Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fraud in Real Estate - "Hide the Concessions"

This is a personal editorial based on my experience as an appraiser.

Here's an example of an illegal practice that still goes on after everything that has happened in the housing market.

This condo is listed for $579,000 in Millbrae, CA. There's a nice little video that tells you that if you (the borrower) sign a contract before November 30, 2011, you can get a $15,000 kickback from the "New Homebuyer Assistance Progam," a brand new Mercedes Benz C300 (approximate value: $38,000) and a 1 carat diamond (approximate value: $7,000)! Flowers are on the table, and soft music is playing. Come on down!

The expectation by everyone involved is that the appraiser will ignore the concessions and submit a signed report to the lender valuing the property approximately $60,000 higher than it is actually worth.

Unfortunately, borrowers are often dazzled by this type of offer, not realizing that they can be charged by their state Attorney General as a party to fraud (it is illegal to value non-real estate items as real estate in mortgage transactions), and that they are immediately under water (in this example by over 10%) in value. In the current declining market, it could take most of a decade to recover that loss, as the condo will only honestly appraise for approximately $515,000 to $520,000.

Put another way, if they have to bribe you with sixty grand to buy it, it is not worth the list price.

Of course, realtors, builders and loan officers will scream long and loud, accusing a resistant appraiser of "killing the deal," or "undervaluing" the property, or being "too conservative." Appraisers who refuse to go along risk being blacklisted. Sometimes this takes the passive aggressive form of simply not getting any more work from that client. Other appraisers have experienced blistering, hateful diatribes from abusive clients demanding capitulation. Some appraisers have even been threatened with physical harm to themselves or their families.

A great deal of press has been devoted to blaming appraisers for failed real estate deals, and comparitively speaking, almost nothing has been said about the role that realtors and lenders have played in coercing appraisers and perpetuating illegal practices.

GAO on Residential Appraisals

I scanned, but did not read this 60-page report. It appears to be a presentation of data gathered by the GAO, with no meaningful recommendations for actions, beyond telling various governmental agencies that they need to talk to each other about this topic.

Yes, this is old-ish news, as the report was published last July. I just stumbled across it and thought it might be useful to have posted here.


“Other lenders and industry groups are having fee studies done in order to comply. Because these studies cannot include the fees AMCs pay to appraisers, some industry participants, including some AMC officials, expect them to demonstrate that appraiser fees should be higher than what AMCs are currently paying.

If that is the case, these lenders would require AMCs to increase the fees they pay to appraisers to a rate consistent with the findings of those studies. The expected result would be an increase in appraisal costs for consumers, as well as potential improvements in appraisal quality.

However, some lenders are evaluating the possibility of no longer using AMCs and managing their own panels of appraisers, which would eliminate the AMC administration fee from the appraisal fee that consumers pay.

Some regulatory officials and lenders told us that lenders can still recover the cost of managing the appraisal process from the consumer in other ways—for example, through higher application fees, origination fees, or interest rates.”

Residential Appraisals: Opportunities to Enhance Oversight of an Evolving Industry


Full Report (pdf)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'Middleman' appraisers spur concerns

In the wake of AppraiserLoft stiffing appraisers for tens of thousands of dollars, and CoreLogic announcing they are bailing out of AMC ownership, it is good to see AMCs described a little more accurately and thereby getting some of the scrutiny they have long deserved.

Nothing new to appraisers in this article, but consumers should have a more accurate accounting of what they are actually paying for, and more publicity is one way for that to happen:

'Middleman' appraisers spur concerns


Once borrowers pay the appraisal fee, the lender sends the order to the middleman company that’s tasked to find an appraiser. What happens afterward could reveal a lot about the quality of the valuation, insiders say. Some companies release single proposals to individuals. But some also follow this format: A blast is sent out by email and text message to contact pools as large as 50, “depending on their database,” said Lowe, the appraiser from Carlsbad.

“...The appraiser would start the work, then it would be canceled because they found someone cheaper,” said Vidi, of the appraisers guild. “So the consumer is really not aware of the shenanigans involved.”

...More experienced appraisers are leaving the industry as appraisal fees trend lower. ...The departure of experienced appraisers from the field has made way for novices who are willing to travel longer distances to fulfill orders and likely cram more into their schedules to make up for lower rates, several appraisers have told the Union-Tribune.

Monday, November 14, 2011

American Guild of Appraisers Fights Federal Regulations

American Guild of Appraisers Fights to Overturn Federal Regulations that Dramatically Cut Fees and Threaten Profession


The American Guild of Appraisers (AGA), a national organization of real estate appraisers that is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO's Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), announced today it has retained a law firm as part of a broad-reaching effort to overturn recent federal regulations that dramatically cut the fees that appraisers are paid to perform appraisals, and threaten the viability of professional appraisal practice and the reliability of appraisals used in real estate transactions.

The full article is


The American Guild of Appraisers/OPEIU Guild 44 seeks to represent the interests of appraisers, developing a strong presence before the U.S. Congress and each of the state legislatures. By working closely and exchanging dialog with other like-minded organizations, the AGA works to educate consumers about the appraisers' non bias, independent role in the value process, while ensuring the accountability of both the appraisal profession and the financial institutions with which the appraiser provides services.

Additional viewpoint from Appraiser Scoop

Friday, November 11, 2011

Important ACOW News for all Appraisers

Dear Washington State Appraisers:

As ACOW nears the end of the 2011 calendar year, I want to make sure that we appraisers do not forget that there is a special session starting up in the next few weeks and that we need to be cognizant of what can happen to WA State appraisers when politics are involved!

ACOW had to fight really hard this year for the continuance of REAC, getting the new AMC Law rules in place, as well as not increasing our license fees in successive years.

Achievements that ACOW accomplished this year have included:

• In January, I had the opportunity to offer comments at a House Committee hearing about the elimination of the Real Estate Appraiser Commission (REAC), this was the third year our commission was slated for elimination by the Governor’s office and the third year that ACOW has lobbied against the legislation. We quickly got the REAC removed from the bill, but along the way, it got renamed to the Real Estate Appraiser Advisory Committee (REAAC); something that ACOW fought for 16 years ago in changing the original advisory committee to a commission we have today. Along with this name change, the appointment process would be moving to the Director of Licensing rather than from the Governor. ACOW kept at it and with our lobbyist’s efforts, finally got a sponsor to keep the commission as is, but with the Director’s appointment, in the Special Session. I am happy to report that the Commission has been kept as is, with only the appointments coming from DOL. A new appointee recently has been accepted and will begin a term beginning in December 2011 meaning that there will now be six commissioners with the seventh appointment hopefully coming in December 2012.

• Additionally, in the midst of this year’s budget process, a 484-page document this session, our lobbyist recognized one line that was left over from the prior budget: the ability to raise appraiser license fees! From prior discussions with the Appraiser Program Director at DOL, this was something that caught us off guard. Calling the DOL frantically to find out whom asked and why this was to be included in the budget, their response was “we didn’t ask for any increase!” A day later, I received a callback indicating that this was merely a mistake, left over from the prior budget language in 2009 and that the budget writer was new(er) and it was only an oversight—though a potentially costly one to appraisers, especially given that are license fees increased 30% last year. Hearing that, ACOW took a two-pronged approach: One was to talk to the policy-makers and explain the problem; the other, have our members call our respective legislators and ask them to remove this from the bill. After a week of calls and conversations from and with several appraisers across the state, I am also happy to report that this language was recognized as a mistake and it too, was removed from the bill!

• Another item that has been in recent news is the rule making process for implementing our state’s new AMC law. As you may recall, in March 2010, Washington State became the ninth or tenth state in the country to pass an AMC law; this was several months prior to the Dodd-Frank Act and shows how successful our organization has been for appraisers. In late 2010, the REAC created a rule-making work group to help DOL write the rules for the AMC law; three ACOW board members were on the work group and the draft has been sent to DOL to work through the language. We only found out yesterday afternoon that the AMC Law rule making hearing is today, November 8th, in Olympia. Rest assured that ACOW will be down there at 10:00 am to make sure appraisers’ voices are represented.

ACOW still has an outstanding balance of $4,375 owed to TK Bentler, our lobbyist, due to the limited number of Washington state appraiser ACOW members. I am hopeful that we can raise enough over the next two weeks to retire our 2011 lobbying debts and assure that we can retain the services of our lobbyist in 2012…this is where you come in!

The Olympic Peninsula Chapter of NAIFA, with approximately 20 members, recently sent out a challenge: they mailed ACOW a $2,000 check to help with our lobbying expense; on a per capita basis, this amounted to roughly $100 per chapter member. They are hoping that other chapters or individuals will rise up and contribute an additional $100 for the 2011 campaign!

What ACOW is asking is that appraisers will make a $100 contribution with $55 going towards retiring the 2011 debt and the other $45 going towards your 2012 membership.

At "The Summit" in August, TK mentioned that the AMC’s now have a full-time lobbyist in Olympia looking out for their interests. With January 2012 shortly upon us and the beginning of Washington’s AMC registrations taking effect, we will want to pay special attention to what transpires. With situations like the recent Appraisal Loft debacle, we want to make sure the bond requirement that the AMC Law calls for remains intact and possibly look to strengthen the language to make sure that if any AMC that is licensed in Washington State does something similar to what Appraisal Loft did, that appraisers will have some recourse in collecting on their unpaid debts (For those that are not aware of what happened, Appraisal Loft recently shut its doors with a reported $3 million in outstanding appraisal fees due to appraisers that they have already collected from their clients).

Looking into 2012, ACOW is taking a different approach than what we have done in recent years. ACOW will become a more "all volunteer organization" and limit our administrative costs paid out to Seattle Operating Support. We already have had several board members and other appraisers indicate that they will commit to more of the administrative work to cut costs and we will be looking for more volunteers in the weeks and months to come.

So please, consider contributing now to ACOW to help retire our 2011 debt and continue your membership in our state's coalition for 2012. With your help ACOW will continue to have a strong voice in Olympia for all Washington State Appraisers!

To contribute to ACOW, use the payment link at or mail a check to:

6351 Seaview Ave. NW,
Seattle, WA 98107

Best Personal Regards,
Justin Slack, SRA
2011 President, ACOW Board of Directors

P.S. Annual ACOW elections are coming up so if you have an interest in serving on the board or want to volunteer in any capacity, please be sure to contact us.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Corelogic Sells AMC Business


"During the third quarter, CoreLogic sold five business units and reported them as discontinued, including its appraisal management business, several consumer credit units and its marketing services."


Press release from CoreLogic

Friday, November 4, 2011

Seller Concession in Listings

Excerpted from an email by Dave Towne:

"Appraisers have [a] legal obligation to report any known Comparable Property seller sales concessions on the Fannie/Freddie forms.

However, the attorney for the Washington Association of Realtors has advised Realtor members that they have ‘no obligation to disclose’ concession information if an appraiser calls an Agent for that information. They are treating that as confidential information between seller and buyer as a way to protect the ‘selling price’ of the property. The attorney has also stated that individual Brokerages can establish their own disclosure policy if they so choose.

If an appraiser suspects that there might be a sales concession (to a comparable property), makes a call to the Agent, but the Agent refuses to disclose, the appraiser can include a statement in the report about this, to include the Agent name, Brokerage name, and phone number. This can even be done when the sale info is verified with the listing or sales Agent, even though it appears that no concession was used.

This is the only way I know of for how to protect ourselves. If Agents refuse to cooperate, we have the right to disclose who we talked with to try to obtain information to meet our legal obligation."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Board of Directors Meeting – Preliminary Agenda

Thursday, November 3, 2011, 6:00 p.m. – Please Plan to Begin Promptly

Lamb Hanson Lamb Office – Seattle
4025 Delridge Way SW, Suite 530
Seattle, WA 98106 (206.903.1500)

For the Lamb Hanson Lamb Office, the building elevators close at 5:30pm; for the Lamb Hanson Lamb offices at 5:30pm.

If attending and plan to arrive after this time, please call ahead of time to arrange for access

(For directions, go to:

To attend the meeting via phone conference: -dial 1.218.339.4300 -when prompted dial access code: 872158#

Board of Directors Meeting – Preliminary Agenda
Call to Order

1. Establish Quorum: Justin Slack, President
2. Approval of Agenda: Justin Slack, President
3. Approval of Prior Meeting Minutes: Justin Slack, President

Officer Reports
1. President’s Report: Justin Slack, President
2. Treasurer’s Report: Joe Creech, Treasurer
a. Monthly and Current YTD Status

Committee Reports

Old Business:
1. Administrative Topics:
a. TK’s remaining 2011 fee
b. ACOW beyond 2011
i. George Nervick Research
ii. TK discussions

New Business:
1. 2012 ACOW Elections planning/ discussions (Board Members/ President)

1. Next ACOW Meeting Date:

Adjournment: Justin Slack, President

Board of Directors

Justin Slack, President
Mark Noble, Vice President
Joe Creech, Treasurer
Michael Imes, Secretary
Jodi Standaert, Director
Barry Wilson, Director
George Nervik, Director

ACOW Administration
Appraisers Coalition of Washington
6351 Seaview Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107-2664
p: 206.622.8425
f: 206.623.4474

More on ACOW here.