Sunday, April 19, 2009

Appraisal Changes: Home Valuation Code of Conduct

by Bill McBride on 4/19/2009 09:52:00 AM

Starting on May 1st, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not purchase mortgages from Sellers that do not adopt the The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). The intention of the code is to insure the independence of the appraiser.

From Kenneth Harney at the LA Times: Mortgage industry changes throw new hurdles in borrowers' way

[B]eginning May 1, Fannie and Freddie are refusing to fund loans with appraisals that do not follow a set of new rules known as the Home Valuation Code of Conduct. Among the procedural changes: Mortgage brokers no longer can order appraisals directly, but instead must allow lenders or investors to use third-party "appraisal management companies" to assign the job to appraisers in their networks.
...
Starting April 15, all good faith estimates provided to applicants must indicate a flat $455 charge for appraisals arranged through the appraisal management company. The broker previously charged $325. Consumers will now have to pay the appraisal fee upfront -- before any inspection or valuation is completed -- using a credit card, debit card or electronic fund transfer.

What happens if the appraisal comes in low and the applicants can't qualify for the refi or purchase program they sought? Tough luck: They'll have just two choices: Pay another $455 for a second appraisal -- with no assurance that it will solve the problem -- or cancel the application.
The Center for Public Integrity has a good dicussion of the appraisal process and the HVCC: The Appraisal Bubble
Richard Frank, an appraiser in Vero Beach, Florida, started appraising homes in 1998, when values were climbing. From the beginning, Frank said he stepped into a business arrangement in which lenders forced appraisers to abandon their standards if they wanted work.

Frank said lenders commonly gave appraisers an estimated value for a home on each appraisal order. Appraisers, who usually determine values by comparing homes to recent sales of comparable properties, often worked backwards from that estimated price to find recent real estate sales that would “make the value,” he said. Working backwards from the estimate was faster. Everyone made money. And since appraising homes is subjective — both an art and a science — it was easy to fudge numbers.

“The [supposedly comparable] houses might be bigger and better, but who’s going to know?” Franks said. “In an increasing market, your sins are buried.”

If an appraisal came in lower than the purchase price, the loan likely would be denied. Since loan origination staff is typically paid by commission, a failed deal meant no paycheck for them. If that happened too many times, Frank says, lenders stopped sending the appraiser work. “Put out, and you will get more dates. It’s just that simple,” he said.
For more, here is some info from Freddie Mac:
The Home Valuation Code of Conduct fact sheet [PDF 88K]
The Home Valuation Code of Conduct [PDF 25K]
Frequently Asked Questions