Patricia Franklin has been unhappy ever since the day she walked through the front door of her Haverford condo.

"My friends in Texas and Arizona are getting tired of hearing me tell this story," said Franklin, an only child who moved to the area from Tucson to be close to her 80-year-old mother, who had grown up here and moved back from Dallas after Franklin's father died.

Buyer's remorse is not unusual, even in a down market. Franklin, an accountant, acknowledged that she saw the condo and the building only online, and that she did not see the neighborhood before she bought the unit for $250,000, with $50,000 down.

"I was tied up with building a house in Tucson for an exchange student from Holland I'd been hosting, so my mother handled things," Franklin said. (Her mother does not live with her in the condo.)

Franklin's major complaint is with the unit's appraisal, commissioned by her lender, Trident Mortgage Group, an ancillary business of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors of Devon. She contends that the property she bought and the appraiser's description did not match.

"Not even the age was correct," Franklin said. "The appraisal said the building was 15 years old, but it was built in 1972. The comparisons used comparable sales early in 2007, even though I closed on the property at the end of 2007," as the housing boom was ending.

Almost from the day she moved in, Franklin said, she raised issues about the property with Trident, demanding to see a copy of the appraisal, which she finally received May 4.

When asked about Franklin's complaint, Trident responded in an e-mail statement: "The transaction was initiated two years ago and closed within three weeks. Trident Mortgage is satisfied that all matters were handled in an appropriate and professional manner."

In turn, Franklin argued that the appraisal used comparable sales in parts of Lower Merion Township that are not near a commuter rail line or college-student housing. Nor, she said, did the appraisal mention the "water-damaged windowsills."

She said she was talked into using Trident by the real estate agent, whom she declined to identify, after she was approved for a mortgage by Countrywide. "Both mortgages had rates of 6.375 percent, so I saw no problem."

Renovating the unit will cost $60,000, Franklin said. "The walls hadn't been painted since 1972, the carpet is old, and the flooring is warped. The kitchen has the original harvest-gold appliances, and when the dishwasher died, it couldn't be replaced because the wiring was out of date."

The wallpaper appears to have been glued to the drywall, she said: When you try to remove the paper, the wall underneath comes with it.

Franklin had a home inspection done, and the copy she provided shows many of the flaws with the condo that she cited. But it's the appraisal that galls her.

"I personally think that these problems are what has created the mortgage crisis," she said. "If appraisals had been done honestly, then the inflated home prices could not have been justified."

"On the House" appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact real estate writer Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com.
Inquirer real estate writer Alan J. Heavens is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing). His home-improvement columns appear Fridays in Home & Design.