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[HVCC and AMCs Violate RESPA?] Here’s a possible solution

March 16, 2010 | 12:01 am | nytlogo |

I was provided an interesting solution to the AMC appraisal issue from Tony Pistilli, a certified residential appraiser who has been employed for over 25 years in the appraisal area, at governmental agencies, mortgage companies, banks and has been self employed.

He wants appraisers to get the word out. His solution is compelling.

Anyone who reads Matrix knows what I think of the Appraisal Management Company and the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) problem in today’s mortgage lending world.

Here’s a summary of the his article before you read it:

  • Appraisers, Realtors, Brokers HATE the HVCC.
  • AMC’s and Banks LOVE the HVCC.
  • Regulators are disconnected from the problem just like they were when mortgage brokers controlled the ordering of appraisals during the credit boom.
  • Appraisers and borrowers are paying for services the banks receive.
  • Banks should pay for the services received from the AMC’s.
  • Appraiser’s fees should be market driven.
  • Banks should be held accountable for the quality of the appraisal.

AMC/HVCC appears to violate RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) since a large portion of the appraisal fee is actually going for something else coming off the market rate fee of the appraiser.

(RESPA) was created because various companies associated with the buying and selling of real estate, such as lenders, realtors, construction companies and title insurance companies were often engaging in providing undisclosed Kickbacks to each other, inflating the costs of real estate transactions and obscuring price competition by facilitating bait-and-switch tactics.

The Ultimate Solution for the Appraisal Industry

by Tony Pistilli, Certified Residential Appraiser and Vice-Chair, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Real Estate Appraiser Advisory Board, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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 Generals office and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. This agreement, originally made with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, requires Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to only accept appraisals ordered from parties independent to the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 6 months while the Realtors© and Mortgage Brokers 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; orders an appraisal from the appraisal management company who 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 two 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 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.


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HVCC, still stymieing deals, may be sunsetted


[HVCC Watch] Amendment to CFPA of 2009 Snuck In – Return To Old Days?

October 27, 2009 | 4:10 pm |

Oops! Wrong HVCC (not Huron Valley Corvette Club).

We’re talking Home Valuation Code of Conduct and its quickly running its own course (sorry).

Last week, an amendment was added to the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2009 that would effectively “Sunset” the Home Valuation Code of Conduct or “HVCC” (pronounced “Havoc”).

From Valuation Review magazine:

An amendment was added late Wednesday Oct. 21 to the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2009 that would sunset the HVCC, allow appraisals to be ordered by mortgage brokers again and would make a new Negotiated Rulemaking Committee responsible for creating one set of appraisal independence requirements across all the federal agencies.

This amendment was championed by the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) who were dead set against HVCC for very different reasons than the best appraisers in the industry are. Regardless, HVCC is a systemic accident waiting to happen.

Setting aside the weak production quality, this video is a great source of clarification about the misunderstands surrounding HVCC.

Mortgage brokers were targeted by HVCC as providing undue pressure on appraisers for overvaluation. Systemically, thats absolutely true – of course there are always exceptions. But you can’t rely on the honor system for a financial system structure – thats what where we just came from.

Mortgage brokers get paid when the transaction closes. Guess what kind of appraiser thrived in this kind of environment? Form-fillers.

However, removing mortgage brokers from the process enabled AMC’s which are even more problematic, providing low biased appraisals. Simplistic assessments of the removal of HVCC as a good thing for appraisers is short sighted.

How about the public getting a lending system that has a neutral appraisal environment so the parties getting paid don’t game the system? That means that appraisers shouldn’t be getting assignments from individuals whose commission depends on the outcome. If HVCC is removed and we revert to the prior way of doing business, its a missed opportunity to give consumers fair valuations.

To demonstrate how detached from reality Freddie Mac is, they seem to think HVCC has improved appraisal quality?

This is an opportunity to break free of the past and break free of HVCC and replace it with a better way.


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[REALTOR Mag] The Trouble With the HVCC

August 24, 2009 | 11:53 pm |

I often disagree with NAR and have frequently pointed out their missed opportunity to earn the public trust despite their interests as a trade organization, but hey – they are coming from a different vantage point. However this time I agree with their view on the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (the position itself rather than how they get to it.)

There’s a good article on HVCC which tells the story from the appraiser’s perspective called: “The Trouble With the HVCC: How new rules meant to ensure the integrity of the appraisal process have infuriated appraisers and stymied sales from coast to coast.

I am quoted in the opening of the piece.

“You can’t make this up,” New York appraiser Jonathan Miller riffed in his entertaining blog, Matrix, back in June.

Miller was recounting the frustration of a real estate salesperson who was trying to refinance her own New York apartment with her current lender. According to Miller’s telling, the out-of-town appraiser walked into the apartment, threw his hands in the air, and asked “How am I supposed to appraise this thing?”

My always insightful appraisal colleague Francois (Frank) K. Gregoire, IFA, RAA, with Gregoire & Gregoire Inc., of St. Petersburg, Florida has one of the best quotes in the piece:

The HVCC sets up AMCs as the guardians of appraiser independence, and isn’t it ironic that the investigation that prompted the rules centered on an AMC allegedly manipulating the system to please its customer?

He is referring to New York State Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit against eAppraisIT and it’s relationship with WaMu.


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Appraisers and HVCC


Regulators Turn Focus on AMCs, Proposals Include Hiring “Competent” Appraisers

March 26, 2014 | 12:43 am | Milestones |

occheader

The OCC and an alphabet soup of 5 additional regulators: FDIC, CFPB, FHFA, NCUA and the Federal Reserve issued a joint press release that if adopted, takes a small step forward in the regulation of appraisal management companies, who are largely responsible for the collapse of valuation quality since the credit crunch began.

To many, this action is long overdue. Appraisal management companies control the vast majority all mortgage appraisals in the US, having been legitimized by HVCC back in May 2009. I’ve burned a lot of calories over the past several years pointing out the problems with the AMC industry so admittedly it is nice to see them getting attention. The fact that these institutions are not licensed to do business at a statewide level but the appraisers who provide the valuation expertise they manage is inconsistent at best.

Still, the recognition of this regulatory glitch probably won’t have a significant impact on appraisal quality provided by AMCs. As my friend Joe Palumbo maintains, is like fool’s gold.

I think proposal is at least a starting point.

A couple of highlights – regulators would:

  • Require that appraisals comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (today we had a clerical AMC staffer tell us that writing out the math calculations on the floor plan was a requirement of USPAP).
  • Ensure selection of a competent and independent appraiser. (It is unbelievable to think this is necessary but it does make the legal exposure a little larger for AMCs.)

Housingwire has a good recap of the proposed regulations and so does the Wall Street Journal provides a nice overview (I gave them background for the piece).

The proposal by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve and other regulators mandates that appraisal-management companies hired by federally regulated banks use only state-licensed appraisers with “the requisite education, expertise, and experience necessary” to complete appraisals competently.

Moral hazard There is no significant financial incentive for lenders to stop accepting the generally poor quality appraisals the AMC industry presents them daily. The hope is that the additional regulatory largess the AMCs have to confront will force the issue with lenders simply because the AMCs will have to raise their fees. Without a real “value-add” to the banks other than cost control and fast turn times, the lack of quality for a large swath of AMCs may no longer be overlooked by banks. Yes I can dream.

Residential appraisers, mostly 1-2 person shops, have largely been left without a voice and the bigger financial institutions have lobbied financial reform overtop of us without the regulators truly understanding what our role should to be to protect the taxpayer from excessive risk.

Anumber of smart appraisers I know have created a petition whose sole purpose is the get the attention of the CSFB to address the issue of “customary and reasonable” fees. Our industry has no other way to reach the regulators or the ability to lobby our views in Washington. I hope they are listening.

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It’s time to debunk the debunking of the 3 biggest myths about your AMC

March 9, 2014 | 10:00 pm | Favorites |

aeron-chair

I saw an opinion piece written about appraisal management companies over at HousingWire that made me just about fall out of my chair – and my office chair is a sturdy Herman Miller Aeron so it was quite an unsettling piece. I’ve written about AMCs quite a bit since HVCC came into effect on May 1, 2009 and my last big piece: “Appraising for AMCs Can Be Like Delivering Pizza” prompted a senior executive at one of the largest US AMCs – who we don’t work for – to call me after he read it and say, “all of what you wrote is true – how do we change it?” He sounded very reasonable and earnest and got his Chief Appraiser to reach out to me to explore what to do. That person ended up providing me with robotic and defensive feedback before I even asked any questions – making it clear it was all about keeping his job, not improving the industry. Sad.

Make no mistake – I am not against the concept of AMCs and there are some reasonable ones to deal with – but the majority of them are poorly managed and therefore can only attract appraisers with the “form-filler” mentality.

This HousingWire editorial was called “It’s time to debunk the 3 biggest myths about your AMC” by the CEO of an appraisal management company. We don’t work with them and I don’t know of them or the author. It’s a corporate sounding piece so I’m guessing that it was pitched and written by their PR firm as a way to sell the virtues of a good appraisal management company.

What threw me for a loop was the omission of any discussion about the actual providers of valuation expertise. AMCs do not provide value opinions to banks. AMCs manage appraisers who provide value opinions to banks. My guess is they or the AMC industry in general are receiving more pressure from banks for the rising cost of the appraisal process – not because the appraisal fees are rising – but because the AMC appraisal quality is so poor that relative to the cost, the value-add of an AMC really isn’t really there.

We have started to observe national lenders push back against the poor quality of AMC appraisals and some lender personnel are now bypassing AMCs on complex or luxury properties because they don’t trust the expertise coming out of the AMC. Amazing.

Here are the 3 “myths” presented in this AMC PR piece. I restate each point being made to reflect the reality of the appraisal process:

From the Housingwire guest editorial:

THEIR Myth 1: Appraisal Management Companies add costs to the lender’s business.

So, yes, the costs of putting a solid value on a piece of real estate have gone up. But this is not due to the fact that an AMC has been added to the equation. It’s due to the fact that it costs more to do it right, to employ the technology, to manage the fee panels, to quality-check the results. Like most myths, this one has at its core the ugly truth that the price of an appraisal has gone up between $80 and $200, depending upon the circumstances.

MY Opinion of Myth 1: The rise in costs is NOT because appraisers are arbitrarily raising their fees. It is because the appraisal management industry takes half of the appraisers fee paid by the borrower at application to cover their costs and ended up driving most good appraisers out of retail bank appraisal work – now dominated by AMCs. The rising costs are being born by the AMCs who try to checklist away the poor quality. Here’s how: Imagine making a modest salary for a job well done and then one day (May 1, 2009) you get your pay cut in half. The middleman between the bank and the appraisers (the AMCs) got to keep the other half of the appraiser’s fee/salary. In reality, this 50% pay cut was the appraiser paying for bank compliance with HVCC by hiring the AMC. Would you quit your job if you got a 50% pay cut? Most would say yes. Who would replace you at 50% of an already modest wage? A lower caliber, lesser experienced person who was able to cut corners – like eliminate research – and essentially be willing to be a form filler rather than a valuation expert – quality evaporates not matter how much “review” is put in place. AMCs have been grappling with poor quality and probably have had to increase oversight as more banks push back against the poor quality. I think the additional compliance issues being touted throughout this opinion piece in this “Myth” are probably more of a scare or fogging tactic than a real reason for higher costs. The higher cost that is being represented by the AMC is more likely from the fact that AMCs are being forced to find better appraisers in certain markets and those appraisers are less willing to subsidize bank compliance with HVCC out of their own hide. We doing more and more AMC work now and we are paid a full fee and are given a fairly reasonable turnaround time. Why? Because that AMC’s panel quality was poor and their bank clients basically told the AMC to use firms like mine or the bank will go to another AMC who will use a higher caliber of appraiser.

THEIR Myth 2: AMCs deliver poor turnaround times that can’t compare to internal teams

Anyone who buys into this myth must live in a world without Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that spell out exactly what a vendor will provide to a lender. It sets the terms of the engagement and specifies penalties that the vendor will suffer should it fail to live up to the promises the document holds. Turnaround times are always part of the SLA between an AMC and a lender…Now, here’s the grain of truth at the center of this ridiculous myth: lenders are working to incorporate so many new compliance rules into their processes that the collateral valuation process is simply taking longer for many of them than it has in the past. Part of this comes from the fact that compliance checking takes time. Part of this comes from unnecessary processes within the lender’s shop that exist out of some executive’s fear of possible compliance problems. The appraisal process is taking longer in many cases, but it’s not due to the AMC. It’s just part of the new business environment we’re working in.

MY Opinion of Myth 2: This is simply a reframing of the conversation between lenders and AMCs. The biggest problem with most AMCs today is they demand an unreasonable turn around time – some require 48 hours (more with complex properties), about 1/3 the minimum average time needed to do a reasonably competent job. Because the AMC bank appraisal quality is generally poor, AMCs have to insert more and more checklists into the QC process to appease their lender clients. The lender clients require more service level agreements BECAUSE THEY DON’T TRUST THE QUALITY OF THE PRODUCT, NOT BECAUSE OF MORE FEDERAL COMPLIANCE ISSUES. In turn, the appraiser gets a gum chewing 19 year old who calls them every day to fill out a checklist. Banks were fine, pre-HVCC, with the turn times of their in-house and outside fee panel staff and it NEVER was as fast as the typical AMC requires today. Today, most AMCs have to differentiate themselves from other AMCs by cost and turn around standards. With the poor quality of the typical AMC bank appraisal, the AMC gets squeezed financially as banks and appraisers are beginning to push back with more requirements and costs. An appraisal is NOT a commodity – it is a professional service. If the AMC doesn’t respect the bank appraisal industry and pays them poorly, all the AMC can ever hope to receive in return is a poor quality product that can’t be check listed away.

THEIR Myth 3: The lender relinquishes control when they outsource to an AMC

The lender is in complete control at all times and federal regulators have made it crystal clear that the lender is the responsible party anytime they outsource to a third-party vendor. No lender will relinquish control to a third party when it knows the CFPB will come back to its front door in the event of a problem. There are some aspects of the collateral valuation process that the government has said must be removed from the control of the loan officers originating the loan and the managers who oversee them. Federal regulators do not want the lender to control the outcome of the appraisal process and so they have made it clear in the regulations that it must be moved away from the origination department. The uncomfortable truth is that the federal government wants the lending institution to lose a bit of control here, for the good of the consumer and the financial institution. But handing responsibility for a few aspects of one process to a third-party outsourcer is not the same thing as giving away control. No lender we know and no good AMC executive would equate these two.

MY Opinion of Myth 3: One of the biggest myths furthered by many AMCs is to fog lenders with the idea that HVCC requires banks to use them to be compliant. The statement “The uncomfortable truth is that the federal government wants the lending institution to lose a bit of control here” is very misleading. All the government wants is a separation between the sales function and the quality function of a bank – a firewall – which is an AMCs major selling point. The irony here is that large AMCs are just as susceptible to lender pressure as the individual appraisers, but on a much larger scale.

I am not anti-AMC. However I am against bank appraisers paying for a bank’s compliance with HVCC and being marginalized as a result. The appraiser is the expert developing the value opinion for the bank, not the AMC.

In my experience to date, the majority of AMC bank appraisals that I have seen are very poor. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If the lender paid the market rate for an appraisal and an additional fee for the AMC to administer the process, the quality would improve. Borrowers today generally don’t realize that the bank appraisers is paid a fraction of the “appraisal fee.” Today’s bank appraiser is paying for the bank’s compliance with HVCC and this has largely destroyed many of the quality firms in the appraisal industry. It doesn’t help that the residential appraisal industry has no real representation in Washington.

But I do like my chair.

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Appraisals Scuttle Home Sales Where Prices Rise Fast

Jonathan Miller is a frequent speaker and guest at housing-industry conferences, but lately his presence has caused some troubling reactions.

As Miller tells it, property brokers he runs into accuse him of one of the most heinous acts imaginable….

…Miller is an appraiser, president of the well-known New York-based Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers….

…Miller says most appraisals are valid….

…Put another way, bidding wars have erupted in sought-after neighborhoods with tight inventory, including some in Miller’s own backyard in Manhattan and Brooklyn….

…In such fast moving markets, valuations can change “within a couple of weeks,” Miller says….

…Miller and other experts trace the changes back to May of 2009….

…Meanwhile, the HVCC’s goal of assuring appraisers’ independence unintentionally “opened a Pandora’s box” by prompting the rise of appraisal management companies, Miller says….

…”Think of them as very large, quite often national entities that are a clearinghouse for appraisers,” Miller said, adding that appraisers working for them on fees often agree to quick turnaround times….

…”The practice falls short because it encourages a lot of cutting of corners,” Miller said….

…Miller says AMCs account for about 90% of appraisals done on mortgages from big banks such as JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C)….


Appraisals Scuttle Home Sales Where Prices Rise Fast

Jonathan Miller is a frequent speaker and guest at housing-industry conferences, but lately his presence has caused some troubling reactions.

As Miller tells it, property brokers he runs into accuse him of one of the most heinous acts imaginable….

…Miller is an appraiser, president of the well-known New York-based Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers….

…Miller says most appraisals are valid….

…Put another way, bidding wars have erupted in sought-after neighborhoods with tight inventory, including some in Miller’s own backyard in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In such fast moving markets, valuations can change “within a couple of weeks,” Miller says….

…But often it’s lacking, and that is the other main reason appraisals may come in low, Miller says….

…Miller and other experts trace the changes back to May of 2009….

…As noble the attempt was to right the wrongs, it backfired, Miller says….

…Meanwhile, the HVCC’s goal of assuring appraisers’ independence unintentionally “opened a Pandora’s box” by prompting the rise of appraisal management companies, Miller says….

…”Think of them as very large, quite often national entities that are a clearinghouse for appraisers,” Miller said, adding that appraisers working for them on fees often agree to quick turnaround times.

“The practice falls short because it encourages a lot of cutting of corners,” Miller said….

…Miller says AMCs account for about 90% of appraisals done on mortgages from big banks such as JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C)….


Change in quality of appraisers a cause of concern

…A: According to Jonathan Miller, cofounder of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc. (millersamuel.com), it’s unlikely that our correspondent would get his loan in today’s wacky world of real estate….

…”Credit conditions remain at historically tight levels and lenders rarely take action on any appraisal quality complaints, whether the appraisal report is flawed or not,” Miller said….

…Miller points to the credit collapse in 2007 to 2008, the introduction of Dodd-Frank and the agreement between Fannie Mae and then-New York Attorney General Cuomo known as the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) as the beginning of the today’s trouble for appraisers….

…”Think of them as large third-party conveyor belts that pump out requests to appraisers qualified largely by only having a license in a particular state and willing to work for 50 percent of the market rate for appraisal fees (they keep the other 50 percent for managing the appraisers),” Miller explained….

…”As a result, quality appraisers have been largely driven out of the business, moved to non-banking clients or switched careers. Most quality appraisal firms can’t afford to work at the AMC fees and the turn-time demands without damaging their reputations,” Miller noted….

…Miller’s company survived by making a three-year transition in business strategy away from retail banks and toward private banks and legal support work. “It’s been terrific to have clients that aren’t 19-year-olds chewing gum, wondering when they were getting their report and who probably don’t even know what a mortgage is,” he said….

…As Miller puts it, “Throw in rapidly rising prices, tight credit conditions and a shortage of inventory, and it becomes problematic.”…