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Appraisals Have a Problem, Bank on it by TONY PISTILLI

Friday, March 26th, 2010, 2:03 pm

Since the inception of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) in May 2009, there has been much discussion, and misinformation, about the benefits and harm caused by the controversial agreement with the New York Attorney General’s office and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

This agreement, originally made with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, requires Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac to only accept appraisals ordered from parties independent of the loan production process. Essentially, this means, anyone that may get paid by a successful closing of the loan cannot order the appraisal.

In the past six months while the Realtor and mortgage broker associations point fingers at appraisal management companies for their use of incompetent appraisers who don’t understand the local markets, appraisers are complaining that banks are abdicating their regulatory requirements to obtain credible appraisals by forcing them to go through appraisal management companies at half of their normal fee.

Banking regulations allow banks to utilize the services of third party providers like appraisal management companies, but ultimately hold the bank accountable for the quality of the appraisal. Unfortunately, the banking regulators have yet to express a concern that there is a problem with the current situation.

I need to state that appraisal management companies can provide a valuable service to the lending industry by ordering appraisals, managing a panel of appraisers, performing quality reviews of the appraisals, etc. However, banks have been enticed by appraisal management companies to turn over their responsibility for ordering appraisals with arrangements that ultimately do not cost them anything.

The arrangement works like this: The bank collects a fee for the appraisal from the borrower and orders an appraisal from the appraisal management company, which in turn assigns the appraisal to be done by an independent appraiser or appraisal company. During this process the appraisal fee paid by the borrower gets paid to the appraisal management company who retains approximately 40% to 50% and pays the appraiser the remainder. So for the $400 appraisal fee being charged to the borrower, the appraiser is actually being paid $160-$200 for the appraisal. Absent an appraisal management company, the reasonable and customary fee for the appraisers service would be $400, not the $160 to $200 currently being paid to appraisers.

Rules within the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) have allowed this situation to occur, despite prohibitions against receiving unearned fees, kickbacks and the marking up of third party services, like appraisals. RESPA clearly states, “Payments in excess of the reasonable value of goods provided or services rendered are considered kickbacks.”

Banks are allowed to collect a loan origination fee. This fee is intended to cover the costs of the bank related to underwriting and approving a loan. Ordering and reviewing an appraisal is certainly a part of that process. Understanding that banks ultimately have the regulatory requirement to obtain the appraisal for their lending functions, why is it that borrowers and appraisers are paying for these services that are outsourced to appraisal management companies? Does the borrower benefit from a bank hiring an appraisal management company? Does an appraiser benefit from a bank hiring an appraisal management company? The answer to those three questions is a very resounding no! Clearly the only one in the equation that benefits is the bank, so why shouldn’t the banks be required to pay for the outsourcing of the appraisal ordering and review process?

It is here where I believe the solution for the appraisal industry exists. Since banks are the obvious benefactor from the appraisal management company services, the regulators should require that the banks, not the borrowers or appraisers, pay for the services received. This one small change in the current business model would allow appraisers to receive a reasonable fee for their services and in turn they should be held more accountable for the quality and credibility of the appraisals they perform.

Appraisal fees would be competitive among appraisers in their local markets, much like the professional fees charged by accountants, attorneys, dentists and doctors. Appraisal management companies would suddenly be thrust into a more competitive situation where their services can be itemized and their quality and price be compared to those of competing providers. This will ultimately lead to lower fees and improved quality of services to the banks.

The banks will then have a very quantifiable choice: Do they continue to outsource their obligations to an appraisal management company and pay for those services or do they create an internal structure to manage the appraisal ordering and review process? Either way, the banking regulators need to hold the banks more accountable at the end of the process.

When all of the previously discussed elements are present, I believe the appraisal industry will be functioning the way it was intended. Appraisal independence will be enhanced and borrowers will be rewarded with greater quality and reliability in the appraisal process. This one small change may not have been enough to prevent the wide spread decline in housing values during the past three years. However, it is exactly the change that is needed, in addition to the HVCC, to stop the current finger pointing and address the poor quality and non-independent appraisals that have been and are still rampant in the industry.

Tony Pistilli is a Certified Residential Appraiser and the vice-chair of the Real Estate Appraiser Advisory Board at the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

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Posted by Rodney Cluff on April 20th, 2010 9:56 AMLeave a Comment

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November 8th, 2009 10:19 AM

First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit Extended Into 2010!
Plus...A New Tax Credit for Certain Existing Home Owners!

It's official. President Obama has signed a bill that extends the tax credit for first-time homebuyers (FTHBs) into the first half of 2010. This program had been scheduled to expire on November 30, 2009.

In addition to extending the tax credit of up to $8,000 through June 30, 2010, the extension measure also opens up opportunities for others who are not buying a home for the first time.

So Who Gets What?
The program that has existed for FTHBs remains intact with the one exception that more people are now eligible based on an increase in the amount of income someone may now earn.

Additionally, the program now gives those who already own a residence some additional reasons to move to a new home. This incentive comes in the form of a tax credit of up to $6,500 for qualified purchasers who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years.

In order to qualify for the credit, all contracts need to be in effect no later than April 30, 2010 and close no later than June 30, 2010.

Higher Income Caps in Effect
The amount of income someone can earn and qualify for the full amount of the credit has been increased.

Single tax filers who earn up to $125,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, single filers who earn $145,000 and above are ineligible.

Joint filers who earn up to $225,000 are eligible for the total credit amount. Those who earn more than this cap can receive a partial credit. However, joint filers who earn $245,000 and above are ineligible.

Maximum Purchase Price
Qualifying buyers may purchase a property with a maximum sales price of $800,000.

First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit – Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about the tax credit.

What is a tax credit?
A tax credit is a direct reduction in tax liability owed by an individual to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In the event no taxes are owed, the IRS will issue a check for the amount of the tax credit an individual is owed. Unlike the tax credit that existed in 2008, this credit does not require repayment unless the home, at any time in the first 36 months of ownership, is no longer an individual's primary residence.

What is the tax credit for first-time homebuyers (FTHBs)?
An eligible homebuyer may request from the IRS a tax credit of up to $8,000 or 10% of the purchase price for a home. If the amount of the home purchased is $75,000, the maximum amount the credit can be is $7,500. If the amount of the home purchased is $100,000, the amount of the credit may not exceed $8,000.

Who is eligible for the FTHB tax credit?
Anyone who has not owned a primary residence in the previous 36 months, prior to closing and the transfer of title, is eligible. This applies both to single taxpayers and married couples. In the case where there is a married couple, if either spouse has owned a primary residence in the last 36 months, neither would qualify. In the case where an individual has owned property that has not been a primary residence, such as a second home or investment property, that individual would be eligible.

As mentioned above, the tax credit has been expanded so that existing homeowners who have owned and occupied a primary residence for a period of five consecutive years during the last eight years are now eligible for a tax credit of up to $6,500.

How do I claim the credit?
For those taking advantage of the tax credit in 2009, you may choose to either apply for the credit with your 2009 tax return or you may apply for the credit sooner by filing an amended 2008 tax return with Form 5405 (

Can you claim the tax credit in advance of purchasing a property?
No. The IRS has recently begun prosecuting people who have claimed credits where a purchase had not taken place.

Can a taxpayer claim a credit if the property is purchased from a seller with seller financing and the seller retains title to the property?
Yes. In situations where the buyer purchases the property, even though the seller retains legal title, the taxpayer may file for the credit. Examples of this would include a land contract, contract for deed, etc. According to the IRS, factors that would demonstrate the ownership of the property would include: 1. the right of possession, 2. the right to obtain legal title upon full payment of the purchase price, 3. the right to construct improvements, 4. the obligation to pay property taxes, 5. the risk of loss, 6. the responsibility to insure the property and 7. the duty to maintain the property.

Are there other restrictions to taking the credit?
Yes. According to the IRS, if any of the following describe your situation, a credit would not be due.

  • You buy your home from a close relative. This includes your spouse, parent, grandparent, child or grandchild.
  • You do not use the home as your principal residence.
  • You sell your home before the end of the year.
  • You are a nonresident alien.
  • You are, or were, eligible to claim the District of Columbia first-time homebuyer credit for any taxable year. (This does not apply for a home purchased in 2009.)
  • Your home financing comes from tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds. (This does not apply for a home purchased in 2009.)
  • You owned a principal residence at any time during the three years prior to the date of purchase of your new home. For example, if you bought a home on July 1, 2009, you cannot take the credit for that home if you owned, or had an ownership interest in, another principal residence at any time from July 2, 2006, through July 1, 2009.

Can you buy a home from a step-relative and be eligible for the credit?
Yes. Provided the person you are buying a home from is not a direct blood relative, the purchase would be allowed.

Can parent(s) who will not live in the property cosign for a mortgage for their child and the child that is a qualifying FTHB still be eligible for the credit?

Can a separated spouse who has not owned a home for four years qualify for the FTHB tax credit if the spouse has owned a property anytime in the last three years?
No. However, the spouse may be eligible for the repeat buyer credit. The best path to take in any situation regarding income taxes is to speak with a professional tax preparer or CPA.

If you have any questions that fall outside the situations here, give me a call and if you do not have an accountant to speak with, I can refer you to one.

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Posted by Rodney Cluff on November 8th, 2009 10:19 AMLeave a Comment

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November 1st, 2009 4:22 PM

Here's some news you might be interested in: News from

HVCC Phase out? Generally speaking, mortgage folks are a pretty optimistic bunch, although "trust but verify" is an approach that many use in their business lives. It turns out that the HVCC, which has good intentions but arguably poor implementation and ramifications, could be on its way out. The House Financial Services Committee has just passed an amendment to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act to phase it out, and allow all loan originators, licensed or registered in accordance with the SAFE Mortgage Licensing Act, to order appraisals directly. H.R. 3126 is the number of this bill. Although this is just a committee vote, and still has a long way to go, it is a "first step" the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act is expected to be merged with a number of other regulatory reform bills before moving to the House floor for a vote, and any differences must be ironed out within the House and then with any Senate versions before going to the President.

From what I understand the HVCC is a 2 year agreement, scheduled to expire in 2010. Question is; what happens when it expires. Does everything go back to the way it was?

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Posted by Rodney Cluff on November 1st, 2009 4:22 PMLeave a Comment

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Wow! Contract Price $420,000, appraised value $334,000. The current re-negotiated contract price after appraisal $334,000. I would think a thank you letter is due to an honest, ethical real estate appraiser.

OK, this is the story of my Brother and Sister-in-law moving to Longwood Florida, from Southern California. They are scheduled to close September 2009.

Although you might not typically see this wide of a range between the contract price and the appraised value, in this case the situation was perfect for an inflated contract price, a FSBO and a buyer without an agent. Now, although I understand the desire to save money and I don’t recommend purchasing a home without an agent in an unfamiliar market, I would at least recommend consulting an appraiser before submitting an offer. Especially if you are paying cash and an appraisal will not be required for lending purposes.

In this case it appears that all is going to work out, but it could have been a lot worse. My brother and sister-in-law had already sold their house in California and were on their way across county when they received this information. Had the seller not been willing to accept the appraised value, things could have been a lot different. (This of course is a short version of a long story).

I’m writing this blog because I think it’s important to note that the appraiser is not only looking out for the Lender/investors best interest, he or she is also protecting the buyer.


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Posted by Rodney Cluff on September 20th, 2009 1:50 PMLeave a Comment

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Wells Fargo - Client Training for New Appraisal Request Process

Well Fargo Wholesale Lending is providing training to help you prepare for the Jan. 5, 2009, implementation of our new preferred process for ordering appraisals through RESdirect and our four approved Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs). The training will also describe the options available for appraisals ordered outside the preferred process. Looks like we have another company taking a piece of the pie.

See full article:

The AMC's are making a big push to use fear and uncertainty to get this done regardless of whether it will actually happen, and whether or not it is even legal. I think it is important to let all of your customers know that this is NOT a done deal by any stretch, and that they should not make any plans at this point to set up an account with an AMC.


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Posted by Rodney Cluff on December 17th, 2008 3:36 PMLeave a Comment

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December 12th, 2008 8:09 AM
Fannie, Freddie May Waive Appraisals for Refinancings (Update2)
By Dawn Kopecki

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance companies seized by the U.S. government, are considering forgoing new appraisals on refinanced loans to help struggling homeowners, their regulator said.

“If they refinance someone, rather than doing a loan mod, do they need a new appraisal if they already have the credit?” Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart told reporters after a speech in Washington today. “That’s an issue that’s being discussed. They’re looking at it.”

See full report:

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Posted by Rodney Cluff on December 12th, 2008 8:09 AMLeave a Comment

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January 19th, 2008 12:10 PM

Sorry, no blog today. Try back later.


To find out more about Huntersville and the Lake Norman area see the following site: Lake Capital Group Realty

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Posted by Rodney Cluff on January 19th, 2008 12:10 PMLeave a Comment

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