Real Estate Article

Getting an Appraisal? Know the Facts of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct

Diana Hill
Professional Real Estate Investor Instructor

On May 1, 2009 (updated March 2010) a new set of rules went into effect for appraisals of residential real estate (1-4 units). The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) dictates certain practices lenders must follow if they intend to sell the loans to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  The HVCC worked out an agreement between Fannie, Freddie, and the New York Atty. General’s office; this was in response to an investigation.  The purpose of the HVCC is to insulate the appraisal process from undue influence by placing tight controls and restrictions on the ordering of an appraiser, as well as guidelines for communicating with the appraiser during the process.

It’s important to understand, as real estate investors and consumers, how the new Home Valuation Code of Conduct can affect appraisals on properties.

Here are some facts and myths you should be aware of.

Fact: The code requires lenders to order appraisals themselves, rather than accept any one that a mortgage broker, Real Estate Broker/Agent or other third party has chosen, hired, or paid.

Fact: The code requires lenders to ensure that borrowers are provided a copy of the appraisal report no less than three business days prior to closing, unless the borrower waives the requirement.

Fact: The code requires absolute independence within a lender’s organization between the appraisal function and loan production and limits communication with the appraiser.

Fact: The code allows an appraisal to be transferred from one lender to another, but only if the original lender gives written assurance that the appraisal is HVCC compliant and the new lender accepts that assurance.

Myth: Real estate brokers and agents are prohibited from communicating with appraisers even if they have no direct interest in a specific sale.

Reality: Real estate agents and brokers provide information to an appraiser that is invaluable to the appraiser in the development of an accurate and reliable opinion of value.  This includes information related to closed and pending sales, terms and conditions of the sale, etc.  Without this information an appraiser has a much more difficult time developing an accurate and reliable opinion of  value.  Agents and brokers, including those that have a direct interest in a transaction, are permitted to communicate with an appraiser and to provide additional information to an appraiser, as long as communication and information is done in a way that is not intended to influence the outcome of the appraisal.

Myth: The code prohibits appraisers from reviewing “reconsideration of value” requests.

Reality: Reconsideration of value requests that are based on correcting objective, factual errors (such as incorrect square footage, incorrect number of rooms, etc.) are permissible under the code.

Myth: The code prohibits the use of foreclosures as comparable sales.

Reality: The code does not address the use of foreclosures as comparable sales.  If the appraiser determines that a foreclosure is representative of the properties available to typical purchasers for the market in which the property is located, appraisers must consider them.

HVCC does not apply to FHA or VA loans (government-insured loans), and some smaller banks are exempt from these requirements as well.

I understand the need for guidelines.  However, this code of conduct can make it more difficult to complete transactions.  A couple of the most significant effects are: an increase in the cost of appraisals, delay and completion of appraisals, and appraisers being assigned to value properties that may be as far away as 40 miles.

The HVCC  has made it more difficult for real estate professionals who have relied on their relationships to service their clients and get affordable and timely closing.

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Great Fortune

Diana Hill

This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.