July 21st, 2009 11:53 AM by DANIEL POULOS
Year-after-year the largest lenders in the country push for regulations to stack the deck against hometown mortgage companies. Usually the tactics take the form of sweeping Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA) reforms that are disguised as consumer protection rules but apply only to mortgage brokers while loan originators for lenders remain unchecked and legally unlicensed.
The latest cash cow for the Big Banks at the expense of consumers, mortgage brokers and residential property appraisers is the new Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) policy. How could something that sounds so righteous be so unjust? While it is important to ensure that home appraisals are high quality and accurate, the new policy has prompted the opposite result.
As of May 1, 2009, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are no longer purchasing loans from lenders using "appraisal reports completed by an appraiser selected, retained, or compensated in any manner by any third party." Lenders may only accept appraisal reports from a pre-approved list of appraisers or unregulated Appraisal Management Companies (AMC's). In one fell swoop this regulation has put countless independent real estate appraisers out of business. Instead of appraisals being supplied by professionally licensed appraisers operating in local markets values are now determined by unlicensed and inexperienced paper pushers on behalf of AMC's. The AMC's keep up to 40% of the appraisal fee, and guess who gets to have ownership in the Appraisal Management Companies? The Big Banks themselves!
On May 1st CNBC reported that, "it puts good solid appraisers out of business, complicates the loan process for mortgage brokers, and inevitably hurts consumers." The Wall Street Journal on June 9th proclaimed that "Appraisals are becoming one of the biggest obstacles for Americans trying to sell their homes, refinance their mortgages or tap into home-equity credit lines."
Here are some typical scenarios being reported that have resulted in higher costs, less choices, and difficulty in borrowing:
Ironically, the HVCC arose out of a lawsuit involving one of the nation's largest mortgage lenders accused of conspiring to inflate real estate appraisals. Over-regulation has once again taken the place of enforcement, leaving consumers and small businesses to pick up the tab. Somehow Big Banks have convinced Government that the fox is the best minder of the chicken coop.
Consumers are left with a choice between patronizing the Big Banks that thrive on back door policy making and bailouts, or help local business by supporting their neighborhood mortgage companies that have emerged from a very challenging crisis.