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Posts Tagged ‘Soapbox Blog’

[The Hall Monitor] Bigger Is Not Always Better

May 19, 2008 | 1:04 pm | |

Todd Huttunen began appraising more than 20 years ago with a few years off in between to pursue a career in cabinet making. He relegated that to hobby status and is currently an appraiser in an assessor’s office. His best friend dubbed him The Hall Monitor because of his rigidity and respect for rules. He offers Soapbox readers tongue-in-groove insight on appraisal issues. This week Todd argues that we bought the ranch when we learned that smaller size does matter. …Jonathan Miller


McMansion, Starter Castle, Hummer House these are just a few of the nicknames that have been given to big new houses (by their critics) in existing neighborhoods of smaller houses. No one can argue that the “teardown” followed by the super-sized new house has not altered the suburban landscape in recent years. But the principle of highest and best use, which made the 1950’s Split Level an endangered species in many affluent communities, lives on. And the brand new Starter Castle next door is no more immune to the passage of time than was the Split Level it replaced.

In fact, if recent history is a harbinger of things to come then the economic lifespan of all our buildings, both residential and commercial, will be shorter in the future than it was in the past. Look at the ages of the buildings being demolished. With houses it’s nearly anything built after 1950. Many municipal buildings, sports stadiums, and the like have had, or will have, shorter lives than did Mozart (who died at 35 years of age).

Might Peak Oil and $4 plus gasoline do for outsized houses in outlying suburbs what PETA did for the fur industry? This is not to say that there won’t be big houses anymore inasmuch as there are still lots of people who like wearing fur coats and eating meat. Unfortunately, the newer McMansions are not usually located in the most desirable areas, within walking distance of shopping, train stations, etc. That’s where the “real” mansions are, and have been for 75 years. The newer big houses are mostly located in the outer ring suburbs, where they’re much more automobile dependent.

A story in the May 18, 2008 New York Times entitled Imagine No Possessions addresses ‘voluntary simplicity’, a movement which is the antithesis of the culture of the McMansion. A less affirmative “movement” based on the more mundane and difficult economic reality heading our way might be called ‘involuntary simplicity’. We may not be able to afford to maintain the McMansions, once they are no longer new. Big houses cost more to acquire and more to maintain. They have higher taxes due to their higher values (at least for the time being). But bigger houses are not always worth more than smaller houses.

There is a neighborhood in the Village of Bronxville known as Lawrence Park. Bronxville is a wealthy suburb just north of New York City and “The Hilltop”, as Lawrence Park is also known, was developed by William Van Duzer Lawrence in the late 1800’s as an artist’s colony. The houses are quite large, uniquely styled and sited on steep slopes along very narrow cobblestone roads. In recent years these houses have been renovated and they are today, some of the most valuable houses in Bronxville. But for decades following WWII this was a neighborhood in physical decline, based on historical assessment records. A longtime Hilltop resident once described it to me as a “slum” when she built her house there in the 1950’s.

If you walk through that neighborhood now it seems hard to believe but you have to consider how the world was looking in the 1950’s. As we all know, the 1950’s was a boom period for suburban construction and if you were buying a house you had the choice of a brand spanking new Ranch or Split Level with all the latest amenities, or one of these “old fashioned”, drafty dowagers then approaching 60 years old. Modern was “In” and late 19th century was definitely “Out”. The assessment records from that era reflect the fact that the newer, albeit smaller houses had higher values than the older ones.

There may come a time in the not so distant future when the adjustments appraisers make for differences in living area reverse themselves and the larger house is adjusted downward. It won’t be the first time that smaller houses will have been in greater demand, and more valuable, than larger ones.


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[Commercial Grade] Massey Knakal NYC Income Property Market Report Second Half 2007 prepared by Miller Cicero released

May 15, 2008 | 11:58 am | Reports |

Commercial Grade is a post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with specific focus on commercial valuation. John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, depending on what day of the week it is, one of the smartest guys I know. …Jonathan Miller


The latest New York City Income Property Report covering the second half of 2007 has been released. I prepare this report semi-annually on behalf of Massey Knakal and it’s the only one of its kind. The report tracks the sales activity of walk-up apartment buildings, elevator apartment buildings and mixed-use buildings in five New York City markets: Manhattan (generally south of 96th Street), Northern Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

The total number of sales dropped 16% from the first half of 2007, but a more moderate 7% compared with the second half of 2006. Though the number of sales has declined prices remained stable and even increased in some instances. The following table reflects a peak in the number of sales in early 2006, while pricing has continued to rise.

Though this is clearly not as big as when Bob Knakal got his hair cut, for those interested the entire report is available for download at www.millercicero.com.


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[The Hall Monitor] The Argument For Seasonal Time Adjustments

May 12, 2008 | 3:59 pm |

Todd Huttunen began appraising more than 20 years ago with a few years off in between to pursue a career in cabinet making. He relegated that to hobby status and is currently an appraiser in an assessor’s office. His best friend dubbed him The Hall Monitor because of his rigidity and respect for rules. He offers Soapbox readers tongue-in-groove insight on appraisal issues.

This week Todd adds some seasoning to the time adjustment concept.

…Jonathan Miller


Here is a comment you will find in many residential appraisals “A lack of more recent sales required the use of sales which are more than six months old”. The apologetic nature of this comment implies that “recent” (meaning sales occurring within six months of the valuation date) are always better indicators of value than those which took place more than six months prior. The “logic” of using the most recent sales available would be sound if market conditions (i.e. price levels) changed on a straight-line basis over time as opposed to on a seasonal basis. But in many, if not most, residential markets that logic is flawed and the six month “guideline” should be thrown out.

The graph below is from the Westchester County Board of Realtors Sales Stats and it clearly demonstrates that for single family houses in Westchester County selling prices in the second and third quarters were significantly and consistently higher than in the first and second quarters over the last five years. Property values did not increase in a straight line with prices every month higher than the month before. Even during this “boom” market, prices went up AND down during the year depending on the season.

The seasonally based serpentine line of one quarter followed by the next straightens out remarkably if you connect the dots from first quarter to first quarter, second quarter to second quarter, etc. Any adjustment for market conditions must be based, first and foremost, on seasonal differences between the valuation date and the dates of the comparable sales. The appraiser must also consider that the “meeting of the minds” between buyer and seller precedes the closing date by sixty days give or take, and comparable sales should, to the extent possible, reflect similar seasonal conditions. If the subject property is being valued as of June 1, 2008, I would argue that in terms of market conditions, the sale which closed August 1, 2007 (ten months old) is a more reliable indicator of value than the one which closed February 1, 2008 (four months old).

So the next time your client insists on your using more “recent” sales, take the opportunity to explain the seasonal fluctuations in selling prices (if indeed they occur in your area) in defense of why your ten month old comparable is more reliable than the four month old sale you didn’t use.


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[Sounding Bored] A Case Of Misleading Identity

May 7, 2008 | 9:39 pm | Columns |

Sounding Bored is my semi-regular column on the state of the appraisal profession. This week I find out someone was pretending to be me.

Since last summer, the work from retail banks slowed as the credit markets unraveled, yet our firm is doing better than we were a year ago and since the first of the year, even better. Why?

Divorce, litigation, estate and other legal support services are booming right now. Apparently money was the glue that held many relationships together.

A little economic hardship and voila! Appraisal services are in demand.

We were recently involved in a divorce case where my firm was hired as an expert for the apartment occupant. The other party knew we were hired and I assume when we were scheduled to inspect the apartment.

Apparently another appraiser scheduled and inspected the apartment before us, representing that they were from my firm, Miller Samuel. It was later confirmed that this appraiser was working for the adversary. That’s really an unprofessional (translation: a slimebag) move.

I have the name and can’t wait to meet this person at the next appraiser function. Because this is all second hand, I’ll reserve the right to file a complaint with the state and the appropriate appraisal organization until after I am able to confirm what happened.

Why do professionals insist on acting so unprofessionally? Are we our own worse enemy?


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[Musings Of An Appraiser] You Are Only As Good As Your Last Appraisal

May 4, 2008 | 11:03 pm |

Adam Johnston, SRA, is a long time appraisal veteran, and currently a chief appraiser for a national real estate settlement services company (and a longtime fan of Soapbox). On a daily basis, he speaks with appraisers and lenders across the country having observed the rise and fall of the sub-prime lending market. I am glad to have him share his views with us …Jonathan Miller

For those that recall, Baghdad Bob was the embattled former Information Minister for Sadaam Hussein. He achieved international fame by rendering delirious proclamations of Iraqi victory while the rest of the world watched Sadaam Hussein’s regime collapsing with historical speed. Baghdad Bob was forced to humiliate himself by contradicting reality with fictitious stories of Iraqi battlefield victories. This is akin to the Captain of the Titanic steering the ship while it sank to the bottom of the ocean.

The parallel between Baghdad Bob and my friend the appraiser should become more evident as this blog post continues.

This week, I was challenged with an appraisal that made my eyes water. The author was reportedly an appraiser with 45 years of experience, certified general licensure, and possessing a prestigious designation with a prominent appraisal organization. By all standards, this appraiser is a patriarch of the industry and should be admired by the legions of lesser accomplished appraiser’s-myself included.

Yet, his work betrays a different story. Case in point; the subject property is located in a mixed-use area with residential and commercial land uses. The appraiser acknowledges in his appraisal that he failed to verify zoning (or attempt to verify the zoning). Consequently, he omits a determination of zoning and zoning compliance. Yet, the appraiser managed to conclude that the highest and best use of the subject property is it’s current use. I found this conclusion baffling since one of the four mandatory tests for highest and best use is legal permissibility. The appraisal contained no discussion regarding the basis for his conclusion of highest and best use. Thus, having no verification of the subject’s specific zoning, and consequently what uses are legally permissible, it becomes impossible (without assumption or specific assignment condition) to answer the question of highest and best use.

Sadly, when confronted about the apparent problem in his appraisal, the appraiser admonished me and suggested that my concern constituted a lack of trust in his abilities. Thus, he essentially ignored my questions in favor of a disapproving glare. As a consolation, he directed me to review his resume for assurance and peace of mind.

The Lesson Learned: Your appraisal, as opposed to a self-composed list of resume qualifications, represents the most trustworthy resume.


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[Sounding Bored] AMC Enabler Wreaking Havoc With Best Intentions

May 2, 2008 | 12:20 am | Columns |

Sounding Bored is my semi-regular column on the state of the appraisal profession. This week I play a simple game of absolute havoc.

With the comment period of the Cuomo Fannie Mae agreement officially closed, it’s time to reflect on what it means to us. The word “havoc” is disaffectionately derived from the HVCC acronym for the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (Hat tip to Ann O’Rourke).

There has been a lot of anger originating from the appraisal profession, most of it warranted but some of it based on misinformation or misinterpretation. I think the Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo and his staff were the first government entity to actually understand what appraisal pressure was, why it is bad and how if proliferated. For the first time someone started with the appraisal process and “followed the money.”

By forcing the GSEs not to purchase mortgages whose appraisals were ordered by mortgage brokers, they succeed in breaking the impact of self-dealing on property values.

I get pretty annoyed when mortgage brokers say they will go out of business without being able to order the appraisal and it will cost the consumer more. That thought is based on a premise that the appraisal result is influenced by the person ordering it who in turn is paid a commission. Please.

Dave Bigger of a la mode (who makes an awesome appraisal software product) was quite outspoken about this agreement several days before the close of the comment period.

In case you don’t know yet, the new regulations came out of a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General against Washington Mutual and eAppraiseIT, centered on coercion of appraisers.  In a settlement agreement spawned by the suit, the GSEs (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), and the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) agreed to change national appraisal rules in exchange for the Attorney General’s office terminating its investigation of the GSEs. Unfortunately, while we believe the agreement has the best of intentions, the hastily written embedded regulations (called the “Home Valuation Code of Conduct”, or HVCC) do not solve the problem and in fact severely punish appraisers, and ultimately consumers.  If there ever was a case of the cure being worse than the disease, this is it.

He makes a great case with one significant flaw based on this comment:

The value of the client relationships you’ve nurtured, many times for decades, could disappear immediately under the HVCC as lenders are forced to shift their orders to AMCs.  You won’t even be able to speak to your current clients’ loan officers again if the HVCC is left as-is.

Here’s the problem with this argument: The mortgage lending system has no business allowing loan officers and appraisers to interact. This is old school and one of the reasons we are in this credit mess. Speaking to a loan officer is no different than speaking to a mortgage broker. It’s called collusion and has been in place so long, many of us don’t see it anymore.

Here’s the real problem with the HVCC concept and the deal in general: Appraisal Management Companies will be enabled by enforcement of this deal. This poses a significant threat to the appraisal industry for the wrong reasons yet I don’t see how this can be legislated out of the lending process.

Appraisal Management Companies survive on appraiser willing to work for fees that are typically half the market rate. Keeping costs low is certainly no crime, but it has been my experience that the appraisers who generally work for AMC companies don’t need to have much overhead because they don’t need to do any research. They fill out the form and arrive at the borrower’s estimate or the sales price. There is no penalty to the AMCs to reward this practice. I think the AMCs need to rep and warranty the mortgage or they have no skin in the game.

It has been my experience that employees in AMCs that interact with appraisers are very young and inexperienced (cheap) and are paid based on the average turn times and fees of appraisers under their control.

The AMCs are subject to pressure from their lending clients which is what brought Cuomo to take action in this matter (WaMu/eAppraisIT) just like appraisers are. There are no checks (no pun intended) and balances.

If mortgage brokers can’t order appraisals for mortgages, then the responsibility falls to the lenders again (which is not a bad thing since they are lending against the collateral being appraised). So who is the bank going to call to order hundreds of thousands of appraisals across the US next year? They have already severed most of their appraisal relationships by using AMCs or emphasizing wholesale lending channels for new business.

Banks will be forced to use AMCs to complete appraisal reports for their loans. Poor quality will replace poor reliability. We get to the same place as before but take a different path.

That means little good news for the good guys.


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[Commercial Grade] Reminiscents Of An Old Timer

April 15, 2008 | 11:46 am |

Commercial Grade is a post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with focus on commercial valuation. John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, depending on what day of the week it is, one of the smartest guys I know.

John is starting to sound a lot like an old man with a pocket calculator, but with wisdom far beyond his boyish charm facade.
…Jonathan Miller

I was recently reminiscing about how much this field has changed over the past 23 years, since I first began appraising in 1985. We had no computers then. Rather, every appraiser had a yellow legal pad where he/she would hand write the entire report. The “boilerplate” would be copied from another report and taped onto the pad. We’d then give the pad to a typist who would take a couple of days to type the report. If changes were required, the typist would use “correct-tape” to replace one line of text with another. If she was good (I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but we had no men typists), you could barely notice the changes, but more often than not the lines were crooked and extended well into the margins.

Fax and email had not been invented yet; the internet was the stuff of science fiction movies. (I don’t recall if Fed Ex service had begun yet.) We didn’t have the instant gratification of doing market research that we have today. Market research was done the old-fashioned waymanually sifting through property transfer cards that were mailed daily and making lots of phone calls. No googling sale comps, or subscribing to web-based data services.

It was before state licensing, and appraisers were actually respected. Holding the MAI designation meant something and young kids out of college actually aspired to being a professional appraiser.

Banks didn’t ask you to “bid” your labor, through web-based bidding sites. There were no goofy checklists that need to go in the addenda of reports.

Two things have remained the same over the past two decades: I have the same lucky HP-12c that I bought in May 1985 (though I’ve had to change the battery a couple of times), and fees have not increased a dime.


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[Musings Of An Appraiser] Incompetence A Bigger Issue Than Fraud

April 13, 2008 | 3:23 pm |

Adam Johnston, SRA, is a long term appraisal veteran, and currently a chief appraiser for a national real estate settlement services company (and a longtime fan of Soapbox). On a daily basis, he speaks with appraisers and lenders across the country having observed the rise and fall of the sub-prime lending market. …Jonathan Miller

There has been a lot of recent discussion from the government and the news media regarding the issue of appraisal fraud and improper pressure on appraisers. Although appraisers and fair housing advocacy groups have complained loudly about these issues for the past several years, our concerns were frequently disregarded or dismissed as being over-hyped and insignificant. Many regulatory bodies and lending institutions naively suggested that appraisers should obey the rules and everything would be fine. All the while, these entities ignored a fundamental reality; where there is demand, there will be supply. Accordingly, where demand for appraiser’s to “play ball” became a prevalent practice, there developed an ample supply of greedy appraisers to meet that demand. The presence of inexcusably lax enforcement, instigated by regulatory apathy and insufficient state funding further enabled the problem and emboldened the offenders.

Unfortunately, we now find ourselves in a real estate meltdown of mind-numbing proportions. Although appraisal pressure and fraud was merely one symptom of the greater problem, it was avoidable none-the-less.

Despite all the rhetoric about appraisal fraud, I believe a far more significant problem exists within the appraisal industry. Namely, we are plagued by incompetent appraisers with marginal training and a marginal understanding of basic appraisal procedures and techniques. Shockingly, it has been my experience that many seasoned appraiser’s lack the necessary understanding of USPAP to comply with it’s rules. How does an appraiser certify compliance with a document they fail to read or understand? I believe that appraiser incompetence is a greater threat to mortgage lenders than appraisal fraud. I suspect that most appraisers would not knowingly commit fraud, but yet will engage in incompetent appraisal practice on a routine basis. An incompetent appraiser can unknowingly yield appraisal conclusions and market value opinions that are similarly erroneous and damaging as appraisals that are frequently labeled as fraudulent.

In conclusion, I believe that:

  • appraiser incompetence is significantly more dangerous and prevalent than appraisal fraud.
  • Secondly, I believe that appraiser incompetence is far more difficult and costly to detect than appraisal fraud.
  • Lastly, I believe that our current system of mentoring, licensure, continuing education, appraisal review and enforcement is woefully inadequate and is built for marginal success.


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[Straight From MacCrate] Real Property Taxation Is It Fair?

April 8, 2008 | 11:31 pm | |

Jim MacCrate, MAI, CRE, ASA has his own firm, MacCrate Associates, but has worn many hats as a Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City and Chief Appraiser at European American Bank. He is a prolific writer on valuation issues and teaches a number of the real estate appraisal classes through the Appraisal Institute and New York University. I have had the pleasure of taking a number of courses taught by Jim. His wife Judy is an SRA and is an accomplished appraiser in her own right, having managed an appraisal panel for a large lending institution throughout its various mergers for a number of years. I can only imagine the riveting conversations at dinnertime.

Jim shares his thoughts on how taxing the real property tax process is – like a maze of pipes.
…Jonathan Miller

I have a great deal of respect for civil servants and the professionals who work in the real property tax assessment offices throughout our country. Many hold appraisal licenses in their respective states and are members of the Appraisal Institute, The International Association of Assessing Officers, American Society of Appraisers, and other professional organizations. Theirs is an extremely difficult job; nobody really likes them because the general public perceives them as tax collectors. In actuality, politicians determine the budgets and set the tax rates applied to the assessed valuation that determines your real property tax liability. In addition, politicians tend to limit the resources for the real property assessors to do an adequate job. Further they fail to enforce standards such as mandatory licensing for all personnel in the real property tax departments, hearing officers and judges who hear the grievances, and the property owners’ representatives who prepare the tax appeal cases.

Real property taxation is no longer a fair and equitable method to pay for the cost of government and social services. At one time, real property represented the majority of wealth and produced most of the income from farming and other operations. Wikipedia states that the conventional property tax has some advantages—simplicity, stability, and open record keeping—but also many disadvantages.

The first disadvantage is market value assessment procedures. Market value can change dramatically with the fluctuating real estate market conditions as we are just witnessing. The second disadvantage is selected assessment and visibility because rent and leaseholders are not directly taxed. Most often the current assessed value is unrelated to any implied level of government service. Further inequities include that property taxes do not adequately provide for education and other social improvements in impoverished areas. Because real property valuation is more of an art than a science, the real property tax system has become just as corrupted as mortgage brokerage operations on Wall Street. Likewise our politicians ignore the fixes that are required, just as they failed to act to prevent our current mortgage banking meltdown.

Wealth today is no longer concentrated in real estate because on average it has been leveraged to 80% or more. In addition, the mortgage financing opportunities of the last five years created fictitious wealth and many individuals who were mislead, today are struggling or defaulting on their mortgage payments, so don’t have a prayer of meeting their real property tax liabilities. Financing influences the price paid for real estate; certainly the irresponsible actions of Wall Street and the bankers during the mid-2000s have resulted in inflated real property values from 15%-20% or more across the board in most communities. Any reassessment based on sales inflated by favorable financing is neither justified, nor equitable. Instead of real estate, wealth is now concentrated in stocks, bonds and other investment vehicles.

In addition, many lawyers and appraisers who present tax appeals are not licensed and thus not required to subscribe to a code of ethics similar to those of professional appraisal organizations. Similar to appraisals prepared by mortgage brokers, their improper valuations are biased, so their status as advocates is questionable. Their compensation is often contingent on the tax savings, regardless of whether the tax ruling is fair and equitable to the remaining residents in the community who must pick up the shortfall.

As a member of the Appraisal Institute, my compensation cannot be contingent upon the reporting of a predetermined value or direction in value that favors the client’s cause, the amount of the value estimate, the attainment of a stipulated result, or the occurrence of a subsequent event. In addition, my analyses, opinions, and conclusions are developed, and my reports have been prepared according to the Code of Professional Ethics and the Standards of Professional Practice of the Appraisal Institute and in conformity with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most importantly, if someone in the tax assessment department feels that I have violated that code of ethics, he/she can send my reports to the Appraisal Institute for peer review.

Now is the time for our politicians to focus on alternatives to real property taxation to be fair and equitable. At the very least, licensing should be mandatory for all practitioners involved in the real property tax assessment process, which includes attorneys, hearing officers, judges and anyone involved in assessment-related activities.

The author was on the Board of Assessors and the Assessment Review Commission in Nassau County. Thanks also for editorial assistance from Nancy Reiss, The Write Stuff and Max Ramsland, MAI.


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[In The Media] CNBC Clip For 3-24-08

March 24, 2008 | 11:18 pm | Public |

To view clip

I was sent an email clip of a spot on today’s CNBC broadcast covering the existing home sales stats released for California, except I was included in the broadcast. Unless it was due to too much Easter candy, I didn’t remember being on the show today. 😉

Real estate correspondent Jane Wells reached into her video archive and pulled out an interview we did in 2005 where I estimated 75% of all appraisals were inflated. I remember that my concerns fell largely on deaf ears in the industry back then. Its been a frustrating three years. (And to her comment, her hair looks just as great now).

It was a picture in picture clip, where the anchors watched the tv that was playing the interview. Very cool. I actually posted the same clip of the 2005 interview a little over a week ago.

While it’s satisfying to be proven correct (and have actual video evidence), it’s a shame the lights were on and nobody was home (sorry). She was one of the few national correspondents that covered the housing market at that time that understood the “appraiser” problem growing at an alarming rate.

It’s making me feel both a little old and like a broken record because I have been saying the same thing since that interview (and at least a year before) but finally there is some hope for change.

Appraisers need to be able to perform independently to be able to function.

What was striking about the home sale stats she mentioned was that 1/3 of all sales in California were foreclosures in February. Crazy.


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[Palumbo On USPAP] USPAP 2008: is it Spring yet?

March 22, 2008 | 9:56 am |

Palumbo On USPAP is written by Joe Palumbo, SRA, a long time appraisal colleague and friend who is also an Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB) certified instructor and a user of appraisal services. Joe is well-versed on the ever changing landscape of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice [USPAP].

Spring is nearly here, but as more people venture outside, Joe cautions against mob rules: doing things ’cause “everyone does it.” …Jonathan Miller


It must be the “economic climate” that has me a feeling as (blah) as I am. It has to beafter all we did not have a harsh winter here in the NE, although one wonders if the perpetual rains can not fall into that category.

As I prepared to teach my first USPAP class of the spring, I was surprised and pleased to see how “robust” the material is for the 2008-2009 class. Discussion problems, focus on “real-world” issues and clarification on some of those “confusing” everyday issues. this material has it all. Everything from a what is a Federally Related Transaction to Confidentiality.

Still, I wonder if bi-annual mandated 7-hour detention was enough for the masses. To me not knowing the basics of USPAP as an appraiser is like trying to become a doctor and not understanding the skeletal system.

I know.I knowthere ARE some hair splits and some confusing topics in real estate appraisal as it relates to ethical, acceptable or just plain bad practice. The thing that gets me is that no one will argue those points but they will the basics.

Case in pointspeaking of Confidentiality. I friend mine was asked about providing work samples to a potential new client. I told him “make your life easier”. Get permission to use them and put a cover letter stating such permission was granted”. If you do not get permission then you will have to redact the confidential info that is identified by the client (likely the subject) AND the assignments results. Well, in this day and age if you send me the “sample” and redact your FINAL valueI have no use for that sample. Reconciliation is key these days.

Ok more to the pointon what my friend told me happened when the “lender” called to ask for status on the samples. “Well”, he said, ” I need to get permission to use the samples and that may take some time”. “No”, “No”.. stated the lender “just send them alongyou do not need that.EVERYONE just sends them in”, “never redaction..”.

Yepeveryone just does this or thatmaybe it is just ignorance or sending out work samples is no big deal.

There is a much bigger picture here: the guy or gal sending those samples is the same guy who makes the deal, misses the sale next door or the expired listing on the subject cause that is the way he/she thinks.

Professionalism is a way of conduct..not a cap rate with sound data.

It reminds me of when I was in a sales office once and I asked for the typical absorption information. “We never get those questions asked”? “What kind of appraiser are you?” The saleswoman quipped. So I respondedlike my financial advisor”If you do not give me all the info I need to analyze this situation I will give the lender a half good appraisal” (or half- good advice).

Make the most of your 7-hours this licensing cycleeven if all you get is just the basics…….

IS IT SPRING YET?!


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[Commercial Grade] Greed Is Not So Good

March 18, 2008 | 5:50 pm |

Commercial Grade is a post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with focus on commercial valuation. John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, depending on what day of the week it is, one of the smartest guys I know. Since I ended my Radar Logic gig, John has promised to bring more of his insight to Soapbox [wink] …Jonathan Miller


Greed is not-so-good after all.

If the movie Wall Street were made today, they would give Michael Douglas an HP-12c and make him a real estate investment banker.

I don’t think that I fully realized just how bad things had gotten until I learned that powerhouse Bear Stearns was being bought for $2/share. (For $2/share, even I could have bought itI always wanted to own an investment bank!). While this 90-year old institution, crippled by its losses in mortgages, was being rescued by JP Morgan Chase and the Fed, I was on a conference call with a couple of investment bankers (a Bear Stearns competitor) who were adamantly trying to convince me that my appraisal of a proposed apartment building was too low. There are clearly still some Masters of the Universe out there that apparently don’t read the papers and are still underwriting business as usual.

Appraiser guru Jonathan Miller (my business partner) recently did a series of interviews about appraiser pressure where he opined that as many as 80% of all residential appraisals were inflated during the housing boom. That is an astonishing number and when I challenged him on it, he stuck to his number and explained that not coincidentally as many as 80% of all home mortgages were originated by mortgage brokers. I have no idea how many commercial mortgages were underwritten by investment banks and securitized during the recent boom, but that’s probably a good indication of the number of commercial appraisals that were likely inflated.

Though the attention to date has been on residential mortgage brokers and the pressure that they exert on residential appraisers, inflated appraisals have also been greasing the wheels of the CMBS market. Unlike a commercial bank, where FIRREA requires separation of the appraisal and underwriting, no such distinction exists in the investment banks (unless it happens to be the investment banking arm of a commercial bank). Therefore, the same 24 year old underwriting the CMBS loan, and who stands to realize a six-figure bonus at year end depending on how much money he pushes out the door, is also responsible for ordering the appraisal.

Just like 1987 all over again!

And the rating agencies, supposedly the watchdogs of the process, failed to see the abuses, or since they are also hired directly by the investment banks turned a blind eye.

With all of the recent high-level attention given to real estate lending practices, we seem to be at a turning point in the appraisal profession. However, without fundamentally changing the way commercial CMBS loans are underwritten, this problem will not go away.


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#Housing analyst, #realestate, #appraiser, podcaster/blogger, non-economist, Miller Samuel CEO, family man, maker of snow and lobster fisherman (order varies)
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Joined October 2007