Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California

Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California
Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Why Real Estate Appraisers Blur Photos in Appraisals by Mary Cummins Real Estate Appraiser


"A former Green Beret and one-time congressional candidate arrested last month for his alleged participation in the Capitol riot was illegally stockpiling explosives prior to being jailed on charges related to the Jan. 6 pro-Trump siege, according to an FBI search warrant filed Friday in Washington, D.C. federal court. When federal agents searched 47-year-old Jeremy Brown’s Florida home in October, they reported finding a short-barrel rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, and two hand grenades. But it was a picture included in a sales listing for his house on Zillow that led to his latest troubles. In a photo from “what appears to be Brown’s office,” FBI agents spotted a whiteboard with columns labeled “Food,” “Clothing,” “Shelter,” “Currency,” “Communicate,” “Move,” and “Shoot,” the warrant states. In the “shoot” column, it continues, “there are numerous firearms listed and explosive devices such as ‘flash bangs.’” The entry on the whiteboard indicated that Brown had the flash bangs “on hand,” the filing says, adding that Brown “is not registered to possess explosive devices.” "



In this case a real estate agent or maybe just a photographer did not blur any photos or remove items in the listing of a home for sale on Zillow. This was not for an appraisal or loan. While real estate agents cannot discriminate I don't believe Zillow or the agent have a responsibility to blur out images of personal items in listing photos so others can't discriminate. I do know that real estate agents generally tell all of their clients to remove all items of a personal nature especially photos for the listing photos and showings if not until the home is sold. This is for staging purposes so the buyer can envision themselves in a clean and less cluttered home so the home will sell more quickly and for a higher price.  

Appraisers on the other hand have to blur out photos of all people and personal items. We blur out people in photos, people in paintings, any religious items, personal collections such as gun collections, yard signs, political signs and other items of a personal nature in the home. 

I would have blurred out the guns but probably not the list of items on the wall because I wouldn't have noticed it. I don't really look at personal items when I'm appraising as I'm concentrating on the structure. I only notice the photos when I'm writing the report and adding the photos. Then I intentionally look for anything personal so I can blur it. I would assume that someone would hide something they really, really don't want anyone to see in their home before they enter. I'm assuming the guy just didn't realize people would know who he was and put two and two together. 

The purpose of blurring images of all people, religious items ... is so no one can say that the lender's decision to loan or not to loan was based on discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status.... Appraisers are also not allowed to discriminate against the home owner, borrower, or state anything that might be considered discriminatory in the appraisal report. There is no law that states Appraisers have to remove or blur these items. It's the lender instructions to the Appraiser. Obviously we see the images and items and sometimes people in person so blurring them from photos won't remove them from our memory.

I found this regulation about discrimination in relation to lenders. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits discrimination in any aspect of a credit transaction. It's based on Fair Lending Laws and Regulations per the Fair Housing Act. The link below goes into more detail about fair lending and discrimination.

https://www.fdic.gov/resources/supervision-and-examinations/consumer-compliance-examination-manual/documents/4/iv-1-1.pdf

The reason for blurring the photos is because the lender does not want a discrimination complaint or lawsuit even a frivolous one. If the lender is a bank it's even more important. Banks have to comply with many complex regulations related to non-discrimination of borrowers. They must have so many branches in areas which are predominantly low income and of color if they want to operate a bank even if the branches lose money. One complaint even a frivolous could harm the bank's legal standing as a bank and it's reputation and business. 

The alleged January 6 rioter appears to be a not too bright criminal. I've found people who believe in conspiracy theories such as the "stolen" 2020 election, Pizzagate, JFK is still alive, are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They lack critical thinking and common sense which is a shame for everyone.

Mary Cummins of Cummins Real Estate is a certified residential licensed appraiser in Los Angeles, California. Mary Cummins is licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate appraisers and has over 35 years of experience.


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