Coalition aims to stop home-appraisal fraud

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Complaints about appraisal abuse from coalition members in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and Pennsylvania prompted the effort, he said. Taylor said that sometimes brokers pressure appraisers to come up with a property value that will support a high sale price. If appraisers refuse, they don’t get future business. Taylor said he has approached some big lenders, including Countrywide Financial Corp., for support. He’s waiting for their decision on the effort. “I would think they would want to lead it because Angelo R. Mozilo historically is a leader,” Taylor said about the Countrywide chairman and chief executive officer. “He doesn’t wait for other people to show him the way.” Countrywide officials did not return calls seeking comment. Nor did the California Association of Realtors. An advocacy group is undertaking a nationwide campaign to encourage the real estate industry to support a code of conduct to assure that homebuyers and sellers receive accurate appraisals. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit group that tries to increase the flow of capital into underserved communities, said its effort comes in response to increased consumer complaints about appraisal fraud and overvaluation. The Washington, D.C.-based group, which also works to ensure fair lending practices, primarily in low-income, minority neighborhoods, is urging appraisers, lenders, real estate agents and others involved in home-sale transactions to embrace the idea. “It’s a severe problem and one that’s been masked by rising values in housing,” the coalition president, John Taylor, said about property appraisals being pushed too high. But an organization of appraisers and lenders in California endorses the plan. “I think it’s needed,” said Brian O’Neill, managing director of the San Jose-based California Association of Real Estate Appraisers. Appraisers in California must obtain a state license and follow a set of industry standards when conducting business. And he agrees that appraisers sometimes do get pressure from brokers. “It’s good to have someone else say this.” John Marcell, president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, points out that his members are not supposed to reveal the sales price to appraisers. “Our code of ethics doesn’t allow that to happen,” he said. And he thinks Taylor’s coalition has a “great idea.” The coalition has created the Center for Responsible Appraisals and Valuations to promote the idea nationwide. Taylor said identifying companies in the industry that agree to the code of conduct will let the public know which ones are committed to fair appraisals. In addition, participants will agree to a dispute resolution procedure. It will involve online negotiation and then, if necessary, mediation and arbitration. The center will publish lists of industry participants, and it will identify those that have not signed on and have unresolved complaints against them. Anthony Majewski, acting director of the California Office of Real Estate Appraisers, said since the industry is regulated in this state, appraisers here can be penalized for misconduct. He said misconduct is a problem but not one that is increasing. Majewski points out that it’s a violation for an appraiser to accept an assignment when there has been a predetermination of a property’s value. He declined to weigh in on whether the coalition’s code of conduct is an idea with merit. But he notes his office has clout in the industry. “We can do anything from a warning letter to fines, require additional education or suspend and revoke a license,” he said. And consumers can find out whether an appraiser licensed by the state has been disciplined. Just go to the agency’s Web site, www.orea.ca.gov, click on the Find an Appraiser link on the left side of the home page and then scroll down to the button at the bottom of the page. — Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743 [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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