Are appraisals hindering a housing recovery

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As the housing market receded, low appraisals seemed to be the rule; lower priced comparables were often to blame. As home sellers and their real estate agents become accustomed to the new market, some within the real estate industry continue to complain that low appraisals are still an issue that interferes with the housing market recovery. Many blame low appraisals for keeping home values down as well as killing pending deals.

A recent article by syndicated columnist Ken Harney (House sales hampered by appraisers who fail to recognize appreciation) brought attention to a growing issue that many claim is impeding a housing market recovery. It is clear that appraisers exercise caution and seek the conservative value, which is to avoid liability for the lender having to buy back a loan that does not comply with guidelines. However, another issue that Harney pointed out was the reliance on appraisal management companies.

If you remember, in response to claims of inflated appraisal values due to lender coercion and “undue influence,” the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) was implemented for mortgages bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (then later by FHA). The intention of implementing these new standards of practice was to establish increased accountability and independence in the appraisal industry. One issue that was addressed was to limit communications between the lender and appraiser. As a result, many lenders resorted to using Appraisal Management Companies (AMC) to order and review appraisals.

In rush to meet the new HVCC compliance measures, lenders initially believed they needed to use the AMC to manage appraisals. However, that was not a direct requirement and some lenders have since moved away from using AMCs; subsequently implementing in-house appraisal management systems. Some lenders, however, still rely on the AMC appraisal “middle man” to assign and review appraisals.

Much of the criticism of the AMC is that they are sometimes located quite a distance away from the subject property. Appraisal reviewers who do not have the local experience and data to understand distant markets may make valuation mistakes.

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Just as quick as the lending industry moved to comply with HVCC, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction – there are some reports of appraisers being coerced to “revise” appraisal values down. If the value is not considered within the lender’s “guidelines,” the appraiser may be requested to revise the valuation prior to submitting to the lender.

Testimony provided to the House Committee on Financial Services hearings on “Appraisal Oversight: The Regulatory Impact on Consumers and Businesses” (June 28th), Francois (Frank) Gregoir, for The National Association of Realtors®, stated: “There are a myriad of circumstances and issues working to hinder the recovery of the nation’s housing market. Among them… are those related to the credible valuation of real property…However, in today’s world there are many road blocks in the way of valuing property and, as a result, allowing for a healthy recovery of the broader real estate industry. Because there are many roadblocks there is no one, “silver bullet” solution.

Regardless of where blame lay for low appraisals, the outcome and effect on the housing market is clear: some pending sales are falling out; some home buyers are paying additional funds to cover differences between a low appraisal and contract price; and some sellers are pulling homes off the market.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

by Dan Krell
Copyright © 2012

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