Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ken Harney Shines a Light on AMC Appraisal Fee Splits

Along with all the appraisal related mandates in the Dodd-Frank Act is the primary reason for the legislation; creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The CFPB and the individual recent appointed to head the agency have been in the news quite a bit recently. Without offering any opinion about the agency, the appointments, and the politics, it is important to be aware of the CFPB's massive rule making authority. 

This week, Ken Harney writes about the CFPB reviewing ways to bring more clarity and better disclosure to fees associated with Real Estate Transactions. The focus of the story is the failure to inform borrowers of the fact a significant part of the fee may be paid to an affiliate or subsidiary of the lender. The CFPB is considering rules to require disclosure of the portion of the appraisal fee retained by Appraisal Management Companies.

Ken writes:

One of the fees being scrutinized might surprise you: appraisal charges. Why do they need clarifying? Doesn’t just about everybody who applies for a mortgage, whether it’s to buy a house or refinance, have to pay $450 to $600 — sometimes more — to find out what the property is worth?
Say you’re charged $550. There is no hint that the appraiser may be getting $250, with the rest going to the management company and the lender. The CFPB is considering whether to shed light on this by mandating two disclosures: what the appraiser is paid and what the management company is taking.
Frank Gregoire, a past chairman of the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board, which oversees and regulates the industry in that state, says that while appraiser independence is important, banks and their affiliated management firms are raising the costs of appraisals to consumers without improving services.
Defenders of management firms, such as Donald E. Kelly, executive director of the Real Estate Valuation Advocacy Association, strongly disagree. Kelly says management firms perform the “back office” functions — including reviews and quality control — “that in the past were done by lender staff and employees.” In other words, they earn the money they get. And there’s no pressing need for consumers to see additional disclosures. They just need to know the bottom line.

Read the article HERE.
On the floor, next to my desk, is a stack of appraisal reports. Borrowers, lenders, real estate agents, and other appraisers sent them my way as examples of shoddy work and lack of quality control by AMCs. How do appraisal reports pass through a quality control check when the appraiser cites ZILLOW or TRULIA as the source of his date of sale, time, or market conditions adjustment, and that it is based on data from a zip code, not a market area? >

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