Keeping Current Matters

National Association of Realtors

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Washington Report: Appraisals to Change

Home mortgage and appraisal groups in Washington are in countdown mode: On May 1 the national rules for real estate appraisals will change dramatically -- at least for lenders who want to sell their loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Lenders will have to adopt what's known as the "HVCC" - the home valuation code of conduct - and guarantee that every loan they sell to Fannie or Freddie complies with the code completely.
So what's the big deal in that?

Well, among other changes, the new code will ban mortgage brokers from ordering appraisals, and will push much of the business to third-party appraisal management companies.

Those management firms, in turn, select appraisers from their own networks, leaving many of the appraisers who now do valuations for home purchases and refinancings out of the loop.

Management companies generally only deal with appraisers who'll work for much lower fees than they'd normally charge. Instead of earning $325 or $350, an appraiser working for a management company might only get $175. The management company pockets the rest.

In some cases, the new code might even raise the cost of appraisals to the consumer -- and change the timing of when consumers pay for them.

For example, Jeff Lipes, president of Family Choice Mortgage in Hartford, Connecticut, says one of his major wholesale lender clients has instructed him that because of the May 1 changeover, all "good faith estimates" provided to loan applicants must indicate a flat $455 fee for appraisals through its designated appraisal management company.

Also, borrowers will need to pay for them up front, before the work is performed, by credit card, debit card or electronic fund transfer. Lipes, a veteran mortgage broker, said up until now the standard fee was $325, and could be paid for by the consumer at closing.

Since Lipes will not be able to select from his long-established group of local appraisers as of May 1, if the management company's appraiser is unfamiliar with local market conditions and comes in with a value too low to support the home purchase or refi program the consumer needs, a new appraisal will need to be ordered -- and a second fee charged.

Mortgage groups are not enthusiastic about the May 1 changeover either, and the Appraisal Institute has been scathingly critical of the mandatory push to low-pay management companies.

But there's still one way to avoid the hassles associated with the May 1 changes: Switch to FHA financing, rather than conventional. FHA has its own long-standing appraisal rules, and doesn't plan to adopt Fannie's or Freddie's code.

By Kenneth R. Harney

Copyright © 2009 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

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