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Published by OREP, E&O Insurance Experts | Feb. 27, 2013 | Vol. 272

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"While the new regulations aren't too different from the old, they do place every appraiser square in the bull's eye of lawsuits. If you’re not aware of this, hang on, this may hurt a bit."

Hagar's Upcoming Webinar: Appraisal Review and the Law

Fed Says: High Quality Appraisals or Else
by Richard Hagar, SRA

In January the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a new set of regulations relating to appraisals. While the new regulations aren't too different from the old, they do place every appraiser square in the bull's eye of lawsuits. If you’re not aware of this, hang on, this may hurt a bit.

New Regulations
• Require creditors (lenders) to notify applicants (borrowers) of their right to receive a copy of appraisal within three business days of receiving a loan application.

• Require creditors (lenders) to provide applicants a copy of each appraisal, and other written valuation, promptly upon completion or three business days before consummation or account opening, whichever is earlier.

• Prohibit creditors from charging for a copy of an appraisal and other written valuations, but permit creditors to charge applicants reasonable fees for the cost of the appraisals or other written valuation.

What Does this Mean for Appraisers?
a. Copies of the appraisal will be given to the borrower before they close on a loan (purchase or refinance).

b. Since the borrower has a copy of the appraisal before closing they can, and may, rely on the appraisal information to “help” them make their purchase or borrowing decision.

c. If at a later date someone believes (doesn’t have to prove) that the appraisal is of poor quality and “misled” the borrower/buyer- get ready for it, the borrower has a very solid legal foundation to sue the appraiser for poor performance.

d. The “form filling” appraisers who slap together a couple appraisals a day using poorly researched information and no support for their adjustments, are going to get sued often and get forced out of the business.

e. The appraiser’s time and cost of doing business just increased.

Appraisers often tell me that their work is “just fine.”  They say, “Banks accept it. It must be OK so I’m not worried.” Really! That’s your measure of good work- the bank accepted it? Would those be the same banks that are paying billions in fines due to accepting poor quality appraisals!? Are you really hanging your hat, and career, on what an unlicensed underwriter from Pakistan thinks?

As an expert witness, I review a lot of appraisals, most of which should never have been relied upon by a lender. Years after the fact, appraisers are being sued for poor performance. As a consultant, I’m asked by the appraiser’s attorney to review the appraiser’s work.  In many cases I’m not able to say that the appraisal and workfile are “up to a competent appraiser’s standard of care.” In these cases, it’s almost impossible for the attorney to mount a defense against these lawsuits- due to appraisers not keeping information in their workfile, such as proper support for adjustments, combined with their use of really bad comparables.

In the end, many appraisers lose these suits and they lose BIG. With a lawsuit loss, the appraiser is placed on a “blacklist” by the lender and becomes forced to accept low-paying appraisal orders or is put out of business altogether.

What Can An Appraiser Do?
1. Assume one day in your future I’ll be personally looking at your appraisal and your workfile. I’ll use a microscope and look everywhere. How comfortable will you be?

2. Do not assume your appraisals meet the “competent appraiser’s standard of care.” On the contrary, assume they are a failure. This doesn’t mean they are, but it’s this assumption that should keep you up at night, and even better, push you toward producing higher quality appraisals.

3. Pull several local appraisers together and form a larger office. The more appraisers interact, the better their product.

4. Join an appraisal association like the Appraisal Institute, NAIFA or NAR or at least join your local appraisal coalition.

5. Take the best education you can find. Not the cheapest but the very best. This is key to your survival.

6. Make sure the instructors are great. Good education costs more but what you will learn when taking live education and talking to other appraisers about the issues may save you from a fatal lawsuit.

7. Produce a better appraisal, then increase your fees. Drop low paying clients. Your income will increase!

Buyers are going to be reading your appraisals. If anything goes wrong in their lives, they are going to make your life hell. The quality of appraisals must increase or appraisers face being sued out of business.

Hagar's Upcoming Webinar: Appraisal Review and the Law

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