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.