May 9, 2011

Mike Klijanowicz: Under-appraisals



Today's guest poster: Mike Klijanowicz, a real estate agent with Long & Foster in Perry Hall who has been the top individual producer in his office in listings and sales since 2008. He brings thoughts from the field on an issue that can slam the brakes on a transaction.

He works mainly in and around Baltimore, Baltimore County and Harford County, with clients ranging from first-time buyers to investors.

Take it away, Mike:




A few short years ago most people never thought that their homes would ever "under appraise." Back then home prices were only going one way -- up. However, in today's tumultuous real estate world, under appraisals are becoming more and more common. With all of the foreclosures and short sales that have flooded the local real estate market and the many more thousands that will be released eventually, it continues to have a dramatic impact on non-distressed "normal" residential property values.

With the current HVCC (Home Valuation Code of Conduct) rules and regulations regarding appraisals and home value calculations, appraisers continue to be under an intense pressure to not "over inflate" the properties' value. Those HVCC rules and regulations that went into effect two years ago are still causing serious ripple effects in today’s marketplace.

In reality what we see happening now is very few/none of the appraisers seem to want to set the new high sale comp in a neighborhood. The buyer and the seller may have mutually agreed on a price that was $20,000 higher than what the appraiser determined the value to be. However, if the only comparable sales were from "distressed" properties (short sales, foreclosures, etc.), they brought the overall value in lower.

If this trend continues, how will property values ever increase if appraisers continue to be pressured to not set the new high sale comp in a neighborhood, even when it is the best home in the neighborhood? And whatever happened to rule that the fair market price is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay?

Continue reading "Mike Klijanowicz: Under-appraisals" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Appraisals, Guest post

August 13, 2010

The amazing bouncing home value

Most buyers probably get just one appraisal on the home they're purchasing, but Wonk reader Christina had three -- and boy, were they all over the place.

One pegged the value of her city-owned home at $115,000. The next said $60,000. The final one -- two weeks later -- was for $92,000.

That's a $55,000 swing.

It's not always easy to determine a home's value, and it's especially tricky in an uncertain environment like this one, so the answer to "why?" might be as simple as that. Real estate agents have also complained that the Home Valuation Code of Conduct -- intended to avoid conflicts of interest that led to inflated valuations in the boom days -- meant inexperienced appraisers willing to work for less money were the only ones getting any business. (The code is about to sunset now.)

Whatever the reason, you can't blame a buyer for wanting to have a solid idea of what the home they're buying is -- you know -- actually worth.

Continue reading "The amazing bouncing home value" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Appraisals

June 29, 2009

Home appraisal "code of conduct" under fire

Inflated home appraisals were one ingredient in the toxic stew that overflowed onto our economic stove, if you'll permit me a Dave Barry-like analogy. Enter the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to change the process using the heft of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The code, which went into effect last month, prohibits "lenders and third parties from influencing or attempting to influence the development, result, or review of an appraisal report," at least if they want to sell to mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie. The idea is that appraisals will more likely reflect true value if lenders, brokers, agents, etc., aren't suggesting to Joe Appraiser that $504,999 is an excellent number for anyone who intends to do any business with them again.

But many industry folks -- including appraisers -- aren't happy about the rules. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

The code bars loan officers, mortgage brokers or real-estate agents from any role in selecting appraisers. This has encouraged lenders to outsource the selection to appraisal-management companies, or AMCs, which take a sizable cut of the appraisal fee. As a result, appraisers are under pressure to "do it faster, do it cheaper," said Bill Garber, a spokesman for the Appraisal Institute, a trade group.


The National Association of Realtors' Lawrence Yun says "stories of appraisal problems have been snowballing from across the country with many contracts falling through at the last moment." The National Association of Mortgage Brokers proclaims, "Tens of thousands of consumers have already been robbed of their opportunity to enjoy historically low rates by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s rule." The appraisal management companies, critics say, don't seem to care if the appraisers they pick know anything about the neighborhoods in question.

News that U.S. Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Gary Miller (R-Calif.) are co-sponsoring a bill to put the Home Valuation Code of Conduct on an 18-month moratorium was met with some loud cheers Friday. (You can follow some of the chatter here, at Mortgage News Daily.)

But though it doesn't think the code is "ideal," the Appraisal Institute is not amused by all the talk of faulty appraisals. It issued a press release after the NAR blamed appraisers for lower-than-expected May sales numbers:

Bill Garber, Appraisal Institute Director of Government and External Relations, said: "We take offense with the notion that the appraisal is only good if it happens to come in at the sales price. That mentality helped cause the mortgage meltdown to begin with. The fact that the appraisal does not match the sales price is not the fault of the appraisal but a fault of the market today.”

Have you had personal experience with the appraisal process since May 1 as a buyer, homeowner or industry pro? Let me know what you think of it, and of the bill to put the code on ice.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:55 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Appraisals

April 16, 2009

Appraising the appraisers' role in the housing bust

Lenders, mortgage brokers, Wall Street wizards, buyers, sellers, real estate agents and the federal government have all come in for a share of the finger-pointing after home values began rapidly falling. The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism group, suggests adding the appraisal process to that list.

Dozens of appraisers tell the center "that for years lenders across the United States have pushed them into inflating the value of homes to justify higher mortgages. ... In addition, the Center has obtained copies of lenders’ 'blacklists' containing the names of thousands of appraisers; some appraisers say lenders used those lists to exclude those who refused to inflate home values."

The Center also found many appraisers who say they bowed to lender pressure to “hit the numbers” in order to remain in business. These appraisers, along with the lenders who pressured them, helped pump air into the housing bubble that led to widespread economic devastation, according to dozens of appraisers, lenders, and others with intimate knowledge of home loan practices.

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which takes effect next month, is supposed to deal with such problems by, for instance, banning "loan origination staff from ordering appraisals directly" for mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can purchase. But appraisers tell the center that this will do nothing but direct business to them through middlemen who can pressure them just as effectively as the lenders did.

So what's the solution? Weigh in.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:31 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Appraisals
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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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