Subject Property Actual Location

Dave Towne
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Where Is the Subject Property Actual Location?

Don’t say that the subject property is ‘within’ a particular City or Town due to the postal ZIP Code that applies to the street address unless that is accurate. The actual location may be miles away from there.

Appraisers, this article was prompted by my ‘coming in contact with’ several appraisal reports where different regional appraisers report the physical location of the subject property “in” a particular City associated with the postal ZIP Code for that City. Actually, the property was not “in” the City at all. It was in the County.

Since I observed this inaccuracy among appraisers who work in different geographic areas, but are using the same reporting verbiage, I thought information about this might be of value.

Starting with the ZIP Code: those are merely lines on a map the US Post Office established, used to plan mail routes, and distribute mail more efficiently. ZIP Code boundaries do not always follow City Limit or County (Parish) boundaries, and in some cases the boundaries are a long way from the City name associated with the ZIP Code. See Map 1. This shows 5 ZIP Codes in a region. The ‘City’ for 98273 and 98274 has two ZIP Codes associated. Note how wide the area coverage boundaries are for those two ZIP Codes. It’s not shown here, but 98284 extends north into the adjoining County!

Map 1

City Limit Boundaries: These are established legislatively by the local City or Town jurisdictions, per state law. They also are drawn on a map, such as Map 2. The ‘City’ in this case is the pink area, surrounded by the boundary lines. The yellow area is the surrounding County. Note that the ZIP Code for this area is within the city and also extends into the County. The imaginary subject property’s location is at the red star.

How should that location be reported? This is where your geographic competency comes into play.

Areas outside the legislatively established City or Town boundaries are in “unincorporated” areas in the particular County (or Parish). Unincorporated areas are administered by the local County (or Parish). NOTE: the term might be different in your area; find out!

So in the case of the subject property below, the report verbiage would be something like: “The subject property is located in unincorporated XYZ County, north of ABC city.” You could further say it’s in a Suburban or Rural location, depending on distance from urban services, and availability of other typical amenities.

Depending on your state laws, some Cities and Towns may have “Urban Growth Areas” (or a different term) adjacent to their boundary, within the County. These are areas where the ‘State’ has authorized the City to grow or expand into per applicable laws – at some date in the future. They are also shown on the boundary map. Zoning becomes a bit tricky in those locations, so you need to carefully research what is allowed at the TIME OF ASSIGNMENT, not what might happen in the future.

Highest and Best Use is what applies ‘today’, not ‘tomorrow.’

Most of the info you need to find about boundaries is available using the internet, except in the most rural, remote places in the US. For those, you might actually have to visit the local County or City/Town and buy a real printed map! I have a box full of those for my area (before the internet became the source) in case anyone wants to make a donation to my cause and acquire them!

The point of this article is to encourage appraisers to be careful and accurate in how you report the subject property’s physical location within the region, area, City, County. Don’t say that the subject property is ‘within’ a particular City or Town due to the postal ZIP Code that applies to the street address unless that is accurate. The actual location may be miles away from there.

Image credit flickr - Richard Masoner
Dave Towne

Dave Towne

AGA, MNAA, Accredited Green Appraiser - Licensed in WA State since 2003. Dave Towne on e-AppraisersDirectory.com

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Jefff says:

    Countless times underwriters ask me to change a zip code to the incorrect zip code. It becomes exhausting pushing back on this. Apparently the loan reverts to the mailing address for the zip code and not the physical address of the property for lenders. Like I have nothing better to do. Why cant they take 30 minutes and search for accuracy

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      It’s all automated systems these days. Just give them what they want and scan in the assessors actual page with situs address. Their loan; their problem. Copy the specific revision request into the report so everyone knows, you tried. On the lender side they run everything through auto validation programs which those too, are built up from postal annex and not actual city county boundary data. Annexes locations and coverage zones change over time. We used to have some issues which as the postal demand grew and new annex locations opened, just corrected over time. Title works with situs, free and clear property history, lender works with mailing, for all the billing.

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  2. Avatar Amy S says:

    One issue I have found as an appraiser is lenders or AMC’s telling the appraiser to change the city in a revision request to match the order. They may have ordered the appraisal for Portola Hills, CA which isn’t a city– it is a neighborhood in Lake Forest, CA. Please be aware of this issue going on as well to represent all sides in a balanced light.

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  3. Baggins Baggins says:

    Great information Dave. Zip codes are for postal annex, and as that’s publicly available information, it is what many software systems used to build their geo location programs around, often not understanding how zip codes actually work. Smart address check is not always accurate for assessor specific, but rather just follows postal systems recognition. For many properties there is a situs address, and a mailing address, they are not always one and the same. Get to know the GIS tools pages, there may be many options to use visual overlay tools to do cool things like highlight building structure or property lines, color code zoning or city boundaries, etc. Thank you.

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    • Avatar Lindsey says:

      The writer sounds like a general appraiser. Zoning codes should also be a big indicator of boundaries (city vs county). I don’t believe we have that problem here as I am confused as to what you’re even talking about.

      Unfortunately, I think we’ve reached a point in society that almost solely relies on what a computer tells them to do. I have grown to distrust technology as I feel it has gotten worse since the COVID shutdown. Large data sets are quickly preloaded into a program and meant to be used for consistency. People don’t check that stuff for accuracy.

      Look at all the misinformation in county records and websites like Zillow. I do agree with accurately describing everything in an appraisal report, just for credible purposes alone.

      It’s just scary to think that all these big data harvesters and complacency from users believe that computers are without major faults. I just emailed TOTAL three months ago to let them know their mapping system was 5 years behind any other mapping system.

      Now isn’t that THEIR JOB? Now people want to rely on big data like Core Logic and they can’t even update an outdated mapping system?

      Geographical knowledge will not apply for PAREA participants….now that’s scary.

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      • Avatar Amy S says:

        Yes, this article needs more context and a disclosure to the public as to not misrepresent the profession as a whole.

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        • Avatar Dave Towne says:

          This is a reply to Lindsey and Amy. I’m a Cert. Res appraiser with 21+ yrs time in appraising. I am actually astonished that neither of you could figure out what I wrote about. In short, just because a particular property has a ZIP Code assigned to it DOES NOT MEAN that it is WITHIN the city name or boundary limits associated with the city. That was the point you missed.

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          • Baggins Baggins says:

            Yeah, not everyone deals with this issue. In a nutshell, there are only so many postal annex locations in any given region. Sometimes for properties further out from the city, not actually within the city boundaries, they will have a mailing address assigned as being within the city, even though the situs address is actually a smaller different city or unincorporated area. So as mail delivery comes from the larger city, those property addresses will read as within the city even though they are not. Technical address issues, it happens. USPS validation tools end up changing your situs address on the report and bring a UAD error if you bypass it. So that’s why disclose disclaim, write about it in the report, scan in assessors situs data, and just allow the mailing address to read on the report even though it’s not technically accurate to situs.

            Lindsey, Alamode mapping offers a few nifty options. Like I don’t like the one version so somewhere there is an option they walked me through, to use a different mapping source instead. I think it’s google or bing, but as I did not like the new default there is an option to go back to use the other mapping source. Depending on your specific area, one is probably more current than the other, it’s random based on their mapping efforts. For being outdated, that’s going to be the larger companies actually running the drones over gridded areas or satellite. Alamode just sources the mapping data, they don’t have a hand in keeping it updated. It’s cyclical and can be more outdated in some areas than others. Every few years in my suburban areas we see these mock airliners fly all slow back and forth. It’s a trip because they’re actually like 12 ft long hobby style planes who’s sole purpose is to fly low and slow and take image photos. But they look like jet airliners way up there. First time I viewed this it was like a twilight zone deal, how in the hell is that big plane not moving? I found a photo online to show this for you. Mapping services coordinate with them for updated mapsco books and such. Thomas Maps is where you can still get classic mapsco books updated and can make requests for updated maps if they’re getting stale due to ongoing development, etc. Paper based maps are simply superior to tech for many use applications, and you only need pay for them once to use them for many years. Thank you.

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          • Avatar James Anderson says:

            U tell em Dave. 🙂 I was thinking the same thing.

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    • Interesting fact Baggins. The county of San Diego has 107 different zip codes, of which, 79 are in the city of San Diego.

      Seek the truth.

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  4. Locally, its always fun to tell people they don’t live in the city of La Jolla CA (current median list price is nearly 3 million), but rather live in the village of La Jolla which is located in the city of San Diego. The village has its own zip code (92037), and has always been wrongly listed as a city in public record files. The price people pay to live one street over, and in the zip of 92037 is astonishing.

    Seek the truth.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      We have places like that in Denver. Like what’s the big deal with being one block closer to the country club? Those are the nightmare requests because quite often zoning will be the same, annex addresses will not indicate the true situs, then you’re down to manual selection from map tools, assessors direct and such. I stay away from those and to this day don’t really understand what the big deal is with being on this side of the block or that. Like some status thing I suppose, can’t get my mind around it because the position defies the principals of substitution. Rule of thumb; never provide appraisals in country club areas unless you are already so well off, you have a lawyer on retainer just in case. Because if one upsets people in those positions, their first call may very well be to the family lawyer. I’ve seen amc’s push multi million dollar valuation requests for $250 dollars, that too defies all normal logic. Going to need an upgrade soon, I could be earning substantially more riding a lawn mower into the sunset.

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  5. Avatar CJK says:

    I had a review completed on a report. The review “appraiser” did not know the difference between urban and suburban, he also did not know the differences between city and unincorporated county. In my market we have some developments that are surrounded by the city, but they are technically unincorporated county.

    My personal property has a city mailing address however I am located in the county not the city. If some reviewers do not know the difference, they should refrain from making derogatory comments in the review. Some of the underwriters are no better.

    I always put a pdf of the assessor’s record, tax statement and zoning in the appraisal, and yet some of these people never look at anything outside of the URAR.

    I wonder if some people even read the report before they start with the requests. One lender wanted me to verify that a property was a single-wide manufactured home, because the LO and processor said it was a double-wide. I told them to read the report. The Data Plate said it was a SW, the engineer (foundation) said it was a SW, my sketch and photo showed that it was a SW, and they still did not believe me. They act like the appraiser must always be wrong. When did the LO or processor ever look at the property?

    I hope they have fun with the desktops and hybrids. I will be retired by the time some of these properties end up as REO’s. It appears that some lenders did not learn anything some of them are starting with the buydowns again.

    Sorry for the rambling.

    4
    • Baggins Baggins says:

      It’s all good and those are the problems with this industry today; too much reliance on automation. Too much emphasis on speed. Too much emphasis on outsourcing. Not enough recognition of the actual knowledge base required to understand all the details through the entire spectrum of real property. From land to mineral from air space to soils, city to county, municipality to jurisdictional authority, building codes to zoning allowances, amenity resources and access, well to septic to municipal services, construction methodology to building materials, cost and access of goods labor services, changing market conditions, buyer and seller motivations, realty agent variable approaches, hard money to fractional reserve lending, multiple selling guides all the way to the yellow book, 10,000 pages of government regulations, QM, non QM, there is a hell of a lot of ground to cover to be a competent real property appraiser.

      Oh by the way, we’ll be making the assignment condition based on who presents the lowest fee and fastest turn time. Cost savings will not be returned to borrowing consumers. The sad truth of this industry appears to be that REVAA actually runs TAF, and both are controlled behind the scenes by special interest global corporations. It’s a revelation many are having in this age of reform; how easily exploitable non profit organizations have become.

      Meanwhile the geniuses at the GSE’s have reviewers locked down with 40+ daily quotas and all they do is look at XML document extraction. So to answer your question specifically; Yes, they are quite often only looking at the 1004 form. And even then they’re only looking at a list of alerts and not the actual pdf of the form. So if the guy before you fumbled the job, that data is in FNMA CU system and it’s just bad luck but you’ll have to answer all the details. On top of that if the borrower has a weak position or some other random factor the appraiser is not privy to, it’s manual underwriting time and the appraisal is given additional scrutiny ahead of time. This is what the idiots at the appraisal management companies don’t understand and never will, the appraiser needs a lot of leeway in terms of time, energy, and income, to deal with all the variables which arise from such complex lending origination mechanisms and activities. And of course, they’re always changing, it’s a constantly moving target.

      Once the remaining mortgage lending appraisers are wiped out, they’re going to move into the legal irs and probate work, finally capture the VA and make more headway into CG commercial work. Nobody is insulated from the destructive power of unnecessary third party activity, outsourced services, big tech injection, middle management meddling. Unless appraisers can learn to better advocate for this industry and resist these forces, it’s only a matter of time. Consumers will be those whom ultimately suffer the most. There is no such thing as residential property anymore, because from the corporate perspective, it’s all potential income property commercial investments now.

      1
    • Avatar James Anderson says:

      I feel you CJK. Actually the urban suburban issue is poorly defined. I’ve had different reviewers use different criteria. Most ask if it is within an incorporated city they want it urban. Where I live Portland is considered urban (even the more suburban areas), but there are more remote incorporated cities with 600 people. According to them that should be marked urban, so I just play along.

      1
  6. Avatar Gil Rogers says:

    I once did an appraisal in the City of Manassas, VA (Incorporated) and the property did not pay taxes in the surrounding county, but the title company told the lender that it was in the county. I finally gave up arguing the point and changed the “County” space from Manassas City to read the county, but had to add a lengthy explanation in the addendum so that someone with some intelligence further up the food chain would not think I was an idiot and didn’t have geographic competence.

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  7. Avatar Lindsey says:

    Speaking of crappy technology. Trying to set my “location” to rent an articulating lift and Sunbelts wonderful computer mapping doesn’t know it’s ass from its elbow. Apparently it can’t read zip codes or city names! Photo attached. Another funny one, trying to get ahold of customer service at Rustoleum and the chatbot didn’t know what “human” or “live agent “ meant. I screenshot that too. How do people trust technology as much as they do!! I wanna fly around in a space ship one day too! LMAO

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    • Avatar Dave Towne says:

      Finish putting in the street name. The number alone may not bring up the specific location. I’ve seen this in my area.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      The primary issue is the use of mobile technology. They have purposefully made cellular phones cumbersome and porous to data exploitation, a systematic exploitation of the planned obsolescence approach. The end result for the consumer is a multi purpose brick which is more focused on exploiting your data and habit than actually providing you with high functionality and privacy. I’ve never let go of the traditional desktop pc and keep this thing locked down tight. If there is a service or process I do not need, it gets moved to the disabled list. I feel bad for those whom bought into mobile devices, they get so far far less control and functionality. In pursuit of ad free spaces. I can not fathom using a mobile for regular internet engagement, it’s a corporate solicitation data grab nightmare. It’s important to understand all those ‘apps’ are just tapping into existing databases you don’t actually need the app to access on a PC, because databases are just places with IP and web addresses, tied with physical hardware with mac addresses. When accessing that same site on a browser, entirely more functional. They realized the internet was too powerful and too functional, was actually creating a free and positive future, so they’ve been working overtime to repackage it, downgrade functionality, and redirect consumer habits away from high functioning PC’s ever since. They’re winning the battle too, over half of all internet users do not even own a PC anymore. I don’t use facebook to post here, I simply type in the https address. I don’t even have any social networking accounts, not a single one, lol.

      My real question is what are you going to do with an articulating lift? Those things are scary, I’ll never get on one again as long as I live. Been there, done that. Make sure to wear the safety harness and strap in tight, get the whole body type with the fall breaker line, check your ropes, wear the hard hat, the works. But you’ve inspired me. It occurs to me I could just go rent a riding lawn mower, there’s no reason to wait. I could earn more going door to door knocking than working for amc’s, that’s for sure.

      1
      • Avatar Lindsey says:

        Lol, you speak so much truth! I will never give up my PC. I like my three monitors and full functional use of what technology is good for. I too do not have a social media account. The monitoring and controlling of speech was enough to say no more. I have turned off all location tracking and turned on all privacy settings with no ad tracking. Yet, the marketing ads are still alive. Not too long ago, I was purchasing tickets for my husband, using his information and his card. After purchase confirmation I received the emailed tickets to my email, under my name and had never given out that information. What I discovered is that everytime you visit a website now, they have all your information automatically logged into their account. So I’ve stopped accepting website cookies. Software has become far worse than ever and it is all about making money now. Google searches have really declined in quality results too.

        You’ll have less stress riding around in a lawn mower for sure! My friend and I need to rent an articulating lift to do some repair work on the two-story dome home her and her dad built together. Can’t figure out any other way because of the shape of the roof.

        1
        • Baggins Baggins says:

          You know what my policy is, now into my mid 40’s? I never go airborne. No matter what no matter where no matter how. If an activity might expose me to some sort of airborne event, I simply won’t do it. Well, except for riding the mountain bike but that’s a little different. No more climbing, no more jumping, nothing to do with ladders. I’m careful walking across the street and look at stairs with deep speculation. Last time I got on the ladder to put bird spikes on because this woodpecker was like waking us all up at 4 in the morning, I dragged myself across that hot roof while laying down and refused to even stand up. Then I like forgot how to get back on the ladder and almost fell. I said, that’s another home maintenance thing I’ll simply have to sub out, I’m never going back up there again, never.

          For tech, try Ublock, Adblock plus, and privacy badger. They’re super fun and easy to use. Go with UMatrix if you want to really break the functionality of websites and see every last tracking detail. UMatrix is super advanced it’s very difficult to use yet still quite interesting. It’s an accompaniment to the UBlock software. They’re moving away from cookies and are into browser fingerprinting and mac address identification, that’s how they knew who you were. You may consider masking your mac or spoofing that if it’s a concern. That’s why I stick with mozilla they don’t get quite as much. My appraisal pal lady tells me to use Brave already but I never make the time. There are a myriad of telemetry services through all apps permissions as well as services like diagtrac and such which you can and should disable in 10 and 11. Over time they all turn on, all those apps permissions, have to tediously reset every one then restart then go back in and turn all permissions for the individual map off. Must repeat the process every time a major MS update comes out because the GUI’s are only for user feel good stuff, you don’t actually maintain administrative control. Not unless you get with the hardware manager and manipulate the services list directly. My method is to shut everything down until something breaks, then dial only that portion back. Kind of messes up some Alamode features but I make it work.

          Cortana, absolutely not. I’ve even disabled the bing bar to only do internal index calls, so prefetch is out of here too. That was super helpful for internal file management and my magnifying glass acts just like it used to on windows7, and I search my entire pc database with a quick one line search. I never miss a repeat address request and can search that outside of the complex network of appraisal software.

          https://restoreprivacy.com/browser-fingerprinting/
          Oh wow, this guy has some new about config tactics I might have to try out. Just found that one right now.
          https://privacybee.com/blog/browser-fingerprinting/
          You won’t believe it until you see it with your own eyes. I like device info. But this screws up my clever deal where I hacked mozilla to never run updates, now I’m unique again.
          https://blog.malwarebytes.com/malwarebytes-news/2021/09/what-are-computer-cookies/
          Get to know more about super cookies. They’re not just regular cookies, they’re super cookies! I really don’t like the internet anymore… The only way you can be truly anon is to let everything be fully open factory on new equipment. But then what’s the point because the moment you access anything personal, it’s leaked out. The future is stupid and big tech is a ripoff.
          https://www.howtogeek.com/224159/how-to-disable-bing-in-the-windows-10-start-menu/
          Because when I use the bar to search for an internal document, what I really want to happen is a prefetch sort of process coupled with telemetry where my computer brings me browser style internet searches in my apps panel, basically tattling on me and broadcasting to the microsoft home office everything I’m looking for on my own computer. What idiot came up with that? Bing bar must go right alongside cortana, telemetry is for the birds and prefetch has zero practical value. Who really cares about saving micro seconds?

          That many screens is bad for your eyes and you’re getting excess magnetic fields which can have serious negative health effects long term. And if they’re not wired, even more trouble with excess emf field exposure. I run everything on a little mid grade wired high def 20″ and a strong PC, or well it used to be. They keep expanding software process size because that’s how they implement the planned obsolescence in pc’s but I’m going to buy some time with another ram card to accommodate, pick one up used on ebay or something. Cheers.

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  8. Here’s an additional fun fact about the city of San Diego. The city is split in two parts. There is a main Northern area, followed by a much smaller Southern area. Meaning, one could be driving through the city of San Diego (Northern part), drive South for 5 miles through two separate cities (National City & Chula Vista), only to end up in the city of San Diego again. The Southern part of the city is completely land locked and does not in any way touch the Northern part of the city.

    Seek the truth.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Well that’ doesn’t sound like good city planning. Which came first, Chula and National or San Diego? Because the traditional understanding would be that the larger city becomes dominant, and encroaches the assimilates all the unincorporated and smaller cities along the way. What is usually left is a network of small cities further around the massive metroplex complex of the one dominant larger city. That larger city simply annexes all the lands to create the growing metroplex. Encroachment at it’s finest. The unincorporated hold outs never actually last. Because once the giant shopping plaza or condo complex shows up in their back yard, the land for sale signs come up the next day. If they try to hold on, they eventually lose AG tax benefits and get taxed off the land. But that’s how it happens, the one lonely farmers field in the middle of the city, the last hold out.

      This is like city development jeapordy or something. I’m going to go with having sold off lands in the past then due to default of terms, San Diego took back the southern portion? Sometimes cities fight to keep certain lands for taxation or industrial reasons. Or sometimes it’s even water sourcing based. We’ve got something like that here in Colorado. Denver bought this large portion of Adams county, it took a multiple county vote to approve it and all, but then did not fulfill it’s obligations, and Adams wanted the land back. It’s resolved now but was a big deal at the time. And now there are airplanes flying over my house all the damned time and Denver got fined 30m for noise violations.

      Want out of big city like yesterday. I picture myself in a rocking chair on a wooden porch, john deer ride along in the shack. Howdy partner, how’s your day going? Those times are never coming back, this progressive future sort of sucks. Bill, why do you stay in busy cities like that, you’ve got to see them vacating all around you. We know, because they come here! Big cities are like lifeforms, they literally generate enough human beings to fill a small rural town every week. People are not yet really understanding how this changing pattern of inter state migration will simply never stop. Get the land while you can, they’re not making any more of it.
      https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2013/06/07/adams-county-proposes-denver-return.html

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Subject Property Actual Location

by Dave Towne time to read: 3 min
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