Appraisal complaint hotline due by end of year
A federal monitor expects to open a complaint hotline for real estate appraisals by the end of the year.
The Dodd-Frank Act requires the Appraisal Subcommittee, a federal monitor of state bodies responsible for governing valuations, to build a hotline for homebuyers, real estate agents, lenders and others in the industry to raise complaints.
Appraisers themselves can report lenders who pressure them to bring in a valuation at a certain amount, a practice reforms attempted to crack down on in the wake of the housing crash.
"ASC member agencies are currently working to finalize the details for how they will handle the referral of a complaint from the hotline," said ASC Executive Director James Park in House testimony last week. "This effort involves interagency coordination and information sharing. Launch of the hotline is anticipated before the end of 2012."
While appraisals during the bubble often pushed home prices to artificial limits, many today charge the valuations are coming in too low, forcing purchases to be canceled and shutting out some borrowers from refinancing or modification.
"The appraiser–client business relationships built on the foundation of knowledge and trust have been shattered over the past few years," said Francois Gregoire, an appraisal committee member for the National Association of Realtors.
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office detailed holes in state budgets and regulatory confusion that allow appraisal management companies, in particular, to largely go unmonitored.
AMC critics often charge these firms with hiring appraisers based on speed and cost, not quality. The companies claim they use a whole swath of criteria when assigning jobs to appraisers.
A separate GAO report released in January showed some states would likely be unable to follow up on any complaints raised.
Parker said a website is also being designed, and "an overall process for handling complaints has been drafted."