On October 14, 2011, The Norris Group returned with its award-winning event I Survived Real Estate. An expert line-up of industry specialists joined Bruce Norris to discuss current industry regulation, head-scratching legislation, and the opportunities emerging for savvy real estate professionals. 100% of the proceeds support the Orange County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This event would not have been possible without the generous help of the following platinum partners: ForeclosureRadar and Sean O’Toole, Housing Wire, the San Diego Creative Real Estate Investors Association and President Bill Tan, Investors Workshops with President Shawn Watkins and Angel Bronsgeest, Invest Club for Women and Iris Veneracion and Bobbie Alexander, San Jose Real Estate Investors Association and Geraldine Berry, Real Wealth Networks, Frye Wyles, MVT Productions, and White House Catering. The event video can be found on isurvived2011.com.
Bruce continued his discussion with the panel on an interesting appraisal they had. Someone with no experience in a very unusual area where you received a lot of money for a certain located lot had a $1.3 million comp for the model-match house. They had the right location, but The Norris Group did not. They had a home for sale for about $700,000 for 90 days, which is not worth $1.3 million. When they went pending, the home was appraised for $1.3 million because it was a model-match house; someone had come in from out of the area who did not have a clue that it mattered there. This did, however, help lock in the sale.
Bruce wondered what the intent is on the mortgage side. He asked what the function of the appraisal management company was and if they are really supposed to just make sure that appraisal independence is accomplished. Sara confirmed saying this is the main function, and it was intended to be the main function to begin with. Unfortunately, it has become a clearing house for fees lower. The management company is going to make the money, and Sara said what her company finds is that when many consumers close a loan are confronted with an amount for an appraisal that includes not only the appraiser’s fee but also the management company fee. Sometimes the management company fee is more than what the appraiser is actually making on the particular sale. Sara related to Bruce on a personal instance where she had a friend who called and asked her if about $300 the usual in customary fee for a residential appraisal. Sara said this sounded a little high an asked her to call the appraiser. When she called the appraiser, she found out that a good part of the fee that she was going to be paying for the appraisal was actually going to the management company and not to the appraiser.
To earn their cut, the management company usually engages the appraiser and is responsible for the documentation securing the appraisal, getting the appraisal back to the file, and getting it to the lender. They act as the middle man. Bruce jokingly said they basically take an email and forward it. They do not necessarily have to have expertise as appraisers, however. In a lot of states like Arkansas and most likely in California, they have certain requirements for AMCs. The Appraisal Institute has been very active in trying to monitor the appraisal management companies and try to obtain some kind of regulation process, some bonding or some kind of law that supports the appraiser in the event that there is some kind of argument with regard to fee and process. In some states they are not regulated at all, and in other states they are closely regulated. This actually brings up a confusing situation. Bruce wondered if the Appraisal Institute has national and state regulations that overlap or contradict, which Sara confirmed.
Debra Still began talking about how her company works in 29 states and files 29 states worth of appraisal regulations, fees, forms, disclosures, and predatory lending. The variation is pretty stunning. The Dodd-Frank Act had tried to solve the reasonable customary fee, and Bruce wondered if this has changed in practice where the appraiser is now getting paid what they used to. However, Sara said this is not the case as there is still a big issue in this area. When Sara testified before the Congressional Subcommittee in July, this was one of the things that she continued to talk about with the subcommittee. The idea of reasonable and customary and the intent of Dodd-Frank was never to include the AMC fee into the reasonable and customary estimation. The Appraisal Institute has done a lot of research, a lot of study, and they have looked at VA schedules and others to try to help these AMCs and try to help the Congressional Subcommittee to take a look at what a reasonable and customary fee might be to an appraiser. They would like to see the HUD-1 form simply separate the fees. The appraisal fee needs to be on one line and one transparent number, and the appraisal management fee should be on another. An appraiser needs to be paid for the time, the education, the professionalism that they have and that they bring to the experience. The AMC should also be compensated for the work that it is doing. There are pretty severe fines for not paying reasonable fees. In the Legislation, it gets into the millions, and it is uncertain if any of these fines have been levied.
One thing that existed at one time and it is good that it does not anymore is undue pressure. However, Bruce gets the feeling it actually does exist but on the back end. He feels like there are buyers who are willing to say about a house that it is the one they want at the price they want it, but somewhere along the line there is pressure to get it at a lower price. He doesn’t know if it is the review appraisal process, an automated system, or it is an underwriter who says it should be lowered. He really doesn’t know, but he does know that as a seller he is confused sometimes why it comes back less. It’s not reasonable. People look out for their own best interests. For example, a seller checks out the market and goes pending, to Bruce this is a comp. If it disagrees with all the other comps severely, then this might be a problem. When The Norris Group fixes up houses, they might spend $30,000, but they do not automatically think about if they will receive $50,000 back for it. There are, however, times where a buyer looks at this and says they would not be able to do it for $30,000, and a $20 grand price difference at 4% interest is so minimal per month that the answer is they will take the $30,000 over the $50,000, especially when you have 70% comps against REOs and short sales. This is a problem. The real question is how they are viewed. One does not show up and say a property is a comp but it does not have a kitchen. You can’t get the truth with the push of a button.
Sara said all this points out the need for local market expertise, for people who are trained professionals, people who are trained to go to the market and interview the buyer and seller, to investigate the comparables, and make sure they are comparables. Secondly, Sara believes that a lot of appraisers, as they begin to turn in their appraisal reports, face a lot of undue pressure, for example, added comparables, extra questions, and more scrutiny placed on their valuation and their judgment. Bruce wondered if for some reason the pressure is there or a review appraiser disagrees that they could lose business because they came in at a higher number than the review appraiser. Sara said this is something that might happen on some instances, but it really falls to the appraiser to defend himself over and over again. If the information is there and the valuation has been done to the best of the appraiser’s ability, then you need to just get to the point in time where you have to say, “This is it; this is all I can do.” Sara said often times when this situation confronts the people at the company, they will say, “Could we pick you up? Could we drive those comps and take a look at them?” A lot of times you are talking to somebody who is sitting at a desk who never looks at the property and never goes to the particular comparable. He never inspects the interior and doesn’t have any information. It is a communication problem sometimes because as an appraiser and as a person who is writing the report, the communication skill needs to be there to convey extraordinary measures you may or may not have taken to include the sale and why. It is a difficult environment, and it is very difficult sometimes to meet the requirements that are piled on, that are additional, and seem perfect in terms of the final valuation result.
Debra Still said you do have underwriting guidelines and some investor overlays that are now causing some of this challenge where you might have an investor that requires that two comps be outside the community. Outside the community possibly means a foreclosure. This is one of the homebuilders’ top 4 issues. As we see some of these sub-markets beginning to heal and prices starting to stabilize, we have to think about how do we move forward and recognize that in a declining area we might have a very stable sub-market. How do we recognize that some investors want four comps or six comps or justify the time valuation? It becomes very complex when you combine both the appraiser’s work and the underwriter’s work on top of it.
Bruce gave an example of something that really changed their business model. They bought a property in Moreno Valley for $52,000, without a kitchen and other necessities, and they fixed it for around $25,000. They put it up for sale and went pending for $123,000, and they had seven offers within two days. This is a pretty good statement of market value. The appraisal came in at $100,000, and the review came in at $80,000. Consequently, they kept it as a rental at $1100, and they rented it in one day. The statement basically by the appraisal said that given $100,000 at 5%, the rental payment was worth twice as much as the value when you consider what it was worth in mortgage payment. What it prevented was them fixing the next 50 properties in Moreno Valley because what it told them was due to the changes that HVCC brought in, the appraiser was incapable of coming to that decision because no one would allow him to do it. This is a challenge for the industry right now, especially in the areas that have the overwhelming vacant REO as the comp. One of the reasons they concentrate in a specific area is because they provide their own evidence that a decision has been made before, which is what you are in a way stuck with as an appraiser. You have evidence that somebody made a decision.
Sara said one of the other things the aforementioned points out is a relationship with the purchaser and with the person who is going to be working with the mortgage as well as conversation and dialogue on the front end certainly might help to solve some of the problems. The Appraisal Institute is beginning to look at how they can develop some relationships in sub-markets that would allow them to try to take a look at what they have in the market in which they are working. The technique, theory, and ideas going forward are pretty new, and therefore they may have a lot of risk in them for a lot of lenders. It goes back to educating both the lender, the appraiser purchaser, and the investor in what is going on in the market and how they can handle some of the consequences of the downturn that we have seen.
Debra Still said this is one of the things that is difficult with HVCC. The spirit of the HVCC was right on target, not doing anything to exert undue influence on an appraiser. On the other hand, it is now law; and having those good, constructive conversations are very delicate. You have to be very careful and very thoughtful, and there is a protocol to have an appropriate dialogue with an appraiser as you are trying to get to the right place. It is using coercion when it really just needs to have better information.
In order for a company to not require an appraisal management company to act as the middle man and go directly to the independent appraiser, they would have to be a reasonably large lender. Debra Still’s company has a national subdivision processing department, so everything that has to do with properties is done by a department that is outside of the origination, the processing, the underwriting, and the closing. As long as you can set up an arms length environment, you don’t have to use an AMC. Most companies, however, would use that as their way to ensure arms length and to stay within the law. Sara said this is a big factor with a lot of lenders right now as they do not want to cross the line.
There is definitely a sense that there is some rotation system that is necessary where no matter what the experience level or knowledge of an area, it is just a specific person’s turn to obtain an appraisal. Debra Still’s company does a 1 in 5 rotation in each sub-market and probably has about 300 appraisers nationally that they use. It is very important not to use one person solely for a community. There needs to be team partners. All of the appraiser’s business would be dependent upon the company giving, so they have to do at least a 1 in 5 rotation. This is how they have set up their due diligence. They will review the appraisals, review for error, review any quality control audits, and they would make sure they have qualified individuals on their appraiser panel. Sara believes in this type of environment you would have more control over the quality of the appraiser. This is one of the things she does not find happening with a lot of the AMCs. They will gravitate toward cheap and quick and possibly overlook the qualifications that the appraiser has such as market expertise, which Sara says is extremely important. What really matters is the person who is willing to travel, to finish the appraisal, and turn it in completed. A quick turn-around time might be a day to a day and a half. There is no way that if you are not familiar with the market you can simply march in, collect the comparables, talk with the buyers and the sellers, get a sense of what is going on in the market, make the inspection, get a feel for what the property contributes, what are its overall attributes in relationship to the others that are on the market or the other sales that have occurred, go back to make the appraisal, and then write and convey it in a quick amount of time. It just cannot be done. Bruce said it is hard to want to do this if you are getting paid half of the appraisal fee. It may not even be feasible to spend as much time because you just cannot possibly do it. You might as well just go to Multi-list and get a couple of comps and move on.
When asked about broker-price opinions, Sara said one of the things about this is in some instances it might be a good vehicle, but for mortgage-lending purposes and for decisions a lender has to make; by in large the opinions are unregulated. An appraisal that is put forth and signed by a state-certified appraiser, which is what the Appraisal Institute does, has some education. They are unbiased and a third party out there taking a look at the property. They really don’t have anything more in the game than just to report and analyze the market. Sara believes sometimes in the terms of broker-price opinion you have a disinterested person. They are an advocate for the property owner and for another entity. They are certainly not regulated like the appraiser is in terms of adherence to certain educational requirements. There are so many things that are missing. The broker-price opinion might have its place in some part of the real estate picture, but certainly not in terms of making a decision to buy or sell. It’s a different approach; it’s a different mindset, and it should be for a different use.
Bruce speculated that when there is an REO created, there is a series of things that happen including a couple of BPOs and an appraisal. It’s uncertain which is weighed heavier, but there is evidence that everybody is getting a turn in saying what the value is.
Bruce asked the panel if they see anything in Dodd-Frank or the changes in qualified mortgages that threaten a 30-year mortgage for some of the stratuses of loans. Debra said she does not really see anything in the QM or the QRM that would specifically attack the 30-year mortgage. For the most part this has been a product that housing in America has depended on for many years.
To find out more, tune in next week for I Survived Real Estate 2011, part 6. The Norris Group would like to thank their gold sponsors for the event: Adrenaline Athletics, Coldwell Banker Pioneer Real Estate, Conaway and Conaway, Delmae Properties, Elite Auctions, Inland Empire Investors Forum, Inland Valley Association of Realtors, Keller Williams of Corona, Keystone CPA, Kucan & Clark Partners, LLC, Las Brisas Escrow, Leivas Associates, Mike Cantu, Northern California Real Estate Investors Association, Northern San Diego Real Estate Investors Association, Pacific Sunrise Mortgage, Personal Real Estate Magazine, Raven Paul and Company, Realty 411 Magazine, Rick and LeaAnne Rossiter, Southwest Riverside County Board of Realtors, Starz Photography, uDirect IRA, Wilson Investment Properties, Tony Alvarez, Tri-Emerald Financial Group, and Westin South Coast Plaza. Visit isurvived2011.com for more
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