The Appraisal Advocacy Coalition, a new nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and supporting real estate appraisers, formally launched this week.

The group, which advocates for full and accurate appraisals and independent appraisers, was introduced during a winter convention held by a la mode, a company that develops technologies for the real estate and mortgage industries.

Hundreds of attendees joined a panel of industry experts and participants Jan. 17 to learn about and discuss the new organization. Dave Biggers, founder and chairman of a la mode, has donated money and staff time to help start the coalition, which will be a separate entity from a la mode.

“We’ve introduced the Appraisal Advocacy Coalition as an appraiser-supported effort to ensure that the single most important facet of the American economy doesn’t fall prey to predatory lenders and shady ‘appraisal alternatives,'” said Ben Harris, an a la mode spokesman.

“Appraisers are vitally important to protecting home buyers and homeowners from predatory mortgage schemes, ‘sticker shock’ associated with spiking monthly mortgage payments and a ‘musical chairs’ style secondary market,” according to the announcement today.

“Appraisers are the auditors of the mortgage transaction,” Harris said in a statement. “But they can only do the kind of good, valuable work auditors do in other business contexts if they’re perceived as and treated like auditors.”

The announcement states that an aim of the coalition is to protect real estate appraisers “from unfair competition, unjust perceptions and uncompensated misuse of their intellectual property.”

An estimated 83 percent of victims of inflated mortgage schemes are live in low-income to moderate-income Census tracts, according to the a la mode announcement. And more than half pay 20-50 percent more in monthly mortgage payments than they would have with an accurate appraisal, according to National Community Reinvestment Coalition statistics.

Speaking at the a la mode convention’s keynote session, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said that challenges to appraisers’ integrity are sometimes difficult for appraisers to overcome individually, but “as a collective, you’re strong. And as a collective, you’re right,” he said. “You will keep the American dream of home ownership pure and sound for the next generation.”

A charter member of the Appraisal Advocacy Coalition is real estate appraiser Tim Vining of Washington state. “A la mode stuck its neck out for me in a copyright infringement case last year,” Vining said, “but there are thousands upon thousands of appraisers who need help not in court, but at the policymaking level. That’s where the Appraisal Advocacy Coalition comes in.”

The Appraisal Advocacy Coalition will be soliciting donations and volunteers later this quarter, according to the announcement.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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