Shocking Facts About Appraisals!

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Last month we had a guest speaker at our team meeting who has been doing appraisals in the Las Vegas Valley for more than 20 years. She has a stellar reputation in the industry, and usually comes to speak to us at least once a year to update us on appraisal formulas, how adjustments are made, the value of specific improvements to real estate in Las Vegas and trends in appraisal values.

But this time, a random question about how appraisers are chosen by the banks led to some shocking discoveries!

First: a little background. Because of the “mortgage meltdown,” the federal government passed specific laws requiring mortgage lenders to order appraisals through a “neutral” third party. Appraisal management companies were formed. These companies receive the appraisal order from the mortgage lender and then assign an appraiser from their “approved” list. The mortgage lender cannot ever speak to the assigned appraiser, and all communications must go through an online portal to the appraisal management company.

The general population, Realtors included, have been under the assumption that these appraisals were assigned in rotation to the next appraiser in line to preserve the integrity of the process. Not so!

The appraisal management company charges a fixed fee to the mortgage lender for each appraisal. When the management company receives an appraisal work order, they send out a “first come, first served” type email to all the appraisers on their list. From the responses, the management company then selects the appraiser that is willing to complete the appraisal in the shortest possible time for the lowest possible price!

So if ten appraisers respond with the same general timeline, the management company will then select the CHEAPEST appraiser. Say the appraisal fee the management company is charging the lender is $450. If one of the appraisers that responds is willing to charge only $200 and the rest are charging more, the management company gives the order to the least expensive appraiser and pockets the difference.

This means that every appraisal that is being done is being awarded to the appraiser that is willing to charge the least. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. In most instances (though not all), these are the less experienced appraisers. (Well established appraisers like our guest speaker will not even sign up to be on the list with appraisal management companies!) In addition, because these appraisers are earning less per appraisal, they have to make up in volume for charging less, which means that they are less likely to spend the extra time to truly evaluate each subject property. They are also less likely to “reconsider” the value of an appraisal that is contested.

So it is no wonder that over the past couple of years homebuyers, sellers and lenders are more consistently experiencing “bad” appraisals that do not truly reflect current market value.

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