One in six appraisers whose licenses were revoked or surrendered in California and Florida since 2005 kept their real estate sales or broker’s licenses, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

Some appraisers who lost their licenses also took positions in appraisal management companies, the center’s investigation found. 

The ability of former appraisers to make the switch to real estate sales — or continue in management positions in the appraisal industry — is the result of fragmented state bureaucracies, divided regulation of the real estate industry, and poor communication between regulators, the center concluded in reporting its findings.

In California, for example, the Office of Real Estate Appraisers has responsibility over more than 16,000 licensed appraisers, but its computer systems are not linked up with the California Department of Real Estate, which licenses real estate brokers and agents, the report said.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit digital news organization that conducts research and produces investigative stories on public policy issues.

"We dropped the ball," Bob Clark, director of the Office of Real Estate Appraisers, said when asked by the center about 10 former appraisers working as licensed real estate agents or brokers in the state.

In Florida, the Division of Real Estate oversees boards that regulate real estate agents and appraisers. All revoked appraisal license cases are reported to the Florida Real Estate Commission, which has the authority to revoke real estate licenses, the report said. But nine of the 54 appraisers who lost their appraisal licenses in Florida since 2005 kept their real estate broker or sales licenses.

Hundreds of former appraisers may be working in the real estate industry nationwide, the report concluded, but determining the exact number is difficult because regulation is so fragmented.

The report, "Rebuked Appraisers Reborn as Real Estate Agents," is part of the Center’s Land Use Accountability Project, which examines how local land use decisions are made and the consequences of those decisions for issues like sprawl.

In a previous report, "The Appraisal Bubble," the center detailed the role of appraisals in the housing boom, obtaining copies of blacklists that lenders allegedly used during the housing boom to boycott thousands of appraisers who refused to inflate home values.

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which took effect on May 1 for loans slated for purchase or guarantee by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was an attempt to insulate appraisers from coercion by lenders. …CONTINUED

But critics say it has resulted in a shift of appraisal work to appraisal management companies — some of them subsidiaries of lenders — who may employ inexperienced appraisers.

Industry groups including the National Association of Realtors say the code, while well intentioned, is derailing sales because properties may be undervalued when inexperienced appraisers cite distressed properties as comparable sales.

Appraisers say market conditions, not faulty appraisals, are more often to blame when valuations don’t support an agreed-upon sales price (see story).

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that includes provisions that would allow states to regulate appraisal management companies and disqualify appraisers who lose their licenses from taking high-level positions in the companies, the center’s report noted.

The bill, HR 1728, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2009, passed the House May 7 in a 300-114 vote.

But it contains many controversial provisions that are likely to be subject to debate in the Senate, where it has been referred to the Committee on Banking. Citing industry sources, the Center for Public Integrity said a Senate vote on HR 1728 is expected by October.

The bill, which is aimed at taking away incentives for mortgage brokers to put borrowers in risky loans while requiring lenders to retain some of the risk involved in the loans they make, could hurt consumers by constricting mortgage lending, industry critics say (see story).

As amended by the House, HR 1728 would also delay by one year implementation of changes to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), including the introduction of standardized mortgage loan disclosure forms that are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan says he remains committed to implementing the RESPA changes, saying they will save consumers an average of $700 per loan by helping them shop around for the best deal (see story).

Another pending bill, HR 3044, would suspend implementation of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct for 18 months (see story). The bill, introduced June 25 and referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, now has 30 co-sponsors.


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