Well, here we go again.
In my previous blog posts titled “Round and Round” and “Pressure My Story”, I spoke to examples of how lenders and/or AMCs have been pushing and pressuring appraisers to hit certain values on transactions. If an appraiser did not hit these numbers, or make changes to make the transaction work in the lender’s favor, the appraiser would be threatened with non-payment, removal from appraiser panels, and/or blacklisted. If you haven’t read those blog posts, feel free to go back and have a look. This post, however, is about another issue that has recently come to light.
Let me set this up for you. A consumer is looking to refinance their home. They get everything set up on their end and ready to apply for the loan. But as the process with the lender gets going, they get a letter like this one below from the loan officer or banker:
I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, this violates Dodd Frank, Appraiser Independence. It clearly shows that issues of the past are still being presented today, just in a different way. It’s not necessarily the lenders that are directly trying to influence values (although many still act as described in previous blog posts), but they are instructing the homeowners to exert influence, and as this person said, “PUSH” the appraiser for a certain value because the lender is prohibited from doing so. The very person the consumer is trusting to do what’s right on their loan, is now instructing the prospective borrower to “SELL YOUR HOME to the appraiser” to achieve the magic number that will close the loan. Forget ethics, forget trying to do what’s right, and forget the risky position foisted on the consumer by the loan officer. Have we as members of the national economy not learned anything from ten years ago?
Since the crash, laws have been put into place to protect Appraiser Independence and YOU as the consumer. The Dodd Frank law specifically spells out what must not happen among lenders, AMCs and appraisers.
The following is directly from Dodd Frank:
Dodd-Frank and discussions between appraisers and agents
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) prohibits “any act or practice that violates appraisal independence…” It also states:
It shall be unlawful, in extending credit or in providing any services for a consumer credit transaction secured by the principal dwelling of the consumer, to engage in any act or practice that violates appraisal independence as described in or pursuant to regulations prescribed under this section.
For purposes of subsection (a), acts or practices that violate appraisal independence shall include—
‘‘(1) any appraisal of a property offered as security for repayment of the consumer credit transaction that is conducted in connection with such transaction in which a person with an interest in the underlying transaction compensates, coerces, extorts, colludes, instructs, induces, bribes, or intimidates a person, appraisal management company, firm, or other entity conducting or involved in an appraisal, or attempts, to compensate, coerce, extort, collude, instruct, induce, bribe, or intimidate such a person, for the purpose of causing the appraised value assigned, under the appraisal, to the property to be based on any factor other than the independent judgment of the appraiser;
‘‘(2) mischaracterizing, or suborning any mischaracterization of, the appraised value of the property securing the extension of the credit;
‘‘(3) seeking to influence an appraiser or otherwise to encourage a targeted value in order to facilitate the making or pricing of the transaction; and
‘‘(4) withholding or threatening to withhold timely payment for an appraisal report or for appraisal services rendered when the appraisal report or services are provided for in accordance with the contract between the parties
Now that you have read the above excerpt from Dodd Frank, notice that in #1 the word INSTRUCT shows up twice. The example provided here appears to be a clear violation, by the loan officer, of the law as it’s written.
Now read #3 again. Yet another clear violation of the law as it’s written. This is a perfect example of the collusion that still goes on today, besides other indirect ways that lenders influence value and violate appraiser independence.
Consumers already face many challenges when obtaining a loan. They shouldn’t have to face another with loan officers’ unethical and illegal practices. Influencing a value just to make a loan is not protecting you the consumer. The consumer shouldn’t be directed to influence the appraiser in order to get a professional opinion of the value of their home. The loan officer shouldn’t have to instruct the consumer to influence the value because he “can’t talk to the appraiser.” If the value is there to make the loan, then great. If it is not, the lender should move on to the next loan and the consumer should move on to their own next step.
This is why appraisers exist: to provide an unbiased and honest opinion of value of a property. Where are the ethics and laws to protect the consumer from these types of lenders? Today’s lenders want fast and cheap and will do anything they can to close a loan. They will use desktops, appraisal waivers (which the consumer should never agree to without an independent appraisal as well), AVMs, and yes, they will do exactly what this person did in the example above. Is the consumer protected? Does the consumer’s confidence in the integrity of the loan process improve because the loan officer is asking them to press the appraiser for a value? My answer is NO
The only unbiased part of the process is the Appraiser and it should remain that way. The Appraiser should not be influenced in any way at all in order to give you the consumer the best professional opinion of your home as possible. The Appraiser has no interest in the transaction, is the expert when it comes to the valuation process and is bound by USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) as well as state and federal laws. Consumers should remember this and remember that Appraisers are not trying to screw you out of a loan or make things difficult for you. Appraisers are there to protect the public trust, you the consumer and provide the lender with an accurate opinion of market value.