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Appraisal Blog

December 1st, 2008 4:56 AM

Hello everyone out there in Blogsville Township:

Hoping everyone out there had a fine Thanksgiving!

I see where the spending on Black Friday (sounds more like Halloween, no?!) is UP 1%.

I read today that on Cyber Monday (sounds like its just "out there" somewhere!) is expecting to spend $821 million UP 12% from last year!  Beware though that this is one of the worst days for threats to your computer.  PC security experts say there were be a plague of them attempting to break into your system. 

Finally, the 12 Days of Christmas is UP 10.9% to $86,609 from $78,100 last year!

Mortgage rates are also DOWN from previous rates!

More interesting to ourselves, is that the gas station profits are UP!   That is because when we were all paying out over $4 a gallon their own profit margin was cut partially due to trying to keep pace with the "other" station down the block; credit card fees to themselves also rose being about 2.5% of the amount spent.  That amount  has also dropped due to the total sale being less than what it was months ago. The gross profit margins- the difference between wholesale and retail prices after taxes and freight- averaged about 9 cents a gallon vs. a typical 14 cents.

Somehow I still don't "really" feel sorry.  Do you?

Stayed tuned for more upcoming events and of course, film at 11!


Take care.





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Posted by James Keim on December 1st, 2008 4:56 AMLeave a Comment

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Hello everyone:

We are all wondering when (or if?!) prices of our houses will come back.  I read a very interesting, and telling article in an appraisal periodical I get here in Blogsville entitled What Now? in the October/November 2008 issue of Appraisal Press.

It shows the charted course of the "Case Shiller Weiss Home Price index versus the U.S. Bureau of Economic ANalysis figures for per capita income, but each is benchmarked so that the values in the first quarter in 2000 are "1.0" and all values for each series before and after are relative to the date's value."

"The housing boom peaked in Q2-2006 at the index of 2.21 relative to Q1-2000 meaning homes had risen by 121% in six years.  income had risen to an index of 1.27 relative to Q1-2000 indicating a 27% increase over the same period.  Homes values would have to drop between 17% and 26% from current levels to reach this equilibrium."


Can be seen at:


Home prices nationally still have to drop 17% to 26% from their current levels before reaching bottom in 2011.  That time span would be a five year downturn, just like during the last major crisis."

I do not have to tell none of you that we are not done with this "correction" as they call it in the stock market.  We have in the past, and now, we will get through it.  Many of us remember the last time it happened back in the 90's.  Things recovered and we moved to new heights.  The truth is that we all knew deep down inside that it was inevitable, but on the bright side; it is inevitable that prices will come back.


Let me point out however, that we are not going to have to wait that long until 2010.  It will not be a light switch going on instantly, but more like "dimmer" if you will, gradually getting back in a more positive side.  We fill feel the increase in loan activity and values coming back, slowly, but surely.  Personally I feel by the early summer of 2009 will things get noticably better and improve in a more orderly manner than what we had this past time around.


What are you thoughts out there my friends?  Some of you, I can always count on for your thoughts, and it is appreciated that someone is actually reading this.  :-)

All of you take care, and enjoy these 60's temperatures; and good luck to my Liberty High School football team in the playoffs (Had to get a small rah-rah in there).















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Posted by James Keim on November 7th, 2008 6:36 PMLeave a Comment

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November 1st, 2008 3:30 PM

Hello to everyone out there in Blogsville:

I would like to mention that both Jamie and I have been placed on the FHA Appraiser Roster, now available to do FHA appraisals. 

I had somewhat strayed from them in the past years, many moons ago however it appears there is going to be quite a need for them with the new bailout bill.

Hey when do all of us get bailed out anyway?!

Some of you had asked previously and now the answer is yes.

Just to let you know and everyone take care out there.

And of course...... film at 11!






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Posted by James Keim on November 1st, 2008 3:30 PMLeave a Comment

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October 29th, 2008 7:47 AM

Hello everyone:

On October 17, our Governor vetoed SB 1258 which would have protected property owners from a move done by some school districts known as a "spot assessment".

This is one of his better moves in recent years, as some school districts have tried to have a certain house reassessed due to being recently sold at a higher price.  This has temporarily at least stopped this unfair practice and protects literally thousands of property owners who would be unsuspecting of this practice, and saddled with a much higher property tax.

Property Tax Appeal in 2009?

I have received another timely bit of information which I will pass on very shortly to all of you.  

Stay tuned....... film at 11!




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Posted by James Keim on October 29th, 2008 7:47 AMLeave a Comment

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October 20th, 2008 12:25 PM


Good afternoon to everyone out there in Blogsylvania:

The confidence index came out for October today, and it has hit another record low.  It had a slight heartbeat last month after the FNMA and Freddie Mac buys, but is back down. 

They mentioned they had an increase in traffiv of their model homes but it has come to a screeching halt.  Consumer fear, the market tanking further, and whatever else they could dig up, became the most recent reason.

Thirty year mortgage rates appear to have gone up from 5.94% to 6.47% last week.  This is quite a jump at one time!  This was the largest one-week increase in more than 5 years!

I have talked though with a few lenders the past few days over the weekend and they assure me that if a person qualifies with good credit and a decent down payment, the loan is there to be done. 

If you would walk in to buy a car under the same circumstances, I am sure they would have a few options for car loans too.

The difference this year, is that things are going back to a more normal environment and I feel this is not the worst to happen in a while.


I have not been able to get an answer of how many electoral votes we have here in Blogsylvania.   We could have an impact here on the election!




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Posted by James Keim on October 20th, 2008 12:25 PMLeave a Comment

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October 8th, 2008 1:21 PM

Hello everyone out there in Blogsville:

It is almost two years since this election started and we are almost there!

We have gone through so many Primaries (no, it turns out we don't have 57 states!) and a couple of Conventions and within one month it will be over, with only the cleanup to start.  No, not the balloons, the hats, the banners, or confetti, but it will be time to clean up The United States of America!

We have had bailouts, rate decreases, devalued real estate, debates whether we are in a recession, or even god forbid, mention of almost a depression, the stock market tanking, and 401K's are almost down to a 201K!

These things take me back to the late 80's (of course when I bought my own house!) when things took a similar drop but I personally feel this could go deeper and the economic downturn could get worse than back then.


Are Foreclosures REALLY Soaring?

This past sunday (10/5/08) an article titled "Home Foreclosures Soar in the Lehigh Valley" in the Morning Call by Riley Yates and Kevin Amererman revealed some numbers on this subject that were looked at a little bit differently by myself (as if that should surprise any of you out there?!).

It mentions that John Rossi who is an accounting professor at Moravian College says the big bailout is ill considered.  He tells of how people are being very logical because if they owe more money than what the house is worth, that they are stopping to make payments.  Hmmm.  Spoken like a true accountant.  Maybe they should have had comments from a mortgage lender instead.  Comments that maybe if you stop making payments, how your credit will be ruined for many years  but there is no mention of that.  If you have no plans of moving for a few years, you should really just ride it out and the market will come back like it always has, no?!

Or how Northampton County is on pace for about 1152 foreclosure filings.  They are also on pace for "only" 260 actual takings.  This REALLY is only about 22.5%, but the number I will say though is higher in pact years.  But keep in mind the percent is somewhat on the lower side.

Let me explain my own take on this.

Many taxpayers EVERY YEAR WAIT to pay their property taxes until the last minute as they feel they making some fantastic money move.  Personally I really would not want my name in the newpapers for having a filing for back taxes by the county.   This actually happens every year,and to know what that % in past years was, would possibly give one a different view of this.

Well, thats enough of my own thinking, as it is almost 5, and my fingers are growing tired and weary.  Let me know what you think, and I promise not to stay away so long.  There is too much going on to keep quiet about!











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Posted by James Keim on October 8th, 2008 1:21 PMLeave a Comment

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There continues the talk of both counties wanting to reassess (oh! i mean wanting to increase assessments!  sorry!) everyone.  They want to make it fair, and level the playing field.  They are sooooooo concerned about us.

Property taxes have risen more than twice the rate of inflation over the past decade.  With prices going up like they have been for the past few years, there was NO talk of reassessments.  Now.........  as in 1990 when prices started to drop, they are talking reassessment.   That way they can catch the values while still historically high at the time.   And they say that history repeats itself!  Indeed again it is! Or at least they are trying!

I recently read a fact that fewer than 1 in 50 homeowners try to appeal assessments even though up to 60% of properties are overvalued  by assessors, cited by the National Taxpayers Union.  So if you file to do so, your chances are very good.... unless the entire town decides to do it with you.

As stated in the recent issue of Money Magazine, there are five items to be either done or have to have: 

1-  obtain the property card from the county assessors office

2-  an appraisal dated near the time given of your assessment

3-  print-outs from the multiple listing service reinforcing your sales

4-  photographs of your home and of all of the comparables

5-  outline your case, and rehearse you pitch keeping it brief

 This article goes into more detail but I suggest looking it over if contemplating it under the current assessment, or possibly (probably?) when it is redone, quite possibly soon.  Both counties are thinking seriously but are not quite sure how to throw it at the public in these tight times.  But this was done before and you be sure they will throw it at property owners again! 

 Sometimes it is irresponsible not to appeal!  It's your checkbook!

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Posted by James Keim on February 12th, 2008 3:03 PMLeave a Comment

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January 19th, 2008 12:00 PM

I read yesterday that there is an issue that school districts are trying to manipulate the county assessments on residents, that would allow the houses to be reassessed if they are sold!

Can you imagine what that would do to the market that if you bought a house, you would be reassessed immediately?  The state Supreme Court refused to hear a case out of Carbon County that challenged this.  There were two bills introduced, being HB 1438 and SB 1247 less than a month previously. 

They state that any local taxing district can appeal an assessment only when a property is subdivided, or when structures are added, improved, or removed.  I am glad to say that the Lehigh Valley Assosication of Realtors opposes this. (The Morning Call 1/16/08).

By trying to do this, this goes against the present laws, and change wouold create quiter a bit of chaos to anyone buying a house.  They just appear to never stop trying to put it to us property owners, do they?!

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Posted by James Keim on January 19th, 2008 12:00 PMLeave a Comment

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January 18th, 2008 8:10 PM

Hello  everyone:

I have just spent almost 2 hours sitting here on a friday night (i have to get a life) on this website.

I like it when I can find out what my house is worth without doing all of the dirty work...... like looking up data from the courthouses and the mls data, like actually going through the house, like looking at the neighborhood and any adverse conditions, or property amenities that might have an impact,  like taking photos all around the outside (especially in January), like working up the info after choosing which comparables to use, like wasting time typing it up and sending it out, like spending over $3 a gallon in gas........   well you get my idea.   I can just sit here, throw in my address, and have an answer within seconds!  They even give me comparables!  And boy.... do they give you comparables!

Anybody out there I ask you to do your own house.  Then!  Look at the comparables they throw at you.  Take a drive and look at what they have picked out for YOUR house!

Besides having a range of all size dwellings, this Zillow thing is the best advertisement WHY NOT TO USE THEM!  Or anything like it, such as these AVM's, AM-FM's, ABC'S, or whatever letters they think of using.

What they ALL do is just crunch numbers and believe me,  they do not, under any circumstances, do for you what even the worst appraiser does for you.  What you pay for, usually is what you get.  Now, in this SOFT MARKET (the term "they" use), a real valuation is so more important than ever to use.  The difference in money can not even thought about, to be worth missing a more true value to you, be fair to the customer, and to help you..... make the loan!

On a side note:  There is some interesting news coming out over the next few days with tax assessments and schools districts (now thats a big bucks combo!).   I will update you all on it very soon.  Just keep that clamp on your checkbook!  Well, it is time for Seinfeld.  SERENITY NOW!

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Posted by James Keim on January 18th, 2008 8:10 PMLeave a Comment

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January 8th, 2008 5:29 PM


When driving up and down Route 22, I have noticed for quite some time that there are quite a number of vacant buildings to be rented. 

When driving in downtown Bethlehem, Allentown, and even Easton, the streets are lined with empty buildings to be rented.

When driving one mile from my house down Emerick Boulevard by the Route 33 interchange, it is the same.

While I am, and always have been open to controlled development, both residential and commerical/industrial, maybe it is time to put a hold on these large industrial and office structures until they get some at least close to filling them. 

In the paper within the past month, there was a large article of how a $14,000,000 project for "high-end" condos at the former Hotel Easton is just floundering and is struggling the same.

There is also the proposed 15 story hotel/retail/and of couse high-end condos in downtown Bethlehem, that is being pulled back to "only" 6 stories now.  Not to pick on this particular property, but would you want to build it at all right now? 

Or the new mall at the Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue intersection? They have put fresh little shrubs and flowers for the past three years by a little sign, showing where its going, but there is no activity as of yet.  Quite possibly they have seen the rest of our market and  having second thoughts.  This might be the best move out there right now and just wait it out a bit.

These builders who are trying to be the savior to the downtown districts and others in the outlying areas, are all having considerable problems and now these will sit, as the term they like to use being a "soft market".  They have had some great results in all areas of the Lehigh Valley, but in typical reaction to a successful project they go overboard and then we have the current condition.  To me, for this type property, the market has just "tanked" for now.  But of course it will be back, but not for a while.  I remember the late 80's and time heals the wounds.  

Is it me?  Let me know......

Inquiring minds want to know. ;-)

Meanwhile, with this heatwave, I am going out to start my lawnmower and show the snow blower, it (hopefully!) will not be needed THIS January!

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Posted by James Keim on January 8th, 2008 5:29 PMLeave a Comment

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January 2nd, 2008 8:31 AM

Happy New Year to everyone out there in Blogsylvania.....

A new feature that will be posted here every week for a while, or until I run out of questions, is to answer some of the things clients have written about.  Some will be fact, and of course some will only be opinion.  Sad to say it will only be "my" opinion.  So of course take it for what it is worth! 

Todays question:

Is it very difficult to become an appraiser? 

Many moons ago you only had to have a Pennsylvania brokers license. 

Now though, as of January 1, 2008  among other minor items, you now need various levels of college levels which include either an associates with accompanying levels of extra couses, or a four year degree.  They do not really specifiy in what however, so that is open for discussion at some point. 

The kicker though is that you now need 3000 hours (formerly 2500) of apprentice work with someone who already is licensed such as myself.  This becomes very difficuly to accumulate working elsewhere as trainees do not make very much.  As I told my own daughter Jamie, "don't quit your day job" yet!

Lastly there is the test which is two parts, being the general knowledge of the profession, and the other being on the Pennsylvania license laws. I will mention that over 70% do not pass the first time  (Jamie did pass on the first time.  Hopefully its in the genes!). 

Any other questions, just e-mail me and of course your name will be our secret.

Good luck in 2008.....



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Posted by James Keim on January 2nd, 2008 8:31 AMLeave a Comment

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December 23rd, 2007 4:45 PM

 Sunday, December 23, 2007

There is an interesting article in the business section in today's Morning Call in regards to the best and worst of 2007. 

The number one story is about the softening housing market.  It is written by Jeanne Bonner who has followed the market through the past few years and has done a favorable and objective job in doing it.

It states that in addition to the large inventory of houses for sale, it also gives the present buyers more choice and the ability to negotiate price and terms considerably better than last year at this time.

What concerns me is that there are still stories out there talking of prices still going up in the Lehigh Vaalley area.  As she states, that through the end of November, home sales were down 17% in the valley from the year before where sales fell for the first time in at least ten years! 

When I talk to other salespeople and brokers alike (and I will state I am also a Realtor), they all have told me that prices are down and the market is slow, and hurting.  Yet the National Association of Realtors mentioned that the Lehigh Valley area STILL has an upswing in the market.  I personally am confused with these statements.  This has also been published in various publications in the area, and it just misleads people into thinking that the area is immune to any negativity in the market.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not so sure about any widespread drops in values, but when was the last time you saw an appraisal with a "time adjustment"?   Right now and for the immediate future, there probably will not be any.  I will elaborate on time adjustments in a few days.

Hoping everyone has a great holiday season, and yes, I am working this week.  Only taking Tuesday off.

I am interested in anyone's comments or opinions.  That is the great thing about these blogs. 







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Posted by James Keim on December 23rd, 2007 4:45 PMLeave a Comment

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December 19th, 2007 2:53 PM


I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday, and would like to thank you all for the sucessful year 2007 was.  Let's all hope that 2008 brings lower interest rates, lower delinquent mortgage rates, and higher attainable goals for all of us. 

This is a joint effort for all of us as it is best for all if we can continue to give good service to all of our clients as we have in past.  This, I feel is how we can continue to go forward and be successful.

On a personal nnote I would like you to know that my older daugher Jamie whose name you have seen on appraisals as a trainee in the past three years, has successfully passed her Pennsylvania Residential Appraiser Exam so she will now be licensed as I am.  This is truly a happy moment for me having her with me as I am sure she is glad the "trainee" part is over.

Any questions on anything please let me know either by a call or e-mail.

Thanks again,







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Posted by James Keim on December 19th, 2007 2:53 PMLeave a Comment

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December 12th, 2007 7:18 PM


Hello everyone.

You will notice that we have new maps that are from my program supplier called alamode.  They are powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth (TM), with more better, more attractive maps optionally overlayed on aerial photography.  There are also hybrid maps that are full color aerial images with street overlays.

I have used them starting today and they really look cool.  You can zero in overhead, so keep your blinds shut!!!!

Keep ordering your appraisals as we always have until further notice.  There is just too many other items that have to be taken care of first.

Stay i touch and feel free to comment on anything.  




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Posted by James Keim on December 12th, 2007 7:18 PMLeave a Comment

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December 10th, 2007 2:38 PM

December 10, 2:35pm

Hello everyone out there in Blog-sylvania:

The website for the reassessment appeal here is open and hopefully the jim keim appraisals site will be open any time here shortly.  It is unreal all of the technology involved to do this.  This is a whole new experience for meand I hope any and all you make a comment whenever you want to. 

Talk to you soon.



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Posted by James Keim on December 10th, 2007 2:38 PMLeave a Comment

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