Changes Coming to HVCC

If you read blogs and keep abreast of what’s going on in the real estate industry, then no doubt you’ve seen the consternation caused by the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC or the Code) that was enacted this past May by Fannie and Freddie.

They put a code in force made sense, at least to me.  After all, if anyone thinks that the last ten years were a hallmark of honest and accurate appraisals untainted by the demands of lenders, borrowers, and brokers, please give me a call: I have a wonderful dream house in a crack neighborhood in East Cleveland for sale.

The Code stipulates that Realtors and mortgage brokers are prohibited from selecting appraisers. Lenders may use “in-house” staff appraisers to conduct appraisals; however, loan production staff are prohibited from selecting, recommending, or influencing the selection of an appraiser.  Moreover, they are prohibited from having a substantive conversation with and appraiser or appraisal management company (AMC) regarding the appraisal assignment.

AMCs seem to be a good fit because they act as a third party.

For the consumer, the appraisal process is basically the same, although there has been criticism from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that the appraisal process takes longer and is more expensive.

The NAR has made big push for an 18 month moratorium on the Code, to address their concerns.  While some concerns expressed by the NAR have merit, from their perspective it seems as if everything wrong with the housing market is the fault of the HVCC.  Appraisals are coming in low; lenders are taking too long to do deals, costs increased –– it’s as if these issues only started once the Code was enacted in May!

People who had gotten fat and happy in the good ole’ days when telling an appraiser where “the house needed to come in at” were upset.  Good.

But the NAR has brought to issue two flaws: 1) the tendency of appraisals to be completed by appraisers unfamiliar with the area; and 2) the inability of agents to talk to appraisers.

This week, Fannie and Freddie issued new guidance to all lenders concerning the HVCC to address these issues:

1)  Lenders should use appraisers who have clear experience in the geographical area of the subject property.

2)  Clarifies that appraisers are not prohibited from talking to real estate agents

And then there is a third issue, one that needs to be addressed by the States.  Apparently there is a lack of regulation over AMCs and the quality of the services they provide. The NAR is pushing hard on this, and they may have a point. It’s just strange to see an organization that values, no relies, on the free market suddenly become advocates for more regulation for an industry they don’t like.

If the goal of the HVCC is to strengthen appraiser independence while improving the evaluation process then Freddie & Fannie seem to be on track.

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