Arm’s Length or Another Type of Sale? The 7 Sale Types Explained

Home For Sale real estate sign in front of single family house

As a real estate appraiser, whether you’re considering the current terms of sale or analyzing previous sales of the subject property or comparable sales, it is imperative to know whether a sale is an arms-length transaction or a different type of sale. Sales due to a job relocation, estate settlement, foreclosure, or divorce may sell for less than the property’s market value.

Remember, in general, market value is defined as the most probable price a property should bring in a competitive and open market. This definition requires an arm’s length transaction with each of the parties acting in their own best interests. Additionally, it requires that the buyer and seller are not acting out of undue haste or duress and that the real property has been exposed on the market for a reasonable period of time.

The type of sale can provide some clarity into whether the transaction was (or currently is) an arm’s length transaction, whether a comparable sale should be used or whether an adjustment is warranted for the terms of sale for a comparable. By knowing the type of sale, you are better able to reconcile a current opinion of market value that falls above or below a current or recent transaction for the subject property.

For appraisals required to be Uniform Appraisal Dataset (UAD) compliant, you must indicate the type of sale for the transaction. You may report any other relevant information in the appraisal report regarding the sale type, including whether more than one sale type applies.

Here are the seven valid sale types, explained in detail below:

  • REO sale
  • Short sale
  • Court ordered sale
  • Estate sale
  • Relocation sale
  • Non-arm’s length sale
  • Arm’s length sale

REO sale

A Real Estate Owned (REO) transaction is a sale of a home that has been foreclosed and the lender is the owner/seller of the home. The transaction is between the lender and the buyer. Usually these homes are sold “as is” and typically are priced to sell relatively quickly. Sometimes the home is in poor condition or may require extensive repairs.

Learn all about REO appraisals in our top-rated CE course: Appraisal of REO and Foreclosure Properties.

Short sale

Unlike an REO or foreclosure sale, the homeowner still holds title to the property, but sells short for less than what is owed on the property. Usually, the homeowner is suffering some type of financial hardship which is preventing them from meeting the mortgage payments. The homeowner and the lender must agree to accept a shortage and must approve the sale. Sometimes these sales require extended time to negotiate with the lender and obtain approval for the sale, and there may be some additional costs or outstanding liens that need to be paid off.

Court ordered sale

A court ordered sale may be the result of a dispute among the owners, divorce, death of one of the owners, or a foreclosure where the borrower defaulted on paying the mortgage. Once the redemption period expires (if applicable), the court will issue an order directing the sale or other disposition of the property. This is the point at which the owner has lost control over the ability to sell the property. The property is sold by an official (trustee or sheriff) appointed by the court, usually to satisfy a judgment or implement another order of the court.

Estate sale

The estate is the real estate owned by a decedent at the time of his or her death. The estate is probated so that the real estate can be sold and the proceeds are distributed to the decedent’s heirs. The sale is handled by a representative (executor) named in a will and/or appointed by the probate court.

Interested in specializing in this type of appraisal? Check out our popular CE course: Divorce and Estate Appraisals: Elements of Non-Lender Work.

Relocation sale

Larger companies hire a relocation company to sell the property of an employee that is being transferred or moved to another state. The relocation company may buy the property at an agreed upon price with the corporate employee, then in turn sell the property to the market in an “as is” condition. Often, the property is attempted to be sold quickly, so the property may not be exposed as long as competitive properties in the market.

Increase your knowledge of this sale type with our top-rated CE course: Relocation Appraisal and the ERC Form.

Non-arm’s length sale

The seller and buyer have a connection by marriage, family, work, etc. As a result, this type of transaction’s final price may not reflect the market value of the property. Lenders and appraisers view this type of transaction as riskier because the parties involved are not necessarily acting independent of each other.

Arm’s length sale

According to The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 6th Edition, an arm’s length sale is defined as, “A transaction between unrelated parties who are each acting in his or her own best interest.” Remember that market value is based on the buyers and sellers being typically motivated, well informed, and acting in their best interest. For this type of transaction, the property is exposed on the market for a reasonable length of time and payment is in cash or its equivalent, and the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions. Evidently, this type of sale is the least risky to the lender and is most likely to be closest to market value.

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