Market Update

Get rid of appraisers while nobody’s looking


Did you hear the news? There’s a proposal from the FDIC, Federal Reserve, and others to not require appraisals for some mortgages under $400,000. This is a big deal and I have some thoughts. Actually, Ken Harney in the Chicago Tribune penned a fantastic piece about this today (I was quoted too).

Dude, this will save us money: The idea is to do away with traditional appraisals so consumers can save money and the loan process can speed up. Here’s the thing though. Regarding cost, the appraisal is one of the least expensive elements in a transaction. Of course to be fair the Borrower might pay a much higher fee for the appraisal because of what Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) charge the consumer. Regarding turn-times, if an appraisal was ordered right away that would speed things up. It also doesn’t help if an AMC offers an absurdly low fee and shops around for an appraiser willing to work for that amount.

A 60% change in a slowing market: It’s troubling to hear a proposal to increase the appraisal threshold from $250,000 to $400,000. This 60% change hurts appraisers, but let’s be real about who it is helping. This is a ploy for banks and big corporations to make money by controlling the valuation process. This rule of course doesn’t necessarily mean appraisals won’t be required in all situations, but the danger is it paves the way. More than anything though this looks like a move in the agenda to usher in an era of “evaluations” (see below).

Systems of checks and balances: Consumers are certainly not being protected here. Why are we diminishing the role of the appraiser, one of the systems of checks and balances for our financial markets? What could possibly go wrong? This seems like very convenient timing for banks too because it helps position them to operate with looser standards as the market is softening.

The people behind the rules: We have nearly 95,000 appraiser credentials across the country, so changing the rules can put lots of people out of business.

Evaluations instead of appraisals: There’s been a big push to introduce “evaluations” in lieu of appraisals. As Ken Harney writes, “Instead of a formal appraisal, these homes would receive an “evaluation” by individuals who have no appraisal licenses or certification and would not be subject to current state regulatory oversight requirements that govern appraisers. The evaluators could be an “independent bank employee” or unnamed “third part(ies).” They would, however, have to be “competent” and possess “knowledge of the market, location and type of real property being valued.”” I’m guessing these “evaluators” will be real estate agents who do BPOs, employees at banks and data firms, and probably some appraisers who need the work at $75-$100 a pop.

Hybrid appraisals: Speaking of changing the appraisal process, it’s worth mentioning there is a hybrid evaluation product where someone else does the inspection part while the appraiser does the value part. I’m not certain if all evaluations would work this way, but here’s the gist. An individual would measure the property, take photos, make notes, and then send everything to the appraiser to do the value part. I really don’t like this idea because it treats value like it’s only crunching numbers at a desk instead of seeing the fuller picture of a property. I want to see the home, walk the parcel, smell the property, observe the street, understand the layout, etc…. instead of relying on someone else’s photos and notes – especially if that person is inexperienced.

But less appraisers is good news: I realize some might be excited to have less appraisers. I get it. But here’s some honest questions. If you work in real estate or you’re purchasing or refinancing a home, what’s going to happen when less experience is infused into the valuation space? Do you think that’s going to help protect consumers? If you’re frustrated now, what are you going to be feeling in the future? Does it bother you the banks are changing the rules to their benefit?

 Courtesy of

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