Recently, the fine folks in the government implemented a new set of rules called the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC). The purpose was to protect consumers and lenders from buying or lending for over-valued properties. The problem was that in some cases, in a few areas in our nation, lenders were “forcing” appraisers into inflating property values higher than they should be to make loans. If for example a loan application had a purchase price of $200,000 and the property only appraised for $190,000, then either the buyer and seller agreed to lower the price or the deal never happened. In some cases, some very bad lenders got together with some very bad appraisers and bumped the prices up so that magically, the home appraised, thereby “saving” the loan and making more money for the lender. This is obviously a huge problem if it happens, because home owners are then stuck with properties that were not worth what they thought they were.
Being as we can all agree that this is not a good thing, the government decided they needed to solve the problem. Rather than simply investigating and prosecuting (which in the government’s defense some prosecution did happen, which generated these rules) and then setting up an oversight system where they could make sure the existing ethics rules and laws were actually obeyed (which 99.5% of the time they are), they decided that the best way to solve this problem was to set up a system where lenders were simply never allowed to talk to appraisers, the theory being that if lenders could never talk to appraisers then they could not influence values, thereby protecting consumers from purchasing over valued homes. No one talks to anyone, so no one can do anything bad, sounds good, right?
Now, you know me, I never like to be negative, but this is absolutely a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. The old system wasn’t broken, what happened was simple, some criminals defrauded the system and broke the law. Implementing the HVCC rules to solve this issue is, in my opinion, overkill. Similar to this: someone breaks a window at your house, climbs in and robs you. Rather than fixing the window and installing a new lock, maybe investing in better security, you decide the answer is to just buy a new house somewhere else and start over. That is a bit of an over reaction, wouldn’t you say?
So, why specifically is HVCC a problem? Well, the new HVCC rules are causing numerous issues all through out our industry and while the intention of the rules were good, the solution set forth in these rules has caused way more harm than good and the rules need to be re-evaluated to address specific problems such as:
1. Appraisals now cost anywhere from $150 to $200 MORE than before.
2. Transactions are taking LONGER to close, 45-60 days instead of 30.
3. There is absolutely no accountability in the process at all, if the appraisal is late, holding up settlement, done improperly, etc, the lender has no ability to even talk to the appraiser to straighten out the issue, as the simple act of lenders talking to appraisers is outlawed under this new rule.
4. Experienced appraisers are being forced out of the business by the “system” and inexperienced appraisers are taking their place, leading to improperly done appraisals that we have no recourse in correcting, as outlined in #3.
5. These issues are costing consumers across the country millions of dollars in excess fees and some transactions are simply falling apart.
If you would like some more insight into the problem, the link below has a video that thoroughly explains our industry’s frustrations right now:
Until such a time as this issue is corrected, we will continue to have problems. There are a few solutions we real estate professionals can pursue until then:
1. Be realistic, set appropriate timeframes for your settlements. 30 day settlements are probably not realistic for you. Plan on increased closing costs as well, these appraisal prices are heading up, not down.
2. The complete impact of these new rules still has not been felt. Never assume that the parties involved, consumers, agents, lenders, know everything you know. If they are telling you it is fine, don’t worry, then I would suggest you dig a little deeper, pay attention and understand the process. Do not assume it will be fine unless you are taking steps to make it fine.
3. Use local lenders. Out of area lenders are more likely to end up with out of area appraisers. If they don’t know your market, can they really give you an accurate appraisal?
4. This is the most important :COMMUNICATE! All parties involved must understand that this is critical, while lenders can’t talk to appraisers anymore agents CAN. Make sure you know who is doing the appraisal, their name, number and company name. Keep it on file to refer to in the future if needed. Talk to each other, be realistic and work together. If you have a chain of 3 transactions all depending on one another to close, talk to all of the agents involved, not just the one on your end of the deal. Remember, it only takes one deal delaying closing or even worse falling apart, to break your chain and cause trouble for everyone.
So, stay informed, pay attention and guide consumers through this new maze competently and your transactions should be fine. Ignore the warning signs at your own risk or these rules will reek havoc on your business.
HVCC is a problem simply because it harms consumers. But it can be fixed. We can do better, we can protect consumers without harming them or costing them money. If you agree with me that there is a problem here, please go to the link below and sign the petition to have this misguided program reviewed and corrected, home buyers and sellers deserve better than this.