Appraising Odd Properties: What’s the Weirdest Property You’ve Appraised Recently?

Appraising Odd Properties: What's the Weirdest Property You've Appraised Recently?

As a professional appraiser, you’ll likely encounter some strange properties from time to time. Odd properties tend to be challenging yet rewarding in terms of the fee. To gain insight into these types of assignments, we asked our appraisal community, “What’s the weirdest property you’ve appraised recently?” Thank you to the many respondents who shared stories about the most unique and complex properties they’ve come across lately! Read their stories about appraising odd properties below.

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What’s the weirdest property you’ve appraised recently?

From difficult to atypical to downright strange—our survey participants shared lots of examples of appraising odd properties. Most of them fall into these categories:

  • Challenging and complex properties
  • Unique property types
  • Properties with atypical characteristics
  • Historic properties
  • Rural properties
  • Non-compliant properties

Challenging and complex properties

“A 1 BR home where the majority of homes are 3 or 4 BR and a very limited number of 2 BR homes.”

“Cape Cod with 3 bedrooms, two on the second floor. Unfortunately, second floor ceiling height was 6’5″, thereby ineligible for GLA under ANSI, making this a 1-bedroom.”

“Probably the property we did last week where the homeowner told us that he ‘added a 2nd floor to his house’ and it was no more than a finished attic with a VERY low ceiling. ANSI didn’t like that.”

“A custom-built art school built by artist named Solonevich that is used as a single-family dwelling. Every couple feet was a random angle. Nearly impossible to measure accurately.”

“I appraised a Japanese style home where the entire first floor was partially below grade (very rare here in Texas). All the living areas and kitchen were upstairs and there was so much thick bamboo around the house, I couldn’t inspect the entire exterior of the home.”

“16-acre property, fully irrigated, gated community, largest shop space I’ve ever seen with an immaculate 5 car garage, 3 story structure. More space than any other property I’ve ever seen, this home was the most complex project to appraise based on the quality and condition of everything.”

“I just got done with an 88-year-old majestic brick and stone home that had two stories above ground that had been totally redone with a gourmet kitchen—all granite, all stainless appliances and two large commercial refrigerators. It also had a 866 sf basement below grade with finished 605 sq ft two bedrooms and a bath, really giving the home seven bedrooms and six baths. Of course, we could not count the below grade into living area according to ANSI. The home had a huge chimney but no fireplace. The property also had a very large brick three car garage plus a security fence. Did it all with no like sales. I sure had to answer a lot of questions. Whew glad that one is over.”

Learn best practices for measuring residential dwellings in our CE course, Residential Property Measurement and ANSI Z765.

Unique property types

“A waterfront geodesic dome house. It had the double distinction of being on the water and a house built into a hill where is was difficult to measure and decide what was above grade and what was below! Good thing it was before ANSI.”

“A yurt, a space dome, and a two-story single-wide mobile home. This was two single-wide mobile homes stacked on top of each other with a spiral staircase that was encased in semi tractor trailer chemlite panels. The stories behind them are lengthy.”

“Two 1980s mobile homes put together and interior walls removed to be one big house. There was not a level floor in the whole place!”

“Earth sheltered home with casita and a horse property.”

“The most unique property I appraised was an earth home. True to its name, it included an earthen roof and sides, with only a small portion of the front of the residence exposed. The structure was concrete. Within the interior of this in-ground home was an in-ground swimming pool located in the center of the home, with most rooms located along far sides of the pool. Each room had a private entry door, with a few of the rooms accessible from the pool by swimming under the walls. There was a ‘wet bar’ in the pool. The entire house was permeated with the distinctive smell of chlorine. How did I perform the analysis? All I can offer is…very, carefully.”

“I got contacted by an AMC…asking if I could give a quote for a property that several of their other appraisers had already turned down, one even saying that it couldn’t be appraised. The property in question was a remodeled two-story dome home with a finished walk-out basement and a guest house…. It took some extra time to inspect and find comps for, but no one argued with my fee.”

“I’m a reviewer now. But a recent review of a barndominium was appraised. The main building is a 60×100 pole barn garage. It contained a 2,500 SF mezzanine, 1 bedroom residence. This barndominium had large deck and a small balcony off the bedroom. There was a second residence, 600 SF cabin. This was all on 1,000+ acres with mountain views and private lake.”

“Million dollar MFG home.”

“Not recently, but while working for ODOT I reviewed an appraisal of a cattle crossing. This was new and unique to me.”

“A paper mill.”

“An old railroad bed that was long, narrow and raised.”

“The most unusual property that I appraised recently has an abandoned mining shaft on it. The shaft is dug into the side of a mountain, and has a locked metal gate. Prospectors used it in the 1800s to search for gold.”

Dive into a variety of unique property appraisals with our CE course, Complex Properties: The Odd Side of Appraisal.

Properties with atypical characteristics

“I appraised a house in Berkeley, CA shaped like a fish.”

“Appraised a home that had the interior upholstered in vinyl like you’d find in a diner booth.”

“I inspected a house where the walls were made of hay bales, and the interior had plaster as the wall finish.”

“There was a SFR up in Box Canyon, Chatsworth, CA that had a huge boulder that was actually one complete side of the GLA.”

“A new construction with black metal roofing as siding – the master bedroom was in a loft open to below and it had a slide from the loft to the living room.”

“A Q6 hunting cabin in C6 condition that was on a 1 acre lot in the middle of a 1000 acre tract with a pig trail easement to it.”

“A single family house that was located on two adjacent lots. I’d never seen a single family built with a portion of the improvements on two adjacent lots.”

“It was a house on three lots. It has been added on to over the years. The GLA is 3200sf and there are two separate basements with a total 1100sf. There are funky angles, two kitchens next to each other divided by a wall. It was only 3 bedroom, but had 3.1 bathrooms. It had 3 family rooms on the GLA. Lots of weird spaces.”

“Home with an unexpected ADU created from an old, long one-car garage. I believed it to be the neighboring property.”

“A condominium unit located within a Condotel with beachfront access and a damaged storm wall due to Hurricane Ian. The estimated repair date had a 12 month range.”

“…it was a simple house Ranch approx. 1200 sq ft. But in the backyard it had a Capsule you open [and] climb down a ladder [into] a 1000 sq ft Bomb Shelter. Was all like plastic swimming pool material but spacious and kinda nice. Not really anything in my market like it, but definitely interesting.”

“Not a recent appraisal, but back in the early ’80s I appraised a small person’s house in the Hollywood Hills of CA. The owners were small people who worked in the entertainment industry, and their home was custom built for their size. Everything (I mean everything) was miniature size to accommodate people that were +/- 3′-6″ – 4′ in height.”

“The subject property had relatively small living area size for its location and a significantly smaller than typical site size, but was designed by a noted regional architect. The MLS was searched for SFR properties designed by the same architect. The results indicated a substantially higher median price per SF for these properties, which served as the basis for a large design appeal adjustment.”

Rural properties

“We have a lot of rural properties here in North Central Florida. I had a property that was a newly constructed home, with caves, a pond that fills with the season, zip line (personal use), area for storage of equipment for their landscaping company, diesel and regular gas pumps and tanks in ground.”

“I had a 2000sf off-grid home on 70 acres that is a mile off the public street on a two-track. All power was generated by a Generac propane fired generator and the only heat source was a couple of propane space heaters. The owner has lived there year-around for 20 years or so.”

“The property was a semi-rural 10 acre parcel with a 600sf cabin (unpermitted by the county). There was a septic system installed (no information from the county). The well had dried so the owners installed a rain water collection system with large 2500 gallon storage units. There was no power to the property. It was powered by solar and back up diesel generators. This is a semi-rural area. All the properties surrounding this have public power, public water and fully permitted structures and septic systems. The cost to connect to the public water — $200,000.”

Historic properties

“Recently, I appraised a triplex which was previously a 1920s country store! They converted the store into multiple units and even used the wood from the old, torn-down schoolhouse up the street as wall paneling. In addition to the schoolhouse wood paneling, the homeowner used the school’s doors and hardware as wall decorations and additional moldings. It was exciting to see so many historic parts of the town get recycled and reused throughout the property and start a new cycle of life!”

“I recently completed an appraisal on a 8,788 sq ft Victorian Queen Anne mansion built in 1885. The home was used as a corporate retreat. The quality of construction was unique and the floor plan was way above the normal.”

“More atypical for the market than weird, I appraised a property with three summer cottages built in 1750 which were uninsulated, unheated, and had most of the original antique finish still intact. The property was in the National Seashore on Cape Cod. Finding comps was challenging as the majority of Seashore homes have been updated over time.”

Non-compliant properties

“A SFR that was illegally converted to a tri-plex with an exterior kitchen only, that was re-converted back to a SFR that had an illegal addition which violated building setback regulations that when I asked the agent’s lawyer to document his opinion that the illegal setback was not adverse, he basically said, “I’m not putting that in writing and signing it.” Then the AMC cancelled the order and probably went looking for an appraiser who didn’t pay attention to small details like building code, setback, and zoning violations.”

“A single family hillside ranch with two detached commercial garages that defies zoning. The detached garages were larger then the living area of the residential dwelling. The remainder of the lot was paved/improved also violating zoning regs. The detached garages were built without permits. Asked the zoning officer to give it a CO before I would appraise.”

“It is a double wide manufactured home with an attached two-story ADU. The MFG was there first and the owner built and attached a two-story house to it and wanted a refinance. Needless to say, the lender refused and the county was notified by an outside source which in turn revealed no building permits.”

“A custom build 1890s Victorian row house mansion cut up into 7 illegal rental units.”

Learn more about appraising odd properties

Want to learn more about this profitable appraisal niche? Appraisals of odd properties require knowledge of many different types of appraisal techniques, creativity, and a positive attitude. Learn several different techniques and dive into a variety of unique property appraisals in our CE course, Complex Properties: The Odd Side of Appraisal.

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