Comps come home to roost

Determined to never again be stuck with hundreds of thousands of repossessed homes worth less than the mortgages taken out by their owners, in 2011 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began aggregating data from millions of appraisal reports and using the information to build analytical tools that score appraisals and assign them a risk factor.

Now that Fannie Mae is about to provide lenders, but not appraisers, with direct access to those tools, some pundits like Frank Garay and Brian Stevens of the National Real Estate Post are warning of an “appraisal time bomb.”

The Jan. 26 launch of the so-called “Collateral Underwriter” system is likely to increase the number of ways appraisals can be derailed, such as challenges of comparable sales, critics say.

Others –like veteran appraisal industry instructors Richard Heyn and Dawn Molitor-Gennrich — call such fears overblown.

While Collateral Underwriter “does have the potential of generating increased callbacks and ‘stips,’ especially when first introduced, these should decline over time,” Heyn and Molitor-Gennrich advise appraisers.

Don’t worry about “things that may not happen,” they say. “Fear-mongering and doomsday predictions seem to accompany many major announcements from Fannie Mae.”

Some appraisers say that Fannie Mae should at least provide them with access to the data that Collateral Underwriter relies on, which has been mined from their own reports.

No more hiding the sales price from the public in California

California has closed a loophole that allowed buyers and sellers to keep the selling price of a property out of the public eye — or at least harder to dig up.

Assembly Bill 1888 requires that transfer tax amounts be recorded on the property deed. Parties in some of high-end homes and commercial properties have been able to keep that number semisecret by filing the “tax stamp” separately from the deed, the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Nathan Donato-Weinstein reports.  The Appraisal Institute supported the bill, saying it will lead to better property valuations.

‘Real estate catburglar’ teaches Texas a lesson

A man who once described himself as a “real estate catburglar” and allegedly used 20 companies to claim ownership to more than 80 homes in poor neighborhoods in Dallas has disappeared from public view. But Dallas authorities are working with state lawmakers to make sure they have the tools to prevent such schemes in the future.

There are five bills being prepared in the legislature to uphold the integrity of public records and real estate transactions, the Dallas Morning News’ Tod Robberson reports.

Realtor association CEO charged with embezzlement

The former CEO of the Summit Association of Realtors is cooling her heels in jail after being arrested last week on suspicion of seven counts of identity theft, seven counts of forgery and seven counts of criminal impersonation, the Denver Post reports.

Sue Frank was arrested Dec. 22 on a no-bond warrant after allegedly embezzling more than $415,000 from the association, which she had led for nearly two decades. Frank, who has a Jan. 5 court date, has declined to comment on the charges, the Post said.

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