Realtors: Appraisal rule hurts sales. Dallas Business Journal – by Katherine Cromer Brock

We are all working through the home appraisal process right now… That’s why it’s so important that when we are first pricing a home for sale, we need to make sure we have current solds in your neighborhood to justify our price. Also, as you continue to be on the market, we need to follow the most recent sold prices to make sure your home’s asking price is still in line.

This is a great article from Dallas Business Journal that goes into more detail. Thanks to Joan E. for passing the article my way. – Becky

Critics say code to boost independence and accuracy isn’t working as designed Friday, July 10, 2009

Dallas-area real estate agents are struggling to maintain sales in a down housing economy and say that new federal regulations on appraisals that went into effect May 1 are impeding a faster recovery.

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct is an agreement among Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the New York state attorney general. It limits the ability of lenders and agents to directly hire appraisers, shoving that transaction into the arms of third-party appraisal management companies.

The goal is to limit communication that may take place among lenders, agents and appraisers about the value of a home up for sale.

The intent of the new code, according to Freddie Mac, is to enhance the independence and accuracy of the appraisal process.

But the realistic outcome, according to Dallas-area real estate agents and appraisers, is a system that is bogged down in bureaucracy and leads to inaccurate, often undervalued appraisals.

“We’re living in a gray area,” said Brad Edgar, president of Addison-based Edgar Appraisal Services. Edgar said the new code applies only to homes with loans of less than $417,000. Freddie Mac will no longer purchase mortgages from sellers that do not adopt the code.

“The person taking the loan application cannot pick the appraiser, they cannot discuss the value, they cannot discuss the fee, they cannot discuss how the appraiser was selected, with anybody,” Edgar said.

While’s that’s a new regulation, some of the largest lenders, like Bank of America or Wells Fargo, already go to a third-party selection process or rotate among a pool of appraisers. But this often leads to the random selection of an appraiser who is unfamiliar with the neighborhood.

“The appraiser should turn down the assignment if they have no knowledge of the area,” Edgar said. “You need people who know the neighborhoods.”

Some appraisers like the code because it has increased their business. Others like Edgar who have expertise in local real estate markets and longstanding relationships with local agents and lenders don’t like the code.

Instead, anecdotes have surfaced of an increase of “drive-by” appraisals, based on paperwork and comparisons to old values of neighboring sales, Edgar said. That’s because people who don’t know the area are getting the appraisal job through third-party assessor management companies.

“You’re going to see a lot of properties not appraise out,” meaning that the appraisal will indicate a home value much lower than the asking price, said Steve Obenshain, a real estate agent with RE/MAX. “With all the foreclosures, lenders are really requiring that these deals be scrutinized. Appraisers are running scared. They don’t want to appraise something too high and then the people are foreclosed on and it comes back to the appraiser.”

Realtors are seeing transactions falling apart because the parties in a sale simply get frustrated with the appraisal process and walk away, said Charles McMillan, an Irving real estate agent and president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Realtors.

“It’s chaotic,” McMillan said. “Most lenders have chosen not to try to evaluate whether or not they’ve done it properly. They have gone to appraisal management companies. But there’s not regulation of the appraisal management companies.” Appraisal management companies are third-party providers of appraisals. Lenders put in a request for an appraisal to the management company and appraisers are randomly assigned.

McMillan said he saw complaints from the association’s 1.2 million members jump from about 2,000 one week to 18,000 the week after the new code of conduct was released.

“There’s excitement back in the marketplace,” he said. “We have a tremendous amount of quality inventory, appropriately priced. We don’t need a foreign issue injected at this point impeding our recovery.”

Disagreement on what to do

Reps. Travis Childers, D-Miss., and Gary Miller, R-Calif., have filed bills in Congress proposing an 18-month moratorium on the new code.

John Courson, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Mortgage Bankers Association, said tweaks that need to be made in the regulations should be done while the rule is still in effect.

“We agree with the intent,” Courson said. “We do support the idea of having some type of firewall between the originator of the loan and the appraisal process. Like any new rule that comes out, it has its pimples and warts.”

Geri Cook-Lenahan, with Ebby Halliday Realtors, said the new code of conduct has opened the door to lenders being more finicky — and exclusive — about the loans they make.

“It’s the old golden rule,” she said. “Those with the gold are now making the rules. A seller shouldn’t get beat up because the bank down the street has foreclosed on properties that they never should have made the loans on in the first place. They need to stop penalizing sellers for a market that the lenders created.”

kcromerbrock@bizjournals.com | 214-706-7112

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