Our Market Conditions Philosophy
Is Spark the magical tool I've been waiting for that knows everything and fills out everything and gives me that much need break from actual thought?? (please say yes!!)
Unfortunately, I am often asked some less hyperbolic variation of the above question. I am a firm believer that real estate appraisers are not replaceable by software and that there is no magical tool that can do it all. So yes, if you use Spark you're still going to have to think and analyze and form opinions for yourself. Bummer, right?
On the flip side, we believe that Spark's Market Conditions charts, tables, and Trend Preview will allow you to analyze the data in a way that's meaningful to you (customizable), specific to the needs of the appraisal you're working on (look at data over multiple years using different period lengths and across multiple data sets), while still remaining incredibly fast and easy-to-use.
So how should I use it?
Spark's Market Conditions section is meant to be used as a tool that provides information to appraisers based on the data they upload. It does not draw conclusions or form opinions but simply presents the data in a meaningful way to make it easier for the appraiser to accurately determine trends and draw conclusions based on their own preferences for data analysis.
Spark does not check the Increasing/Stable/Declining boxes or the boxes in the Neighborhood section of the report because we consider that to be drawing a conclusion. Sometimes your conclusions may be based on the numbers at the top of the 1004MC, sometimes you may rely on alternative methods that Spark (or some other service) provides (e.g. median price/sqft), or you may rely on a completely different set of data or a combination of multiple sets of data.
According to Fannie Mae (see Fannie Mae FAQ from on 2/12/2016 - Q46), "the data may show a trend/direction or no trend at all." So, what do you do if there is not enough data to provide a meaningful analysis and arrive at trends? Should you fill out the 1004MC numbers by altering your competing property search to get more data and hopefully be able to arrive at actual trend information?
The short answer is no (see Fannie Mae FAQ from 2/12/2016 - Q41). Simply use the correct data set of competing properties from within the defined neighborhood and provide an explanation for what other analysis you used to arrive at the trends. Spark allows you to perform this "other analysis" and even loads in comments based on that data. Maybe you should use a more historical analysis and go back 5 years rather than one....perhaps you should analyze by month instead of by quarter....maybe you should also analyze your broader neighborhood area (e.g. all SFRs in the area)....or another very similar submarket outside of your defined neighborhood.
Long story short, you know your market. Spark is a fast and easy-to-use tool that allows you to get the results you need in order to form accurate & supportable opinions about your market conditions.