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

Mary Cummins, Real Estate Appraiser, Animal Advocates, Los Angeles, California
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Monday, July 8, 2024

Apprasal BuzzCast with Hal Humphreys, Peter Christensen - Two Case of Alleged Appraiser Bias, Malpractice by Mary Cummins Real Estate Appraiser

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Appraisal Buzz has a good video on their The Appraisal BuzzCast with real estate appraiser Hal Humphreys and lawyer Peter Christensen talking about recent real estate appraisal lawsuits. The episode is July 3, 2024.

The video discusses two recent appraisal lawsuits and Peter Christensen's upcoming class in August at Valuation Expo. Peter Christensen said right now there are about 11 real estate appraisal bias lawsuits. HUD hasn't decided on 200 plus investigations. 

The first case is in Chattanooga, Tennessee. An appraiser appraised a house for a purchase borrower. The home was under renovation and not complete. The value came in below contract so the borrower couldn't buy the home. A month later after the property was complete and finished another borrower tried to buy the property. He was given a copy of the old appraisal. The new potential lender was a credit union. They ended up hiring the same appraiser who just appraised it a month earlier. That appraiser did not reinspect the now finished property. They just changed the effective date and lender. They stated they reinspected the property when they didn't. They came in at the same older value.

The borrower contacted the credit union who basically said just deal with the low value. Borrower went to another lender, got a new higher appraisal, got the loan and closed on it. That borrower then sued, complained about the appraiser and the lender. Appraiser was sued for of course lying about inspecting besides a million USPAP and other violations. The lender was sued for not reporting the appraiser to state board. 

That appraiser was absolutely in the wrong and deserved to be sued. He must have been pressured by the lender. Otherwise why not go back out especially when it wasn't finished a month earlier. Of course it will look different. Stupid appraiser. I didn't know lenders could be sued for not reporting an appraiser. 

The second case is in Los Angeles, California which I'd heard about. It involves a black ex football player and his wife a retired accountant. It involves four appraisers in a reverse mortgage. There were two "acceptable to the borrower" higher appraisals. Home must be valued over $1,000,000 to need two appraisals Then there were two review appraisals which came in 25% lower. Then there were two more review appraisals which also came in 25% lower. All the lower appraisers are being sued for racial discrimination and bias.

I haven't seen any appraisals but I heard about the values. Based on my experience the lower appraisals are more likely to be accurate. There is no reason to lowball an appraisal value. You could be sued for bias by the borrower. This is why appraisers are more likely to come in higher than market value. Maybe the higher appraisers were biased positively because the guy was an ex football player? Maybe they came in higher because the borrowers are black? The review appraisers don't see the people. They don't see any personal photos because they're all blurred. How would they ever know race, color, gender...of the borrower? How can they be biased based on factors they don't even know? I wish I knew more about the case. 

Just found this on Peter Christensen's LinkedIn page.

"In this new case, a retired NFL player and his wife have filed fair housing discrimination legal claims. The claims involve multiple appraisals/appraisal reviews for the purpose of a proposed reverse mortgage. There are 9 appraisals/reviews performed by different appraisers from November 2020 to August 2021 identified in the case. The value opinions of the suburban home range from $1.5m to $3.15m.* The borrowers allege that the low values in that range, which prevented their reverse mortgage, stem from bias based on their race and on the predominant race in their neighborhood. As reflected in the snippet below from their court complaint, they filed a HUD complaint in January 2022 and waited for a result for more than 2 years - until finally withdrawing the HUD complaint in April 2024 to pursue a civil action in state court.

* For the curious, here are the values/dates of value in the 9 different appraisers' reports: 

 > 11/18/20: $3.1m

 > 1/13/21 (4 reports with same date of value): $3.1m, $2.6, $2.5m, $1.5m

 > 1/26/21: $2.5m

 > 6/3/21: $3.15m

 > 6/20/21: $3.1m

 > 8/20/21: $3.1m " 

That's a huge range of values. I definitely see why they were concerned. Looks like some appraisers used bad comps? I'll update this if I find out more about the case.

Hal Humphreys had some good and obvious suggestions so you don't get sued as an appraiser. Peter agreed with him. Be nice, receptive to person's input and do the absolute best and most thorough appraisal possible. Peter said sometimes if an appraiser is rude, short or rushed, it may come across as biased or racist even if the appraiser treats everyone that way. Peter said "kindness matters." If they tell you, you got the sf wrong, listen to them. Make changes if warranted. Talk to them about the process. This will eliminate a lot of problems. I absolutely agree. I must state that some AMCs instruct appraisers not to "chit chat" with borrowers, people at the property.

I've thought about how to avoid problems as an appraiser. Obviously, be nice, courteous and receptive. When I'm in a situation where I'm appraising a complex appraisal say in an area going through revitalization, near an area with much higher prices or where home values vary greatly, I explain things in layman's terms. I will state why I didn't use certain comps and why. If the home next door sold for 50% more, I will mention it and why I didn't use it, i.e. double the size, fully remodeled, pool, ADU... If the subject is on a busy highway and homes nearby on cul-de-sacs sell for 50% more, I'll mention them and state why I didn't use the comps. Not all borrowers are incredibly real estate savvy. As it is our appraisal forms are confusing even with the definitions page. There's a lot of abbreviations, codes, rating numbers/letters... Some sections like "condition" are confusing. I always tell them to call me if they have any questions. Make sure you reply to their calls. 

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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