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August 27, 2021

Wondering What The Housing Landing Looks Like

Wait for it…

But I digress…

The East End of Long Island Where $1M Is The New $400K

This Newsday piece Bidding wars rocket prices up in formerly affordable East End communities [3] had the quote of the week:

“It used to be, you’d walk into a million-dollar house and you’d feel like, ‘this is a million-dollar house,’” said Mary Binder, an associate broker with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Westhampton Beach. But with competition pushing up prices, she said, “I have people call me and say, ‘…I saw a similar house last year that went for $400,000, why would I pay $800,000?’”

[3]

Areas With Climate-Risk Are Seeing An Increase In Population

There is an excellent Redfin report: More People Are Moving In Than Out of Areas Facing High Risk From Climate Change [4] and coverage in a CNN piece (including our data): Climate change be damned. More Americans are moving to high-risk areas [5]

[4]

Question: Why is the federal government offering FEMA flood insurance at below-market rates?

After Super Storm Sandy hit nearly nine years ago on Long Island, NYC and Connecticut. The original intention of FEMA was to raise the costs of coverage to enable the private sector to compete thereby relieving the US taxpayer of the risk. The maps were redrawn yet there was intense public pushback at the higher costs and wider footprint of vulnerable areas. And this is just related to floor risk.

Answer: Congressional pressures reset the rate increases back to their previous levels and here we are.

Sorry To Interrupt These Housing Notes With This Personal Message

View this post on Instagram
[6]

A post shared by Jonathan Miller (@jonathanmiller) [6]


The extensive writing below this post was done earlier in the week when I could think straight.

Appraiserville

This section of Housing Notes was created to provide insights to the challenges appraisers face. In recent years it has morphed into an outlet for unvarnished truth on the leadership of the profession. I’ve long maintained that appraisers are our own worst enemy. Hopefully, transparency will bring change to an industry spiraling into irrelevance. (For earlier appraisal industry commentary, visit my old clunky REIC [7] site.)

How AI FOJs Protect The Grift That Keeps On Giving

“The Consigliere” continues to whine to his peers over on a blog exclusive to AI members that all I do is lie about him but never addresses anything I have said about him. He is counting on members not to go back in time and read what I have said about his efforts to work the room for Dear Leader and is quite uncomfortable with the light being thrown his way. It is really simple. I am only trying to save the future credibility of the organization after FOJs like him are long gone.

I assume The Consigliere will continue to call me a liar. The thing is, the leadership circle knows exactly what The Consigliere does so they would have to lie to defend him.

Actually, I do have one apology for The Consigliere. When Stephen was working behind the scenes for Dear Leader in the sham petition processes over the past two years, I think I may have referred to him as “Steve,” the first name of legitimately nominated NNC VP candidate that “Stephen” privately worked the room so hard to get rid of.

Ryan makes some great points about the lack of communication with the membership. Here are additional points being made here:


This residential appraiser provides a solid critique of my efforts, warts and all and it is appreciated. He conveys how residential appraisers are simply ignored by the leadership, but of course, the outspoken commercial appraiser FOJs say nothing to keep the grift going. It also makes me worry about the future of residential at AI with people like Trevor newly anointed by Dear Leader to head the Audit Committee, despite the fact that he has relentlessly promoted the elimination of the residential members of AI to fellow board members and inner-circle types.


Here’s a member that is applying critical thinking to the bylaw manipulation – yet the outspoken FOJs on the blog don’t respond to smart observations like his because it’s against their own self-interests (a.k.a. grift). Or the FOJ answers are along the lines of “Hey, what can we do? We’re powerless because it’s in the by-laws to be used for just such an occasion!” LOL.

Betraying The NNC, The AI Committee He Chaired

After an AI president finishes their term, they become the chairman of the NNC the following year. This year that chairman was Jeff Sherman. Jeff apparently decided that a female residential appraiser was called for to keep his Dear Leader in power to keep the grift going. So he actively worked to undercut the committee he chaired who vetted, voted, and selected Steve Siloski, betraying the committee, all so the sham petition process would pass and keep Dear Leader in control. It makes sense since Jeff worked hard wooing votes for last year’s sham petition process that failed which also betrayed the NNC process.

And Jeff went further this year, fully engaged in the sham petition process with Region V, advising the two members of the “Hateful 8” to pontificate that the regional nominating process was pure and should be followed since it was the will of the membership. That’s because, in this regional scenario, the petition process was used by a non-FOJ to counter the RNC FOJ choice. The sham here is that that Region V Chair and Vice-Chair said they believed the RNC process was a good thing and the voice of the members should be honored, literally the opposite of their actions taken with the NNC. Apparently, their hypocrisy knows no bounds. Jeff handheld both of them the entire way through this unbelievable hack leadership demonstration and also handheld Sandy through the board meeting since she has no national leadership experience.

Sadly, I clearly misjudged Jeff early on.

The West Virginia Real Estate Appraiser Board Is A Case Study In Agency Overreach

Apparently, West Virginia is the only state or territory that bans “hybrid” appraisals. To be clear, I think hybrids are flawed as I find them structurally to be more expensive for clients, less reliable because there is no standardization of the inspection, and provide more liability to the actual appraisers. But…

If an AMC solicits a bank doing business in West Virginia, they are told that hybrids are illegal. The board says that while this isn’t an official position, there will be sanctions against them. The Real Estate Appraiser Board and the Real Estate Commission have divvied up who can do valuations and this is believed to be an outcome of the arrangement. I don’t believe this policy is documented by the state. It’s just an informal rule that is enforced.

Here is a recap on what I am told is a common pattern:

How Was Dean Dawson Selected To Chair The Appraisal Board And Who Replaces All Those With Expired Terms?

No one I know has any insights into how he got the political endorsement. He is a political appointee as are all the board members. I sure hope someone in West Virginia is watching the transition to the next board closely. As evidenced by the current board’s ongoing actions there has been no apparent oversight 2018.

This table was taken from the state website. It looks like four members of the board have terms that have already expired and one position remains vacant. The remaining two appraisers including the chair, have one more year. The other appraiser is a friend and colleague of Dean that consults along with Dean for Mountain State, going after appraisers. The other two active board members are with banks who probably won’t rock the boat, leaving Dean with absolute power for now.

Does this serve structure serve the best interests of the public?

The Audit Of The Previous WV REAB Sounds Familiar

The West Virginia Real Estate Appraisal Board took a thrashing in the state audit of 2017 [8], leading the governor to fire the entire RE Appraisal board in 2017. To save face, some said they retired or voluntarily retired).

The new board was comprised of political appointees and the new Chair Dean Dawson promised to fix things, yet the board’s behavior looks eerily similar to the version that was fired. The following information is making Dean look he didn’t uphold his promise to be better, no?

Here’s a fascinating description of why the previous board was gutted [9]:

Two reports presented to the Government Organization Committee really stood out. The first was on the West Virginia Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board. The board violated the law by hiring persons specifically bared from being employed by the board, because it created a conflict of interest in handling disciplinary actions. The hires acted in the capacity of board members for the purpose of disciplinary actions. It was further suggested this violated the state constitution as the Governor is tasked with appointing board members with the approval of the Senate. What was more disturbing was that Glenn Summers, board chairman, indicated in testimony that the board would not be able to correct the situation until 2019. When offered the chance to question Mr. Summers, I asked when the board would comply with the law and he was unsure. I suggested they comply with the law at the very next meeting. He then asked me how they could handle disciplinary actions, and I told him the same way every other board does with the board reviewing the evidence as the law requires. It is amazing how many people believe there is nothing wrong with not following the law in Charleston.


And the following went on for a decade and no relief was given to the targeted appraisers:

The reason the following is important is that the board is now exceeding their authority on the licensing side by denying individuals their licenses of the ability to elevate their licenses, as competitors without supervision working outside of the rules.

It is important to look at the recommendations of this audit and apply this to the actions of the current WV appraiser board. Series 190-4-4 [10] is a rule the Executive Director and Board Chair at the time put into the code that was outside of their authority. I understand they superseded the Legislature and the Governor when they did this and also assume this is why they were fired.

This was shared with me:

Essentially, between 2005 and 2010, the agency ran a criminal enterprise. Members of the standards committee were made up of competitor friends from the DOH, boyfriends of the Exec director, and other various people who none of us knew.

The West Virginia-Mountain State Justice Real Estate Appraiser Board

The West Virginia Real Estate Appraisal Board should be renamed for Mountain State Justice since all its appraiser members either work directly for them or work for someone who depends heavily on their business. How on earth can a state real estate appraisal board be dominated by one company, a company that goes after appraisers?

This has happened because the state of West Virginia doesn’t actively provide oversight to this board. The only oversight authority comes from the state auditor and the state legislature but none apparently has occurred. I doubt these entities are aware of the practices of the board but by shining a light on their activities, I hope they do very soon.

Jeremy Baggott, known to me as the Cosmic Cobra Guy [11], has indicated that the West Virginia still hasn’t adopted 2020-2021 USPAP which is odd. I guess they have been too busy going after appraisers in their state?

What the West Virginia board is known for is going after appraisers by straying from their authority. The chairman says they follow Appraisal Qualifications Board criteria. Yet they have added random additional steps. The AQB sets minimum standards for the board to follow but some state boards add rules. It’s not the addition of rules that’s a problem, but rather the randomness of creation and inconsistent enforcement that is problematic. State agencies like this become dangerous to appraisers on the board itself because these board members adopt the arbitrarily enforced rules which remove their immunity from prosecution. In order to add a rule in any state, there are formal rulemaking processes. Rules can’t simply be made on the spot whether during an interview or even in a deposition under oath.

West Virginia is a microcosm of what is happening at TAF. No oversight yields unchecked behavior. Ironically the owner of Mountain State Justice (for whom all the appraisers on the West Virginia board work directly or indirectly), is a proud member of TAF’s Board of Trustees! Looks like Dave doesn’t vet very carefully or apparently liked what he saw (and despite what Dave says, Dave controls who goes on the BOT).

This behavior is a key reason for litigation like the NC Dental Examiners Board v. Federal Trade Commission and Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board v. Federal Trade Commission occurred. For example, if The Louisiana board had gone through a formal rules process with the state legislature to establish criteria to assure AMC fees were customary and reasonable, the FTC may not have sued them. Even worse in the Louisiana case, appraisers who were “friends” of the board would turn in AMCs to hammer AMCs (sounds like West Virginia!). Listen, I’m not a fan of many AMCs out there and recognize the economic and quality problems they have created for the industry, but a real estate appraisal board can’t have a wild west environment where a handful of “favored” appraisers out there can “sic” the board on appraisal management companies or appraisers without due process.

From The American Bar [12]:

At the same time, it is clear, from Dental Board, that conscientious bar regulators will be on solid antitrust ground as long as they remain squarely within their authority, use careful rulemaking to support their actions, make a record that justifies the action, stay prepared to sue to curtail unauthorized practice, and always set a high ethical tone.

From the FTC [13]:

The Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board has agreed to stop fixing compensation levels for residential real estate appraisal services in Louisiana as part of a settlement reached with the Federal Trade Commission, after the agency alleged that the Board’s conduct violated federal antitrust law.


The West Virginia Real Estate Appraiser Board Doesn’t Allow Licensees Who Are Competitors To Step-Up

The West Virginia Real Estate Board is actively preventing competitors of board members who are appraisers from elevating their licenses, largely through a sham interview process. Essentially any competitor who has a trainee license can’t move up to a residential license/certification and anyone who has a residential license/certification can’t move up to a general certification because they are “interviewed” multiple times and decisions are never rendered or specific reasons are not given. It is the ultimate abuse of power. This is always a potential structural problem when a real estate appraisal board is controlled by appraisers themselves.

Here’s how it works – appraiser apprentices who are competitors of board members applying for their licenses are called in for additional experience in form of interviews and work samples. These random meetings are not requested for everyone and there is no public understanding of that criteria, nor is it published. Scary stuff for someone trying to make a living as an appraiser in West Virginia.

I have spoken with appraisers in West Virginia who tell me there is no procedure and it is clear the board members who do the interviews haven’t reviewed the sample work until the interview if at all. What’s particularly bizarre is they might harp on the amount of an adjustment because their opinion might be for a higher or lower adjustment but provide no evidence or logic to back it up. And with a female candidate, I’m told it’s just a lot of “mansplaining.”

In one case, the board member rambled on without asking the apprentice any questions about the sample report or their work, just talked about how that interviewing board member approached appraising. In the mean streets of appraising, we refer to this as “gaslighting” the interviewee.

This operational position by the chairman and the other appraisers on the board to go after all their competitors is counter to the higher purpose of the board, which is nurturing new candidates into licenses to uphold the public trust. Instead, it is just a board that specializes in self-dealing and has a national reputation for just that.

This is how patterns of abuse are and will be identified in our regulatory system, especially now. With so much discussion surrounding barriers to entry and bias, one can see the hard stop at the regulatory framework of politically appointed competitors to facilitate commerce.

These board members control whether an appraiser can be licensed in West Virginia and compete directly with those appraisers by being hired to help remove them from their livelihoods. No matter how pure a board member may be with their initial intent, this is a severe structural flaw that always ends badly, when a tiny board can block commerce without anyone noticing. Where is the oversight of this rogue board in West Virginia?

I’ve been hearing about this board for a long time as have a number of my peers across the U.S. Today, I want to make sure the public trust of appraisers is fairly protected and the way to do that is to shine a light on self-dealing. Clearly, it is going to be most noticeable at small agencies and states. West Virginia appears to be the new ground zero for NC Dental type restrictions placed upon young up-and-coming appraisers.

Ask yourself, how is it ethical (or legal) for politically appointed board members to determine the licensing of appraisers they directly compete with? Judges recuse themself from cases for this very reason. “Protecting the public trust” isn’t just a phrase.

ASC Press Release Reminds Us To Ask TAF Why USPAP Isn’t Free

The 2020 ASC Annual Report [14] was released last May and it went far in explaining TAF actions and why they should be looked at more closely by the PAVE task force.

Here’s the August 20th press release that includes a link to the 2020 ASC Annual Report [14].

[14]

For the past year, I have made it a point to publish the link to what has now become known as the bat-shit crazy letter [15] sent by TAF to ASC. This was signed by TAF president Dave Bunton and BOT Chair Leila Dunbar [16] (who is a personal property appraiser specializing in Collectibles and Sports Memorabilia).

It looks like page 11 of the annual report specifically addresses the points brought up by TAF in the “bat-shit crazy letter [15],” which essentially told the ASC they have no right to oversee TAF (apparently, no one does, which seems hard to believe that this was the original Congressional intent.) Even the subtitle of page 11 makes it clear that ASC has the right to “Monitor and Review” despite TAF claims. Here is the key paragraph (bold my emphasis):

More specifically, the policy requires ASC staff to monitor and review the Foundation’s activities using a continuous improvement model that encourages constructive, ongoing communication between the ASC and the Foundation while providing written and verbal feedback to continually improve the effectiveness of the Foundation operations and programming. The new policy largely memorializes the monitoring and review practices of the ASC since 1992 with the exception of ASC staff providing written observations to the Foundation, which ASC staff plans to treat confidentially as permitted under applicable law.


On page 12, ASC questions the cost of USPAP to appraisers.

The ASC budgeted $1 million in grant funds for the Foundation in FY2021 and set aside an additional $2 million for 2022-23. The Foundation did not accept an ASC grant in 2021. The primary source of revenue for the Foundation remains revenue generated from the sale of USPAP.

The ASC has, over the years, urged the Foundation to make the real property appraisal Standards available to appraisers and the public free of charge in a downloadable usable format. In November 2020, the Foundation elected to make Standards 1-4 available to the public, free of charge, on their website in a downloadable, searchable, pdf format.

TAF, in its commitment to revenue over appraisers, followed through and added a searchable USPAP on their website. However, it is clear they don’t want it easy to find – any time I go to look for it, it takes me about 10 minutes to find it.

[17]

…and then look for the link on this landing page.

[18]

After the link is clicked, the following dialog box was recently added (sometime after the original placement on the website).

[19]

This interface was not part of the process when these documents became public and it is completely inappropriate. Why has this dialog box been added? Two purposes:

Intimidation – Why on earth would TAF want this information? They disclaim that it’s only for internal purposes but what possible internal purposes? They should be completely friction-free here. What if the public wants to see what our requirements are? Homeowners, real estate brokers, consumers should not have to worry about being tracked by the federal government (even though TAF is separate, it is perceived as such).

Threat To Revenue – In order to keep from having oversight by refusing grant money, they need to protect their revenue stream.

You can see they stopped taking grant money that is available, as Congress intended, to be the oversight mechanism to keep away from responsibility. And that thinking led to the refusal to accept grant money in 2020 AND 2021.

[20]

This brings me to my final point.

WHY ISN’T USPAP FREE TO APPRAISERS???

TAF pivoted to a USPAP revenue model to remain “free” of oversight rather than provide USPAP for free and have “oversight.” They have an estimated $11M in reserve and don’t need to fly all over the country and world on boondoggles. TAF is a super-charged bureaucracy that operates as a fiefdom.

USPAP should be free right now, no excuses or rationale can justify appraisers being charged with all that money sloshing around in their bank account.

TAF Elected Not To Accept Funding For Diversity Initiatives

One of the defining moments when TAF went rogue was with the following event in 2019 by ASC and led to the bat-shit crazy letter [15] sent by TAF to ASC. The following was taken from page 13 of the 2020 ASC Annual Report [14] on the ASC Grants page:

In December 2019, the ASC adopted the ASC Grants Handbook (Handbook). The Handbook is the official repository of the policies and procedures for the administration of grants made by the ASC as authorized by Title XI. The ASC also adopted the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) uniform guidance located in 2 CFR part 200, commonly referred to as the “super circular.” This guidance consolidates existing federal regulations and includes discussion of awards processes, procurement rules, indirect costs, internal controls, time and effort documentation and single audit procedures. All grants made in FY 2020 and beyond are subject to the operating procedures and policies in the Grants Handbook as well as OMB’s guidance found in the super circular.
On September 9, 2020, the ASC Board approved new budget authority for Foundation grants totaling $3 million over fiscal years 2021-23.

And then…(bold my emphasis)

The Foundation proposed additional areas for grant support such as:

○ appraiser shortages
diversity in the profession
○ veterans’ outreach
○ National Exam updates

Yet TAF opted NOT to accept the grant for both 2020 and 2021 which would fund diversity initiatives, after all, they were just posturing.

To be clear, this is an organization that has been devoid of diversity and diversity initiatives for three decades (yes, they finally implemented a few “decorative” efforts in 2021 to look good amongst the bureaucratic largess after myself and others in the public shamed their leadership – but none of these efforts provide any comprehensive change. Remember that TAF turned down grant funding for diversity initiatives after suggesting they be included in the grants.

According to TAF’s apparent mindset, as indicated in TAF’s bat-shit crazy letter [15] sent by TAF to ASC., they don’t want oversight despite what Congress intended…

…because it’s all about revenue for this not-for-profit first and concerns about appraisers and diversity last.

OFT (One Final Thought)

I love JLH’s story-telling style…


Brilliant Idea #1

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Brilliant Idea #2

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See you next week.

Jonathan J. Miller, CRP, CRE, Member of RAC [25]
President/CEO
Miller Samuel Inc. [26]
Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants
Matrix Blog [27] @jonathanmiller [28]

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