As part of a move to shed 900 employees, Washington Mutual Inc. is all but eliminating its in-house residential appraisal department. Layoffs announced Thursday include 350 employees in the home loans group, of which 320 are members of the residential home appraisal team, said Washington Mutual spokeswoman Olivia Riley. Riley said the bank will consolidate appraisal work formerly performed in-house and by hundreds of outside vendors with two national appraisal management companies. Washington Mutual had already outsourced "a large percentage of our appraisal work," and contracting with just two outside companies instead of hundreds allows the bank to save money by achieving better economy of scale, Riley said. Jonathan J. Miller, whose appraisal firm has been a longtime Washington Mutual contractor, identified the two companies taking over the bank's residential appraisals as First American Corp. and Lender's Service Inc. Riley would not confirm or deny the report, saying...
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