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Real estate appraisal rules have changed in major ways.  The changes are a response to the financial crisis.  It’s an effort to avoid issues in the future that created havoc.

When the Home Valuation Code of Conduct went into effect by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on May 1st, appraisal protocols for mortgage loans changed. To protect consumers, loan officers, mortgage brokers and real estate agents can no longer choose appraisers.

Why is this so important? Because the mortgage bank and the home buyer rely on an appraiser’s determination of value; a lot of abuse and fraud has been uncovered. If, for example, an appraiser sets a home value to fit the sales price, that’s obviously wrong.

I just had a short sale listing close; the bank took nearly a 50% loss on a $1.8 million loan. The homeowner had been building a new home for himself. When he gave me his loan amount, I was stunned. There was no way to justify that mortgage loan and yet it happened.

To comply, banks no longer have their own appraisers; they use real estate appraisal services with pools of appraisers from which appraisers are randomly selected. This creates an added expense for the mortgage process and increasingly results in appraisers valuing homes who’ve never been to the area before and aren’t members of the local MLS. Recently my office experienced this.

An office listing had an appraisal that was ridiculously low. Both buyer and seller knew this but the bank, which had to use the appraisal, could no longer justify the mortgage. The appraiser had never been to the area before and used the wrong MLS. Bergen County homes are listed in the New Jersey MLS; the appraiser used the Garden State MLS which has only a few Bergen County listings. Without expert knowledge of the local inventory and no access to all the data, he wasn’t able to do a correct valuation.

Eventually things will straighten out but until it does, there will be higher costs to obtaining a mortgage for home buyers and for both buyers and sellers, there will be appraisals that unfairly cancel mortgages.  We did need a change in appraisal rules but I feel it could have been better done.

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