted, to my surprise, the UFO (Undisclosed Functional Obsolescence).

The UFO referenced here is that the second floor is only six feet at its tallest, and it slopes immediately downward from the peak.  According to Principles of Residential Real Estate Appraising 2001, Functional obsolescence is a “Loss of value caused by loss of utility or poor design” (G14).  Obviously, an attic, where one needs to stoop to stand in most areas would be considered functional obsolescence and is not as desirable as a similar-sized property with more typical ceiling heights (In sloped attics, ANSI requires 7 feet height in at least half of the room area to be considered GLA) on the attic level.  The real problem is that this obsolescence is rarely disclosed in the MLS.  I now know that my subject has the problem; but, how do I value the functional obsolescence if I cannot find another property with a similar attic due to the MLS not disclosing the issue?

  Portland Appraiser Spots UFO

In this appraisal, I got lucky and found two other comparable sales with similarly cramped attics.  I found the comparables by first searching for properties with similar main and upper areas (according to the county records).  I then identified the low ceiling heights by viewing attic photos and talking to the agents.  However, had I not been able to find properties that matched the subject’s attic, I could have used others that lacked attics and likened those properties to structures that have more typical attics.  This would have provided an estimate for the contributory value of typical attic square footage.  I could have then reconciled the subject property somewhere in the middle.

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Thanks for reading,


Great article Gary! I deal with that attic situation in Chicago all time with our traditional bungalows. As always, you are the real estate appraiser in the Portland area I know I can count on!

Posted by Paul Rowe on January 27th, 2014 8:51 PM
So if your attic is less than 7 feet height your property loses value ? :(

Posted by aze@dazines.co.uk on January 28th, 2014 1:31 AM
Thank you for the comment Aze and it is a great question for an appraiser. The answer is, only the market can decide when something loses value, not an appraiser. It is up to real estate appraisers to determine were the line is and that can be a difficult question without a clearly defined limit like the ANSI Standards might suggest. In the Portland area, most of the finished attic spaces have adequate height for someone of normal stature to stand in most areas of the room. I can confidently make the case that, given the choice between the subject’s low ceiling attic (around six feet at the peak) and an attic with more normal ceiling heights (more than seven feet at the peak), the typical Portland home buyer would select the taller attic almost every time. If that is true, the appraisal Principle of Substitution suggests that there must be a difference in appraisal value; since, most definitions of value are focused on the typical buyer and the most probable sales price. As my article pointed out, measuring the loss in value can be difficult with imperfect data. The nice thing is that if the comparable sales also suffer from similar loss in value (as in this example), then no measurement or adjustment is necessary in the sales comparison approach to value.

Posted by Gary Kristensen on January 28th, 2014 2:26 AM
Great info there Gary. No doubt, Portland's best real estate appraiser!

Posted by Joe Orchard on January 29th, 2014 8:33 PM


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