ORLANDO, FL - A Central Florida homeowner forced into foreclosure filed a class-action lawsuit last week against KB Home (NYSE: KBH), Countrywide Financial and LandSafe Appraisal Services, claiming the three conspired to rig housing prices in Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina, costing home purchasers millions of dollars, and fueling the collapse of the region's housing market.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla. on Friday, October 30, claims the three companies employed a well-planned scheme to control the typically independent appraisal process, jacking up home values, which, in turn, were used to determine the value of other homes sold by KB, affecting thousands of homeowners.
According to the 94-page complaint, Countrywide funneled all its KB customers' home appraisals to a single person at LandSafe, an appraisal subsidiary of Countrywide, who in turn would deliver an appraisal value at whatever KB and Countrywide ordered.
UPDATE - Mary Shanklin of the Orlando Sentinel offers some additional details and statements from KB Homes.
"It was common practice for builders and subdivision developers to have pet appraisers," Gregoire said. "That was true not only for subdivisions but also for builders within a subdivision or development — and, in particular, for condo converters."