Matrix Blog

Appraising

The Previous Victim Of The Appraisal Institute Sham Election Maneuver Shares What Happened

July 25, 2020 | 5:25 pm | Explainer |

This post previously appeared in the July 24, 2020 edition of Housing Notes. I’ve been writing these weekly summaries on housing topics for more than five years. To subscribe for free, you can sign up here. Then you can look forward to each issue every Friday at 2pm New York Time.


Here’s a shoutout to Jim Amorin and Leslie Sellers as you are reading this right now – – here’s a refresher on Appraisal Institute history…

Like Craig Steinley, the 2007 victim of the unethical petition process I’ve covered over the previous two weeks, Anne L. Johnson was selected by the nominating committee to be Vice President after being vetted against a number of candidates. This sham petition process was implemented to get Leslie Sellers (he voted for himself after not making the cut with the nominating committee) on track to later become President and then led AI to exit TAF without a legitimate explanation – it caused me to quit and accelerated the deterioration of the once-great organization, essentially screwing its own membership by fostering its growing irrelevance.

To be clear, I want the Appraisal Institute to either thrive or get out of the way of the appraisal industry. This corrupt behavior is going to continue and the operations executives will keep overruling the voice of the membership, so that leadership can keep enjoying high pay and expensive perks, inappropriate to an organization that has lost a third of its membership over the decade, a steeper decline than credentialed U.S. appraisers. There is one thing they are doing now that should be good for appraisers – more on that next week. But any good continues to be overshadowed by current behavior that is corrosive to organizational credibility.

Unless this petition process is removed from the bylaws, the deterioration in credibility will continue.

To current Board Members, please pick one:

Are you:

A. simply sheep that sit on the board to pad your resume and remain afraid to make any move that gets the operational executives mad? or
B. an industry leader who knows right from wrong and can see the corruption right in front of you and are willing to do something about it to rebuild long-term organization integrity?

But I digress again…

Anne L. Johnson lays the situation out in her July 21, 2020 note that was sent in support of Craig Steinley, the current (only legitimate) nominating committee choice. I’m sure all board members are aware of this dark moment in Appraisal Institute history more than a decade ago and now is the time to start asking questions and demonstrate integrity. Fingers crossed.


So I’ve made my case. Now here is how members of the Appraisal Institute can take action NOW.

A plan of action has been laid out professionally by the North Texas Chapter and is not being critical of the Board of Directors.

Clicking on the image will take you to the CALL TO ACTION web site.


[click on image to go to the CALL TO ACTION link]

Tags: , , , , , ,


The Appraisal Institute Has Missed The Opportunity To Come Clean With Its Members

July 13, 2020 | 9:35 am | Investigative |

This post previously appeared in the July 10, 2020 edition of Housing Notes. I’ve been writing these weekly summaries on housing topics for more than five years. To subscribe for free, you can sign up here. Then you can look forward to each issue every Friday at 2pm New York Time.

______________________________________________________________

UPDATE JULY 13, 2020

The Appraisal Institute felt it was necessary to write a letter to respond to my original July 3rd post: The Appraisal Institute Ignores Its Membership For Third Time In Sham Election Maneuver. Their response letter was surprisingly amateur and showed how little they respect their membership. Read on.


UPDATE JULY 16, 2020

I have just been told that Michael Tankersley did NOT serve on this year’s Nominating Committee. He was a candidate for the Vice President position. The note below has been updated to reflect that.


Although Steinley was the – SOLE – duly vetted and selected candidate of the nominating committee, somehow the board had to go through a secret, 6-out-of-24 “process” to place Tankersley back onto the ballot after not being the selection of the nominating committee. Why?

The Appraisal Institute at a crossroads. To all those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. The sham petition process was hidden from the Appraisal Institute’s membership. In response to my initial call out of this sham election process last week, the Appraisal Institute attempted slip this by membership using a highly disrespectful “fogging” letter from the current president. It insultingly omits all the critical issues that have roiled membership while rambling on and on about process and assuming the membership isn’t very smart. No matter how much they try, AI leadership behavior in this sham election process is unethical and does not serve the membership whatsoever.

Here’s a reminder to the Board of Directors: you serve the membership, no matter who you pledged your allegiance to when you signed up for this gig. Please honor your commitment to them and your commitment to honor and integrity as leaders of the industry. For at least the last decade, this once-proud organization is a shadow of its past because of self-dealing from the same people we are witnessing now. It is up to you to do the right thing and act like the leaders you can be.

______________________________________________________________

Original Post

Today, all (I assume) members of the Appraisal Insitute received a letter from current AI president Jeff Sherman, with whom I’ve met and spoken with on several occasions during his tenure and liked him and what he represented. MAI members from around the country have forwarded it to me and expressed their profound disappointment in this organization that they used to love.

Here is the consensus feedback by members who received this letter.

It just makes me sad that this is the way it is. I think many of us are a bit dumbstruck by this.

I found the letter mind-boggling and a simply attempt to fog the issue at hand. I have to assume that this was written by AI counsel because it reads like a lawyer’s writing with a little softening from other parties. I will also assume this response was directed by the current CEO in an attempt to stop the viral membership backlash of the sham election process that has rattled the organization so he can continue to control who future presidents are. So I am very confused as to why Jeff signed off on this letter since its contents contradict what I have been told by past presidents, past board members, and current members. It hurt to read it.

For now, I am going to chalk this up to “fogging” so that the actual logic gets buried in the debris. This is how lawyers do this. By the way, has anyone ever considering sending the details of this action and the past ten years of self-dealing to federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois? If this is how their executives run the organization, and all the perks I keep hearing about, it makes me wonder about the state of their finances. The handling of the FMC debacle comes to mind.

But I digress.

Here is my running commentary on the letter that is presented below:

  • This sham election maneuver has not been in place since 1991 – Ask the former president who made this happen (I have the name) under oath to get Sellers on the ladder in the first place and ruin the career of a star female nominee.
  • An 11 member nominating committee gets to vet candidates recommended by the membership to review and they are charged with picking the best one and then announce it. They vetted 3 this year and picked one. It’s literally that simple.
  • The winning candidate’s name was announced by the nominating committee.

And then magically…

  • The sham maneuver was made to get the CEO’s pick inserted which should never happen.
  • Tell the membership right now why there is a second candidate.
  • I’ve been told repeatedly that a board member can vote for themselves in the petition process and as of today, some current board members are fighting like hell to keep any such votes hidden from membership, presumably so potential self-dealing will not be exposed.
  • To repeat, one person was selected by the nominating committee and two weren’t. There is no disagreement on this. Why does the CEO get to pick a candidate that was not selected to run against the person who was selected?

Why are there suddenly two nominees without any transparency? This letter does not address this point at all yet it is the entire point. The rest of the letter is faux transparency. Give the membership the actual reason there are suddenly two candidates, one picked by the nominating committee and one picked by the CEO (and that CEO-blessed candidate should be ashamed of themselves).

  • As many as 3,000 members will get to watch the 10-minute presentations of two candidates – one vetted by the nominating committee and one hand-picked by Jim Amorin. The act of showing this on video isn’t transparency at all. It’s a charade. The most deceitful part of the petition process has already occurred before the camera was turned on. There is no explanation of how the second candidate was selected.

The fogging part that is most distasteful in this letter is that it is laden with process gobblygook but contains zero transparency, something the membership is demanding right now.

Here is the closing paragraph of the letter.

I now offer to you, and to each Board member, this is not about style or personality; it must be about the best interests of the Appraisal Institute. I have supreme confidence that the trust you have placed in your elected representatives will be confirmed, regardless of the person chosen.

The problem with this closing statement is this sham election process is not being done in the best interests of the membership, but rather it is being done in the best interests of the operational executives running the show.

This is truly a sad day for the Appraisal Institute. If the board does not fight for the rights of the membership and respect the selection process, then the organization as we know it is just a monarchy, largely like when it began to be a decade ago with the same cast of characters.

Tags: , , , , ,


The Appraisal Institute Ignores Its Membership For Third Time In Sham Election Maneuver

July 3, 2020 | 3:19 pm | Explainer |

This post is an excerpt from my July 3, 2020 Housing Note newsletter. You can signup for these weekly emails here.

_________________________________
July 4th UPDATE
When the Board of Directors convenes in August they need to:
– Discuss the current sham petition process and should either remove it from the bylaws altogether or modify it by raising the petition process requirement from 6 votes to a supermajority (2/3) of the Board of Directors. A simple 50% vote requirement to invoke the petition process would under-represent and undermine the efforts of the 11-person nominating committee who work hard to vet the candidates.
– Discuss the transparency of the petition process: Why do the board votes on the petition process get to be concealed? Given the self-dealing that has occurred three times due to the lack of transparency, the votes made for the petition process need to be 100% transparent to convey credibility to the membership that is absolutely required.
– Discuss the potential damage to the candidate’s reputation: The process of leaving a publicly announced and thoroughly vetted nominee to twist in the wind while this petitioning process is invoked is completely unethical and unprofessional. Why would a professional organization allow something like this to happen to its own members when it can damage and humiliate a candidate who is the best the organization has to offer? It is unconscionable to me that the organization has allowed the petition process to exist without significant protections to the determinations of the nominating committee and without ANY protections to the selected candidate? How will the organization be able to attract standout candidates in the future instead of self-serving political hacks who don’t care about the membership?
_________________________________

One of the most unethical actions against AI membership is about to take place (for a third time), and the uproar is just beginning. I’ve had many appraisers reach out to me over the past week, conveying how upset they were. I’m not even affiliated with the Appraisal Institute, and I’m furious because it brings down the entire industry in the eyes of others.

Back in 2016, I unleashed a flurry of commentary criticizing the Appraisal Institute executives who had a plan to take all chapter funds for no justifiable reason. The membership reacted by calling leadership to task, which is a challenging, scary thing when they are threatened by leadership and might lose their designations, which could impact their livelihood.

Now we are facing something much darker and maybe the final downfall of the Appraisal Industry as an organization.

Here is what someone said about this election sham:

“Why not next year instead of this year, why are you doing this when you know that in the middle of a pandemic and that it will tear the Institute apart from the top?”

A well-regarded and nationally-known appraiser and Appraisal Institute member, Craig Steinley, won the backing of the national nominating committee, and his name was submitted publicly because confirmation is essentially a rubber stamp. Craig was thought to be the best choice this year by the national nominating committee. The confirmation is supposed to take place in the first week of August (more details later on).

Here is a rough overview of how the nominating process works:

  • The ten regional areas of the Appraisal Institute provide recommendations of individuals that wish to be considered for the national chain of command, beginning with the Second Vice President, the Vice President, and then President, who serves one term. It is the track to become the national President. The national nominating committee vets the recommendations that are submitted by the membership and announce their recommendation, followed by a board confirmation.

Here is how the sham ‘petition process’ bylaw works:

The key to the petition process is to disregard the nominating committee recommendation. This was inspired by at least four former presidents more than a decade ago: there are only 6 national board member votes needed to override the nominating committee recommendation. With those 6 votes, Amorin, the current CEO, can control the future presidents and officers indefinitely. Doesn’t that seem to be against the interest of the membership? The Board of Directors needs to close this unethical loophole if there is any hope of the Appraisal Institute rising again to claw back the greatness it once possessed.

By the way, the current Appraisal Institute national Board of Directors is comprised of 27 members, with 23 men but only 4 women. Twenty of the board members are the chair and vice-chairs of the ten AI regions. Only 6 board members are needed to vote in favor of the petition to insert a new Amorin lackey to enable lavish expense accounts and travel as I’ve previously written about, funded by hard-working appraiser members who have invested a considerable amount of time and money for their Appraisal Institute designations.

First Time Petition Process – created and implemented
Now there is uncertainty on Craig’s nomination because the petition process that was created back more than a decade ago when a female from Wyoming was publicly nominated like Craig and was replaced by a board choice through the petition maneuver, ignoring the nominating committee results.

Leslie Sellers was on the board then and was quite upset that he did not get the nomination but was able to vote for himself using this maneuver. Industry feedback suggests that AI Presidents from 2007 to 2010 seem to have been behind the petition process, inserting it in the bylaws to get Sellers into the ladder to ascend to the presidency two years later. I’d invite any of these former presidents, to refute this with credible, verifiable evidence to counter my own experiences and what many members have told me over the years.

Then 2010 president Leslie Sellers was the reason I disassociated with the Appraisal Institute in 2010 after he withdrew AI from the Appraisal Foundation for no stated reason that made sense. My tipping point was that he had posted a video saying to the effect that he was thrilled about the future opportunities that awaited the organization. Well, a subsequent 30% drop in membership, over the next decade, a steeper decline than licensed/certified appraisers in the national registry, and a collapse in credibility in Washington seems to refute that.

Second Time Petition Process – Was Implemented

Jim Amorin became the first two-time President in the Appraisal Institute’s history using the petition process election maneuver to bypass the nominating committee’s decision. There were other very worthy candidates who were not considered at all. He went on to somehow obtain his current CEO position without a real effort by the organization to look outside when the former CEO essentially left in the middle of the night – I knew one highly qualified CEO applicant that wasn’t seriously interviewed – when the Appraisal Institute was bleeding relevance and needed to bring in new blood.

Third Time Petition Process – Being Implemented

Craig Steinley earned the backing of the national nominating committee and his name was submitted publicly because confirmation is essentially a rubber stamp. Craig was thought to be the best choice this year by the national nominating committee.

AI CEO Jim Amorin ($450K/year) disagreed and used the petition process to make Michael Tankersley the Second Vice President and doesn’t have to give a reason. Mark Linne stepped away from being considered. In other words, the membership nomination process that is supposed to be separate from the executives running the organization is wildly compromised. I am not critical of Michael Tankersley as an appraiser because I know nothing other than his credentials, but I am certainly disappointed that someone with outstanding professional credentials would be willing to circumvent the membership-driven process for personal advancement.

The following text is the email that was sent by National to members about the election. Notice how they do not explain that the petition process occurred and how the TWO candidates came about? Shameful.

Greetings:

On August 6-7, 2020, the national Board of Directors will elect the 2021 Vice President of the Appraisal Institute from two nominees, Craig Steinley and Michael Tankersley. You submitted a communication to the National Nominating Committee regarding one or both of those nominees. The purpose of this email is to ask whether you would like us to provide a copy of your communication to the Board of Directors for consideration. The nominees, even though they serve on the Board, will not receive a copy of the communication if you choose to release it to the Board. Please respond to aielection@appraisalinstitute.org letting us know of your wishes by July 13, 2020.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Jeffrey E. Liskar, Esquire
General Counsel
Appraisal Institute


To recap this election petition process sham:

The national membership submits candidates to their regional heads for the three-year path to the presidency of the Appraisal Institute. The national nominating committee, which is supposed to be separate from the operations executives for ethics concerns, vets the nominations and selects the one they feel is best qualified and then announces the choice to the public. The petition process created and inserted by former AI presidents over a decade ago subverts the word of the membership by only requiring 6 board votes and can include board members who can vote for themself, to what can only be viewed as self-dealing, violating the separation between operations and annual appraisal executives as well as shaming nominated executives – the best and brightest the membership has to offer – for their own self-dealing.

This is the problem with the current AI leadership and something I have been writing about since 2016: The national leadership is not thinking about their members, and they need to be, or the organization will die faster than it already is. I hope this is a wake-up call to current board members to do something about this internal corruption.

I want nothing less than for the Appraisal Institute to return to its former glory or get out of the way to stop damaging the livelihoods of its members and the industry’s reputation.

How to do something about this
If you want to do something about that, please reach out to the regional heads who are also board members to voice your dissatisfaction and be heard. Either let your voice be heard about this sham election or agree to let this mark the end of what was the gold standard in property valuation organizations before the pivot circa 2007.

Since I am not a member I don’t have access to the ten regional chair contact info to voice your complaints but you can see them on the Board of Directors landing page. There truly are a lot of good people on this board and they need to hear your voice and stop this corruption of the election process.

Incidentally, here is the letter that went out to the Board of Directors. Note that 492 signed the letter, 392 AI people, 6 of the 10 NNC members, and Mark Linné (3rd Candidate).


Tags: , , , ,


Real estate appraisers are an essential business and here to protect the public trust

March 24, 2020 | 8:00 pm | Milestones |

I hope all my readers (and everyone else) are staying safe and healthy during this crisis – now let’s get to business.


With New York State on lockdown, real estate brokers/agents can’t sell real estate right now because they are not considered an essential business (yet they are in nearby Connecticut!) This declaration determines whether you can or cannot remain in business during a crisis like this.

Are real estate appraisers considered an essential business in New York? Yes. They are in New York State and they are stated as such in the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. But the fact that real estate appraisers are an “essential business” is not consistent in the federal language, especially now when many states are, or will be going on lockdown.

My good friend and appraiser/regulator Pete Fontana and I wrote a letter nicknamed: Fontana/Miller Essential Letter of March 24, 2020. This letter combines the scattered references to address this issue in very specific terms using key language in the public record that illustrates the fact that appraisers are an “essential business” now and going forward.

This letter is the first to address this important issue. It was just sent to Congress, state officials, trade groups, agencies, and other groups related to our industry today and went viral industrywide. The feedback from these groups has been immediate and overwhelmingly encouraging and positive.

Please share the Fontana/Miller Essential Letter of March 24, 2020 with your colleagues in the industry, trade groups, state governments, on forums, and with anyone or in any place you think is relevant to our industry.

Real estate appraisers are an essential business in our country, always have been.

Stay safe!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Some Financial Institutions Care About The Safety Of Appraisers, While Most Do Not

March 18, 2020 | 10:08 pm | Investigative |


[Johns Hopkins University]

As co-owner of an appraisal firm for 34 years, while based in Manhattan, we generally don’t drive to appraisal inspections. Our staff relies on public transportation to get around including buses, subways, and commuter rail. I’d been following the coronavirus in the news since early this year, and became quite alarmed by mid-February and soon suggested my staff work remotely. By the time the first Fed rate cut was made in response to the coronavirus on March 3, we adopted a screening process for appraisal inspections. When our team made an appointment for the inspection, we inquired about the health of the occupant, and then on the day of the inspection, the appraiser called again to confirm that conditions had not changed.

Soon after we learned that we could be carriers of the virus without knowing and infect someone vulnerable, we stop performing interior inspections.

My appraiser colleagues around the country have become very concerned, if not plain scared.

Here are two scenarios shared by appraiser colleagues in another part of the country. Imagine if the appraiser was a carrier?

Scenario 1 Conversation
Sounds good 10 am is better
Kids are home
With no school
If your sic with a cold or similar please reset appointment

Scenario 2 Recap
Borrower is elderly and on a respirator
Says the appraiser can walk through the house by himself
And reminds the appraiser to keep their distance

Appraisers should not be placed in harm’s way or be in a position to be forced to unintentionally harm another.

So let’s look at some industry actions of the past few days:

HEROES

These lenders have shown how much they respect the appraiser’s role in the mortgage process and their concern for the appraiser’s health and welfare as well as the borrower.

First Republic Bank
I submitted a temporary driveby appraisal solution to First Republic Bank, a large CA/NYC+ lender we have worked with since 1999. I feared for the safety of our appraisal staff and didn’t want to risk infecting others. Plus we were starting to get pushback from homeowners who are getting uncomfortable. They embedded this solution within days. I challenge any appraiser to name any other bank that is more professional, more appraiser-centric than they are. Here is the note they sent out to their panel.


Citibank
We’ve been working for Citibank since 1986 and have enjoyed a great relationship. This policy treats appraisers as human beings. I’m not sure how closely this policy will be observed by the AMCs they engage to manage their appraisals orders (read-on).


ZEROES (AMCS, etc.)


To combat the COVID-19 outbreak in the appraisal industry, Appraisal Management Companies (third-party institutional middlemen that account for as much as 90% of residential assignments) have essentially provided a lethal magnanimous gesture by simply telling appraisers to wash their hands often and stay away from people that are sick and that they must go inside the property. While I anticipate that many AMCs would defend their position of placing appraisers in harm’s way because their bank clients require it, I say that indicates selective morality or incredible ignorance. They could push back and make a strong case for public safety.

We are in the early stages of a global pandemic that may infect 100 million Americans (1 out of 3, conservatively) with a 3% death rate (that’s 1 million people if you do the math). The appraiser population has an average age in the high-50s, and we have been told that the older populous is the most vulnerable.

In reality, these AMC policies show disdain not only to appraisers but to their own (bank client’s) borrowers by letting a fee appraiser, who is paid only for the assignments they accept, determine whether or not the appraisers themselves are carriers of this pandemic and whether they can assess the safety of the property they inspect. Here’s a key point.

NO ONE CAN TELL IF SOMEONE IS A CARRIER IF THEY HAVE NO SYMPTOMS.

The following AMCs opted to treat appraisers as a widget instead of a human being requiring them to physically inspect a property when they now know that it is not safe to do so. Today I was told that one federal agency lost 20% of their appraisers because they have refused to continue doing interior inspections. Different cities and states have different rates of infection. Because we don’t have full testing in place as a country, the number of infections might be significantly higher than we might anticipate. My particular location in Manhattan is highly problematic because of the reliance on public transportation – buses, subways, commuter rail, and just walking down a crowded street – no social-distancing here. And based on the comments the NYC Mayor made yesterday, it is possible that tomorrow could see NYC restricted to “shelter in place” like San Francisco.

If you’ll note in this pattern of negligent behavior, great efforts were made to plan for the safety of order staff, but no regard for the safety of the appraiser, who is providing the service – telling appraisers to wash their hands and practice social-distancing when they know that it is not enough. When you get right down to it, these companies sent similar silly instructions so they can check off a box to be compliant. Yet they must know that appraisers could be carriers, and occupants in the property could be carriers. This is not business as usual.

When we pushed back the appointment on a few of our AMC clients for safety concerns, they simply took away the assignment and rescheduled with another appraiser. No human contact to assess the risk. In good conscience, even if the new appraiser doesn’t have symptoms or doesn;t think the occupant does, that AMC or lender is placing the public at risk, going directly against CDC guidelines. This is what robots would do.


Here is a sampling of AMCs that provided COVID-19 instructions in the past few days shared by my appraisal colleagues – this is clear evidence that they see appraisers as widgets instead of human beings. To save you the trouble of reading all of these INSTRUCTIONS, here’s the translation: WASH YOUR HANDS A LOT

Tags: , , , , , ,


[Podcast] The World of Real Estate with Frances Katzen – Jonathan Miller

January 15, 2020 | 3:55 pm | | Podcasts |

I had a great chat with my friend and Douglas Elliman power broker Frances Katzen.

Tags: , , ,


BREAKING The New York State AMC Law Is Now In Effect

April 27, 2019 | 10:38 pm | Milestones |

Back on April 19th, I wrote about the New York AMC law in my Housing Notes newsletter. After years of AMCs chipping away at the public trust, the New York AMC law was designed to protect the consumer.

The bill summary was:

Relates to the registration of real estate appraisal management companies or an individual or business entity that provides appraisal management services to creditors or to secondary mortgage market participants including affiliates by the department of state.

Yesterday Appraisersblogs ran it as a standalone post and I got a lot of feedback. To be clear, the bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of last year and became effective 120 days later which is today.


Here is the NYS “AMC Law” as a PDF or in plain text on the landing page of the law.


The NY State Coalition of Appraisers (NYCAP), led by my friend and appraiser Becky Jones who along with other unnamed heroes worked hard to help make this possible, wants you to know that this law was not a last-second, fly by night effort as being characterized by The Real Estate Valuation Advocacy Association (REVAA) – the trade group that represents the bulk of the AMC industry in the U.S. – inferring this law was flimsy and easily overturnable.

No, it isn’t. Its been a long road and achieved unanimous consensus during the process.

When the draft of the bill was approved by the NYS Board of Real Estate Appraisal, Carol DiSanto who is the Vice Chair, walked it across the street to The New York State Association of REALTORS (NYSAR). In effect, REALTORS of New York State were made fully aware as the “draft” became part of NYSAR record at their next business meeting. Becky Jones sat on the Legislative steering committee at NYSAR and informed them about the bill. They had no objections to the bill before submission to the state legislature.

A similar proposal was introduced by the New York Department of State in 2015. Senate Bill S9080 was introduced two years ago during the 2017-2018 legislative session, signed into law on December 27, 2018 and became effective today. The voting was unanimous in favor by the rules committee of both houses and the body of both houses.

Here are the vote tallies (the same in both the NYS Senate and Assembly):

And here was the timeline:

A couple of AMCs we work with for some private banking groups sent emails to us yesterday:

Some thoughts

  • If you’re not an appraiser, then you want to read this. It is a 2011 take that still holds up on the AMC industry from American Banker’s Bankthink column (I’ve written a column there before on another subject): Appraisal Management Companies Create More Problems Than They Solve

  • When the realization sunk in that this was a new law, not a proposed bill, attendees began to text me from the joint committee meeting of The Appraisal Foundation. I got the play by play when the news was shared. It sent shockwaves through the AMC-types because, in my view, it effectively destroyed their ability to hide how much they are gouging the consumer and how little the appraiser gets from the actual “appraisal fee” (typically less than half). Seriously, the value-add provided by AMCs to the appraisal process in the delivery of actual appraisals might be 5%, but no chance in hell it is 75%. This is why we need consumer protection in the mortgage business.

  • I’ve been told by several colleagues that they’ve heard one of the main AMC concerns is whether New York interpreted the original law correctly to arrive at this form of law regarding AMCs. From my perspective, it’s like not buying a house because one of the gutters is missing a few screws to hold it in place. The criticism seems like a weird attempt at fogging since this law is protective of USPAP and the public trust, something that has been forgotten in the attempt to “modernize” the appraisal industry. But I’m no lawyer so I’ll look for clarification on their logic. But consider this:

  • REVAA’s biggest concern about the law was specifically the disclosure to the consumer as to what part of the fee goes to the appraiser. Not only does the appraiser get to state the fee, but the AMC fee must also be disclosed. This was upsetting to REVAA director Mark Shiffman presumably because the consumer would finally see that most appraisers get half or less than half of the appraisal fee the consumer thinks they are paying for the appraiser. REVAA has fought hard to hide this from the consumer, pushing back on prior attempts to disclose the breakdown, and finally, New York State has effectively brought to light this predatory practice. Transparency is good for the consumer and for the appraiser. Should a consumer be aware that the check they wrote at the time of mortgage application specifically for an “Appraisal Fee” be used to pay the appraiser less than half of it with the remainder to a wildly inefficient third-party institutional middleman they know nothing about?

  • The NYC AMC law will likely damage the evaluation platform that the Appraisal Institute has been advocating so intensely in state legislatures without disclosure to their own members yet diminishes the meaning of an appraisal certification to the consumer. It is interesting to see that AI National hasn’t taken a position on this new groundbreaking law, like yesterday. They’ve been progressive in their quick denouncement of other important issues, like appraisal waivers, so the lack of denouncement against AMCs is curious.

  • This new law only applies to appraisals ordered through AMCs (which control an estimated 80% of U.S. mortgage appraisal volume) for properties in New York State. (note: this why the law is described as “AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to registration of real estate appraisal management companies by the department of state”) New York is one of the few “voluntary” licensing states. There is no mandatory licensing so agents and brokers can perform appraisals and BPOs all day long. This was a key point that REVAA was trying to convey to NYSAR (I hold the CRE designation and all CREs in New York are automatically members of NYSAR) a few weeks ago when REVAA was on a mission to stop the law going into effect. REVAA reached out to NYSAR to claim how bad the law was for their agents and brokers but NYSAR wasn’t buying it because they could still perform BPOs and evaluations for local banks – just not for AMCs. Becky Jones shared a story about this situation from one of the CE classes she teaches: I had an agent work the whole thing in her head out loud during the class and at the end…the agent deduced on her own that she will contact local banks for the BPO work and she was especially thrilled because she realized that she will probably get the listing and therefore an opportunity to make more income. She was so thrilled she “high-fived me during class.”

  • A concern shared with me by a friend and appraiser colleague in Virginia was that most of the large AMC platforms, such as CoreLogic, Appraisal Port and Xome, use a portal that strips the report and the appraiser’s invoice is one of the forms that does not get uploaded (because they don’t want the consumer (i.e. mortgage applicant) to see how much the actual cost goes to the person providing a value opinion of their home. If AMCs continue this practice in New York State and are caught, they will lose their ability to do business in the state. They can risk it, but the stakes are high. There is always a concern that oversight of this will be lost in the shuffle so it is imperative that appraisers keep the pressure on.

  • Another appraiser colleague and friend I know in Illinois said: “So if you are curious what is happening in Illinois, here’s how we must report our fees. When discussing this issue 10 years ago, we were of the opinion that the invoice could get lost, but pages in the appraisal report don’t get lost. That’s why it must be in the body of the report.” Here’s the Illinois AMC law.

And finally…

It is ironic that the New York Governor, who was the creator of HVCC when he was NYS Attorney General and was a board member of a former Ohio-based AMC owned by a friend that eventually collapsed, leaving many appraisers unpaid for their work, was the signer of this law. Despite the irony, his concern for the consumer is incredibly appreciated by the appraisal community who have been beaten up by the AMC industry since 2009 under the false narrative that they are embedded in the process to protect the system. In reality, AMCs gave the mortgage system an empty promise that left the consumer and the taxpayer exposed to excessive costs, bureaucracy and a systematic deletion of quality. Even worse, they stole the economic livelihood of the actual market valuation experts and replaced them with form-fillers.

It is nice to see a state pay more than lip service to consumers within the mortgage business.

Tags: , ,


The Apple Peeled – Ask the Experts: Market Dynamics with Jonathan Miller

February 12, 2019 | 11:54 am | | Articles |

Over the years, I have bantered with the Espinal Adler Team (Marie Espinal and Jeff Adler) at Douglas Elliman Real Estate about the market which has been invaluable for on the ground intel. And we’ve become friends. When Jeff and Marie asked me to be formally interviewed for their blog “The Apple Peeled” I was happy to do so, especially because I could veer off the road into issues about the current mortgage and appraisal process. This “The Apple Peeled” blog post: Ask the Experts: Market Dynamics with Jonathan Miller was distilled from the 90-minute conversation (I could have gone on for 5 hours) I had with their team.

I hope you find that this apple was fully peeled:


Jonathan Miller’s Market Outlook

The number of units sold in Manhattan in 2018 was down by more than 14 percent compared to the previous year. The brokerage industry tends to be very linear in its perception of the market, so many believe when the market is rising, it will rise forever. And, in-turn, when the market falls, it will fall forever. That approach can lead to overreaction.

The 10-year Challenge (2009 vs. 2019)

Some analysts are even comparing the current cycle to the last downturn and the housing bubble in 2009, but Miller outlined quite a few differences between then and now.

In 2009, the average discount from listing was 10.2%. In 2018 the discount was 5.2%. In ’09, Miller said sellers were anchored to the “pre-Lehman, pre-financial crisis asking prices” and had to travel farther on price to meet a buyer. (Miller measures listing discount by the percent difference between the contract price and the price that the property was listed for sale at the time of contract – not when it was first listed). The most recent asking price is “really the moment the property entered the market,” he said.

Miller said there are more buyers today compared to 2009, but those buyers are “very jaded about what value is.” Meanwhile, sellers are anchored to another market completely, he said.

The change in tax laws in 2018 and a several-month stretch that saw mortgage rates rise before recently dropping close to previous levels had both buyers and sellers re-calibrating what value is. That process can take time.

“If a seller overprices a listing, it takes them up to 2 years to de-anchor from what their price was without thinking that they left money on the table,” Miller said. “The disconnect between buyers and sellers is measured by lower sales volume.”

Starter Segment vs. High-End Luxury

For the last two years, Miller has said that the NYC market is softer at the top and tighter as you move lower in price.

Overall inventory is up by about 17%, with a significant amount of supply coming from the studio and 1-bedroom market. Studio inventory is up 21% percent.

“The pace of the starter market is still the fastest of all segments,” Miller said. “It’s just not as detached as it was because now you have more supply.”

Interest Rates and Their Impact

Typically, rates rise when the economy is strong. The low rates we’re seeing today understate the strength of the current economy, according to Miller. “That’s the disconnect.” In the long run, interest rates do not impact price trends. Mortgage rates have trended lower for three decades, Miller said, but housing prices have fluctuated up and down during that same lengthy stretch.

Mortgage rates weren’t wildly different in ’09 compared to today. In a recent report, Miller stated that an adjustable rate mortgage rate averaged 4.38% in 2009 and was at 3.98% using the same metrics in 2018.

Miller said that real estate investors should stop trying to perfectly time the market (both with rate and supply vs. demand). Perfect timing is a concept that was born out of the housing bubble, he said, when investors viewed housing as a highly liquid stock, instead of in its proper context. “(Real estate) is more of a long-term asset.”

In-Depth Look at the State of Appraisals

“There was nothing learned from the bad behavior of a decade ago,” Miller said, reminding himself of a Mark Twain quote. “History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes,” Jonathan Miller recited. Miller, President and CEO of real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel Inc., said federal regulators are acting irresponsibly in their effort to reduce and perhaps even eliminate the need for an appraisal as part of an overall effort to erase “friction points” that slow-down the mortgage application process.

Miller said the regulators were more concerned with collecting fees than they were with protecting the American consumer. He likened the subtle de-regulation to the housing bubble of a decade ago, pointing out that regulators were getting paid by the failing investment banks they were rating back then. Now, he said, regulators and both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are getting paid whenever loan volume passes through those agencies. (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Government sponsored enterprises that purchase mortgages from banks and mortgage companies in an effort to create liquidity so that lenders have the capacity to lend to more homebuyers).

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), The Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) proposed a rule to amend the agencies regulations requiring appraisals for certain real estate related transactions. The proposed rule would increase the threshold level at, or below which appraisals would not be required for residential real estate-related transactions from $250,000 to $400,000.

In response to our request for comment, spokespeople for the FDIC, the OCC, and The Federal Reserve said they do not comment on proposed rules during the rulemaking process.

Mortgage volume has trended lower despite rates falling steadily since the housing bubble, because lenders don’t want to take on risk, Miller said. “They’re in the fetal position. Banks are afraid of their own shadow.”

The tremendous amount of regulation implemented since Dodd Frank has led to mortgage lenders filling Fannie and Freddie’s portfolios with low-risk “pristine” mortgage bundles. But with rates so low, margins are so compressed, regulators need to stimulate volume to make money, according to Miller. “I think (Fannie and Freddie) are emboldened to take more risk.”

The push for fewer mandatory appraisals isn’t the only thing that has hurt the appraisal industry since the Dodd Frank Act was passed in 2010. The evolution of the mortgage industry’s use of the Appraisal Management Company (AMC) has led to a collapse in quality of appraisals ordered by banks, Miller said. He described the AMC as an institutional middle man that takes more than 50 cents on the dollar away from the professional appraisers who do the actual work.

“It’s like a Hollywood actor paying their agent 60% instead of 10%,” Miller said. “The mortgage industry is trying to widgetize the appraiser.”

The AMC is supposed to act as a communication barrier between the appraiser and the loan officer or mortgage broker, to thwart undue pressure to bring appraised values in at specific numbers. But according to Miller, the AMCs are under the same types of pressure that an individual appraiser might face. Some AMCs receive hundreds of thousands of dollars every month by way of appraisal orders placed by big banks. At least at the sales level, the banks apply pressure to the AMC to not “kill deals,” said Miller, who has testified in several class action lawsuits against AMCs.

In many instances, Miller and his firm were hired to do sample reviews of appraisals that came through AMCs. Often, the AMC would utilize appraisers in the market that would always “hit the number,” Miller said. A lot of those appraisers were ignoring valid comps, sometimes from directly across the street that were virtually the same as the subject property. “The AMC encouraged it because they were getting the work,” he said.

Appraisers are pushing back and there are already signs that AMCs were beginning to crumble, Miller said. Quality appraisers are turning away bank work when they know the order is coming in through an AMC because they’re not happy working for less than they deserve and because they’ve been reduced to “form-fillers,” Miller said.


The Apple Peeled Blog, February 12, 2019

Espinal Adler Team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Tags: , , ,


Remember liar loans of a decade ago? Those same people want to do away with appraisers.

November 30, 2018 | 10:12 am | Investigative |

My friend and appraisal colleague Ryan Lundquist and I authored a petition on change.org to point out the growing wreckless behavior that is enveloping the mortgage process.

There’s a proposal from the FDIC, Federal Reserve, and Treasury Department not to require appraisals for some mortgages under $400,000.

As we say in the petition, this change can impact several groups in particular: consumers, the taxpayers, the housing market and appraisers.

One group not explicitly mentioned in the petition but impacted down the road are real estate agents and brokers. Currently, 12% of mortgages that flow through the GSE (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac account for 78% of residential mortgages right now) will have their appraisals waived. Those are “PiW” loans or have a “Property Inspection Waiver.” My good friend and appraiser colleague Phil Crawford says on his radio show “Voice of Appraisal” says the acronym stands for “Pissing In Wind” which is more accurate. If the buyer realizes they overpaid for the property, the agents are now the professionals with the bullseye on their back. Liability insurers are already talking about a new target when things go south.

Years ago and again this morning, I heard a real estate agent say – what do we need you (appraisers) for? “The seller and the buyer determined the market value by agreeing on the price.” The problem with this logic is the buyer may not be fully informed (i.e., from an out of market area) and will also mortgage fraud supercharged. Ever heard of straw buyers? Agents must remember that they perceived as biased even with the best intentions and the best ethics because they are paid only if the deal closes. When something goes wrong, they are completely exposed.

The direction that was taken by regulators relies heavily on AVMs (Think Zillow’s Zestimate which is not within 4.3% of the actual value 50% of the time) and “hybrid appraisers” (which removes the appraiser from the actual inspection of properties) to develop a value opinion. The inspection of the property, when done, will rely on non-licensed individuals to fill out a checklist and give an appraiser at a desk the information without any standardization, direct contact or assurance the inspector knows what they are doing. I’ve heard of fees as low as $8 to do the inspection and $78 for the appraiser. As far as I can tell, a full appraisal (inspection and analysis) cost can represent as little as a hundredth of a percent of a purchase transaction.

This petition is for everyone to sign, not just appraisers. Please sign and help bring attention to a pattern we just lived through in the financial crisis. It’s happening again.

Please make your voice known, read about and hopefully sign the petition below:

PETITION: Remember liar loans of a decade ago? Those same people want to do away with appraisers.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


RAC Conference Frisco TX: Changes, Challenges, Solutions

September 6, 2017 | 1:04 pm | | Events |

As I’ve said many times, the annual RAC conference is the best appraiser-centric conference I’ve ever attended. It is developed and operated by active appraisers who are working to help you thrive as a professional.

As the current president of RAC, I’m proud to be part of an organization comprised of the best residential appraisers in the U.S.

Click here for more information.

Tags: ,


Appraisal Institute Membership Falls Sharply As ASC Registry Levels Off

August 24, 2017 | 6:56 pm | Investigative |

In the latest mid year numbers for Appraisal Institute membership, 15,000 members have paid their dues as of May 31, 2017. That’s 3,000 less than this year’s projected 18,000 total on their web site. AI National forecasted a 700 member drop in membership for 2017.

In all fairness, AI National could see additional sign-ups but this will be tempered by the now spirited debates surrounding their governance proposal. The key issue in front of the organization now is the “taking” policy where they announced their plans to take chapter funds last fall. This was largely done without advanced warning or membership input and their recent governance committee came up with a similar recommendation.

I assume the faster decline in membership occurred because of all the unknowns with AI National’s future or actual survival in the short term.

In the following chart, I matched up the current ASC registry totals with AI membership through the middle of the year (May for AI National and July for ASC).

Since the financial crisis, AI membership dropped by one-third while the appraisal industry fell 20.8%. The latter makes sense given the housing bubble peaked a decade ago. In what reality does a trade group’s leadership get a pass when their membership falls faster than the industry they claim to be leading?

An URGENT request to my readers: I have only been able to verify AI membership totals back to 2007 and a 25,000 total for 1995. If you have any annual membership totals by year prior to 2007, it would be greatly appreciated. I would keep the source anonymous. I am interested in comparing the AI membership trend since 1992 when the ASC registry data begins.

Tags: , , ,


Podcast: Guest hosting ‘Voice of Appraisal’ – Week of August 7, 2017

August 6, 2017 | 8:05 pm | Podcasts |

Phil Crawford of Voice of Appraisal asked me to cover for him while he took a well-earned vacation. While I don’t have his sweet, syrupy smooth radio voice, I can grow on you a little bit if you listen long enough. I talk appraisal war stories and appraisal business philosophy. Fun!

Tags: , , , ,

Get Weekly Insights and Research

Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

Receive Jonathan Miller's 'Housing Notes' and get regular market insights, the market report series for Douglas Elliman Real Estate as well as interviews, columns, blog posts and other content.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter

#Housing analyst, #realestate, #appraiser, podcaster/blogger, non-economist, Miller Samuel CEO, family man, maker of snow and lobster fisherman (order varies)
NYC CT Hamptons DC Miami LA Aspen
millersamuel.com/housing-notes
Joined October 2007