27th May 2015

2015 National Appraiser Survey Results

Find out what appraisers think in this wrap-up of survey responses to our 2015 National Appraiser Survey.

This survey is widely read by regulators, lenders, AMCs and vendors. Thank you to all who helped participate in this and ensuring that your voice is heard.

 

You can download it here:

https://www.appraisalbuzz.com/product/2015-national-appraiser-survey-results/ 

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24th May 2015

Appraisal Management Company Solidifi Purchases Southwest Financial Services Ltd.

Solidifi, an independent real estate appraisal management company (AMC), has acquired Southwest Financial Services Ltd., a national, independent provider of outsourced services to home equity lenders.

Cincinnati-based Southwest Financial Services Ltd. delivers title, valuation and flood determination services for many lending institutions, processing more than 5,000 transactions a day.

The acquisition was made with the AMC’s existing cash resources. Solidifi’s parent company, Real Matters, raised $60 million in financing to maintain the company’s balance sheet and to pursue further strategic opportunities.

The company has invested more than $30 million to date in its technology platform that will further enhance appraisal and title transaction performance for Solidifi and Southwest Financial Services customers.

Berkery Noyes was an advisor for the transaction.

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22nd May 2015

2015 Appraisal Management Company Directory Now Available

Hey Fellow Appraisers! The newly updated 2015 AMC Directory is now available! After spending months editing the last update from July 2014, I have added over 30 new AMCs, removed some of the bad ones or the companies that have gone out of business and reformatted the top of the list to include the top 40 AMCs that are currently my best clients.

2015 Appraisal Management Company DirectoryI also updated and added a new chapter on how to use the AMC Directory to sign up only to companies listed in your state. That should save you a bunch of time when applying to the appraisal management companies.

And finally, this list not only includes the top companies that I recommend all appraisers to sign up to due to pay, turn around time or other factors, but for more than 99% of the companies listed, I have already done the research and found the direct link to their online applications. You won’t believe how much time that is going to save you in the registration process.

This isn’t just a list of appraisal management companies with phone numbers and maybe a website listing. I spend the time to get the contact information for each of the companies, find their online applications and more. If they don’t have an online application, they don’t get on my list. If they appear to be another appraiser looking to sign up other appraisers for a fee split, I don’t add them to my list either. If they are known not to pay their appraisers or have had problems paying appraisers in the past, they definitely don’t make it on my list. I have even tried to note as much as possible which companies state they have commercial work as well. I have registered with most of the companies in my directory except for some of the latest entries and when they have good work, they get moved up to the top of the list.

With interest rates still at an all time low and talks of softening lending practices, 2015 could possibly be your best year ever working with the appraisal management companies. But you won’t get ANY work from them if you don’t sign up to them.

Buy the new 2015 AMC Directory and start signing up today. I have been completely swamped with AMC work for years now, giving me the ability to cherry pick the best work available from a variety of companies and never get paid less than my customary and reasonable fees. I average over $450 per order, the lowest fee I have accepted in the past year was $325 and the highest $2000. Get your copy today.

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22nd May 2015

Three of the nation’s top housing experts give their take on the market, the economy and what the rest of 2015 has in store

A strengthening labor market, low interest rates, improving mortgage availability and growing, pent-up demand are predicted to significantly boost single-family housing production in 2015. But what else can builders and suppliers expect through the rest of the year?

NAHB Spring Construction Forecast Webinar

Three of the nation’s top housing experts will give their take on the market, the economy and what the rest of 2015 has in store. The panel will discuss, among other topics:

  • Housing’s potential and most likely path for 2015 and 2016
  • Recovery hurdles like labor shortages and tight credit
  • Tailwinds pushing housing such as demographics and pent-up demand
  • Future Federal Reserve actions and their impacts

Additionally, they’ll give a state-by-state analysis of areas that affect your business such as housing prices, employment and housing starts.

Speakers:

  • David Crowe, PhD, NAHB Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, NAHB.Crowe is responsible for NAHB’s forecast of housing and economic trends, survey research and analysis of the industry and consumer preferences as well as microeconomic analysis of government policies that affect housing.
  • Sam Khater, Deputy Chief Economist, CoreLogic. CoreLogic is America’s largest provider of advanced property and ownership information, analytics and services. Khater is responsible for analysis and commentary on the real estate and mortgage markets.
  • Robert Denk, Assistant Vice President for Forecasting and Analysis, NAHB. Denk develops econometric models of national, state and metropolitan area housing activity, long-term projections of housing demand, and ad-hoc analyses on a range of housing sector issues.

NAHB members pay $29.95; non-members $49.95. The registration deadline is  April 21. Register now at nahb.org/CFW. And as always, participants are encouraged to type in their questions as the event unfolds. The webinar will be available in the NAHB archives to all registrants for on-demand viewing.

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21st May 2015

Here’s why Illinois appraisals came to a dead stop

[Update 1: Updated on May 20 with new list of state-approved AMCs. The new list is dated May 18.]

While the rest of us were going about our business this week, appraisals in the state of Illinois came to a dead stop after the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation revoked the licenses of 70 of the state’s major appraisal management companies due to non-compliance with the state’s bonding requirements.

The cancellation of the AMCs’ licenses set off a firestorm that left appraisers prohibited from working with the suddenly unlicensed AMCs.

According to sources inside the industry, many of the affected AMCs said they were caught completely off guard by the cancellation of their licenses.

The state, on the other hand, claims that AMCs were fully aware of the situation.

In the May issue of the IllinoisAppraiser newsletter issued by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s Division of Real Estate, the state’s appraisal management company coordinator writes that the vast majority of the state’s AMCs were not in compliance.

In a section titled “AMCs and Compliance,” author Brian Weaver, AMC coordinator for the Division of Real Estate, said that the state’s AMCs were “astonishingly poor” at complying with the state’s rules.

“Some AMCs, like some appraisers, are better at compliance than others,” Weaver writes.

Weaver then presents a copy of the state’s bonding requirements, which reads as such:

Section 1452.80 Bonding Requirements

The bond required by Section 50 of the Act shall be fora term concurrent with the term of the registration, commencing with registrations issued by the Division with an expiration date of December 31, 2014 and concurrent with the 2-year term of each renewed registration thereafter. This provision does not prohibit the registrant from maintaining a continuing bond during any registration term. Failure to maintain the bond and to provide the Department with written proof of the bond, upon request, shall result in cancellation of the license without hearing.

Weaver goes on to say that the AMCs bonds were “set to expire all over the calendar,” and that only nine of the AMCs operating in the state were able to comply with the bonding rule.

“It became so problematic that I finally had to send 150+ letters to the remaining AMCs that they needed to comply or face cancellation,” Weaver writes. “Compliance at a rate of of 9 out of 165 is astonishingly poor.”

Click here to read the IllinoisAppraiser May newsletter in full.

But sources tell HousingWire that many of the state’s AMCs, including several large operators, did not receive those letters and had their licenses canceled on Monday without any other warning or the possibility of a hearing.

In the wake of the cancellation, the Illinois Coalition of Appraisal Professionals sent an email to its members that the state had canceled the licenses of 70 AMCs, saying that the state had asked the Coalition to notify its membership that they were now prohibited from accepting work from the unlicensed AMCs.

In that email, which was obtained by HousingWire, the ICAP includes a state-provided list of non-compliant AMCs in a PDF file. The PDF file was hosted on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website, but the link to the PDF file is now dead.

The ICAP email also included a copy of a letter purportedly sent by the state to all AMCs who hadn’t provided their updated bond information when they renewed their license for 2015.

The ICAP email states that the letter to AMCs was sent on March 30 and warns the AMCs that they must comply with the state’s rules by May 1 or risk cancellation of their license.

A link to a copy of that letter was also included. The link was a PDF file hosed on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website, but the link to the PDF file is also now dead.

In many cases, the AMCs learned of their license cancellations from appraisers who told them they would be unable to fulfill their contracts.

In the subsequent days, AMCs from all over the country began bombarding the Division of Real Estate’s office with their bonding requirements, but with many of the state’s largest AMCs unable to fulfill contracts, appraisals in the state came to a screeching halt.

On Tuesday, just one day after suspending the licenses of 70 AMCs, Weaver and the Division of Real Estate posted the following on the state’s website (text presented exactly as in Weaver’s letter, italicization included):

Given that most of the AMCs have been overnighting packages with original documentation to Springfield, we will be repopulating and re-posting the List as AMC entities are verified as compliant.

The License Look-up shows ALL 170+ AMCs as active and appraisers are free to receive and work their assignments.

Given the anticipated volume of documentation being received in Springfield, it may be until the end of next week before we can tell precisely who has complied.

Click here to read Weaver’s letter in full.

The state also posted a list of compliant AMCs on Thursday, but a comparison between the May 14 list and a similar list from June 2014 shows many AMCs removed from the licensed list, although as Weaver’s letter states, all of the AMCs that were licensed before Monday are still allowed to operate in the state while the Division of Real Estate sorts through the AMCs’ bonding materials.

Click here to see the May 14 list of approved AMCs. And click here to see the list of AMCs licensed as of June 2014.

HousingWire reviewed the state’s website again on May 20 and found an updated list of approved AMCs, dated May 18. The new list shows several more AMCs that are now approved by the state. Click here to the see the May 18 list.

Despite the licensing issue being resolved with two days, that didn’t prevent hundreds or perhaps thousands of appraisals from being delayed.

HousingWire attempted to contact Weaver via email to discuss the situation, but received an out of office reply, indicating that Weaver would return to work on Friday.

HousingWire also sent an email to the Division of Real Estate about the issue but did not receive a response.

HousingWire also voicemails with Luisa Rivera, the administrative assistant for the state’s appraisal board and Mary Bates, the board’s liaison, but, as of press time, has not received a response from either.

 

http://www.housingwire.com/articles/33901-heres-why-illinois-appraisals-came-to-a-dead-stop-this-week

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19th May 2015

Syracuse appraiser avoids prison after plea in $1 million real estate fraud case

Syracuse, NY — A Syracuse appraiser will be sentenced to 5 years’ probation after he admitted his role in a $1 million scheme to defraud families and banks during the Great Recession.

Steven Essig pleaded guilty to a felony today for participating in the scheme with Fabius real estate agent Theresa Sanders. They, along with others, would buy dilapidated homes from the government, inflate their worth and then entice inexperienced homebuyers to sign rent-to-own agreements, said the state Attorney General’s Office.

Based on the inflated home values, the ring secured refinanced mortgages from lenders, who wired money believing they were paying off old mortgages. Instead, the money went to accounts controlled by the ring.

Sanders, the ringleader, pleaded guilty in January and will be sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. Because she has been in jail since 2013, she’s due to be released soon.

Essig helped the group by filing fake appraisals, the AG’s office said. He pleaded guilty today to a specific case involving 225 Hazelhurst Ave., in Syracuse. In that case, he claimed that the property had been sold for $84,000 in 2007. In reality, the house had been sold in 2005 for $37,800, the AG said.

That inflated value allowed the ring to obtain a $61,257 mortgage for their benefit.

Besides Sanders, three other players also pleaded guilty for their participation:

• Tracie Clark pleaded guilty to felony residential mortgage fraud in March 2014.

• Paul Sakowski pleaded guilty to felony scheme to defraud in October 2013.

• Lawyer Michelle Powers pleaded guilty to scheme to defraud in October 2013.

Syracuse.com wrote about allegations against the ring in 2009.

 

http://www.syracuse.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/05/syracuse_appraiser_avoids_prison_after_plea_in_1_million_real_estate_fraud_case.html

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18th May 2015

Attorney on Quicken’s Lawsuit; Fixing Appraisal System; Final Rules on AMCs

Many lenders are watching this battle of industry frustration from the sidelines: Quicken vs. the DOJ, and vice versa. Prior to the government suing Quicken, Matthew Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner in New York, wrote, “Quicken Loan’s decision to sue the Government over what it has alleged is arbitrary and capricious conduct related to the investigation of Quicken’s lending practices is unconventional, to say the least. The lawsuit itself is a legal long shot. The government generally has immunity and great discretion where it doesn’t, over how it conducts its investigations or settles enforcement actions. But the lawsuit gives voice to an increasingly popular sentiment among financial institutions: that the government is, for political reasons, extracting hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in settlements for what are at best technically and immaterially incorrect claims. While the government will probably win this lawsuit, if Quicken’s allegations are correct, it may be forced to explain its conduct in a way that will undermine the law enforcement effect of this and other recent enforcement actions.”

Appraisals are a hot topic. (Just ask the New Mexico Mortgage Lenders Association – it is having a lunch on the subject Thursday, May 14.)

The MBA reports that an interagency group (the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, FHFA, CFPB, NCUA and OCC) has issued a final rule establishing minimum requirements for appraisal management companies (AMCs).The rule establishes standards for both federally regulated and non-federally regulated AMCs. Beginning 36 months from the effective date of the rule, an AMC that oversees an appraiser panel of more than 15 state-certified or state-licensed appraisers in a state, or 25 or more appraisers in two or more states, in a calendar year may not provide appraisal services for a federally-related transaction in a state unless the AMC is registered with the state or is subject to oversight by a federal financial institution’s regulatory agency through its ownership and control by a federally regulated insured depository institution. The Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council may provide an additional 12 months for a state to comply if the ASC finds that a state is making a good faith effort to establish an AMC registry.

It is important to note that the rule does not require states to implement standards for non-federally regulated AMCs. Consequently, non-federally regulated AMCs would be prevented from providing appraisal management services for many transactions in states where such AMC regulatory structures are not adopted. MBA is continuing to analyze the rule and state laws to understand what states have already adopted AMC rules that meet the minimum requirements.

I received this note. “Rob, one of my borrowers had their property appraised the other day. She mentioned that the appraiser looked like he was 85 years old and a hermit, could barely shuffle around the property, and seemed almost inconvenienced to be there. It reminded me that with all the talk about the average age of LOs and Realtors, no one talks about the aging appraiser population. As I understand it, it is almost as if the appraisal business has the odds stacked against it. No one goes through high school or college wanting to be an appraiser. The national group – whether it is NAIFA or the Appraisal Institute – doesn’t seem very strong. Appraisers need 3,500 hours of appraisal time and 200 class hours – what advantage do appraisers have to train someone and pay them? In the past banks had staff appraisers, and training could occur – but that is no longer the case. Is anyone out there making recommendations about how the industry can bring in new blood in a cost-effective, efficient, and prudent manner?”

Michael Simmons with AXIS AMC wrote, “It is accurate that the average age for appraisers is rising. Depending on who’s calculating, it’s estimated to be in the mid to high 50’s (similar Realtors and loan originators). Recently I was in New Orleans at an appraisal symposium put on by the Collateral Risk Network. Some of the industry’s best thought leaders shared their perspectives on what the future holds for appraising and what steps we should take to best serve our constituency; appraisers, lenders, and communities alike.  One of the topics was on the very issue of ‘growing’ new appraisers. Rick Langdon, Chief Appraiser for one of the country’s largest banks (and largest mortgage lender), announced an initiative to bring on and train 10 appraisal trainees. Historically, the big banks were instrumental in being a training ground for new appraisers – and I think Rick was attempting to challenge all of us, banks and AMCs alike, to join in a movement to ‘replenish the herd’. It was encouraging.

“Here at AXIS, we’re about to ‘graduate’ our 1st trainee after a 2 year and 2500 hour experience requirement for Certified Appraiser Classification here in California. We currently have 2 others in training and look to increase our efforts. We’ve found that bright kids with technological skills coming out of college and paired with experienced appraisers (almost in the tradition of the old Guild system) make a perfect complement. And we believe that the natural attrition in the appraiser ranks will open up true career opportunities for those with 21stcentury skills infused with the tribal knowledge of their elders.

As for the barriers to entry for the profession, I personally agree with your reader, they’re inhibiting. We are living with a generation where instant gratification often takes too long. So the new threshold that requires an appraiser as of Jan 1, 2015 to have a BA Degree plus 2500 hours of experience over no less than 24 months and 200 hours of appraisal course education (which can vary a bit by state) is imposing. Given that neither Realtors nor loan officers have to demonstrate anywhere near that level of education or experience, it does seem disproportionate. That said, there is some movement to accelerate the training aspect and perhaps institute a series of testing protocols to shorten the timeline.

“I think most industries go through shifts that challenge their structure and roles. The more data we accumulate, the more imperative it is that we have skilled professionals to dissect and translate that data. Appraisers are only going to be more valuable and in growing demand if we are to meet the challenges in front of us.”

“If I was going to provide a solution it would be to first allow trainees to inspect the properties instead of requiring supervisors to do so at all times in federally related transitions, second it would be to allow working at a review position or staff appraiser position for an AMC or lender to be counted as field experience hours towards obtaining full licenses and finally establish some type of state wide minimum fee for appraisals so that lenders don’t have to compete on appraisal price at all times like they do now. If these 3 changes were made you would start seeing the industry be re-born very quickly. Without them you are dealing with an appraisal industry that isplaying not to lose rather than playing to win.”

Lastly, Mike Ousley with Direct Valuation said, “This topic has been a huge source of consternation not only for appraisers but lenders as well. I attend appraiser conferences where the numbers of appraisers are dwindling and there does not appear to be any way for new appraisers to get into the profession.

“Here are the facts: To become a licensed appraiser (and many lenders will only accept certified residential or certified general levels and you MUST hold a certified level licensed to be on the HUD-FHA roster) there is 150 hours of education and 2,000 hours of experience in no fewer than 12 months. So not only does an individual have to take courses, but then work for a minimum of a year BEFORE they can sit for their test to become licensed. For certified residential it is 200 hours of education and 2,500 hours of experience (along with at least an AA degree or 21 semester credits in specific subjects) and for certified general it is 300 hours of education, 3,000 hours of experience and a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Many lenders require, at a minimum, certified residential licensure or FHA Roster status in order to be an approved appraiser. So – this is akin to a companyONLY hiring folks with 10 years of experience or more. Other than a few appraisal companies around the country, I don’t know of any way for a new appraiser to get the required experience and enter the profession – I wish I had a more positive answer. Back when I started in appraising, many banks and savings & loans maintained staff appraiser positions and had trainee positions to bring in new talent – that just doesn’t seem to be the case these days.”

On the subject of appraisals Gerry Glavey with LoanLogics writes, “On HUD’s latest conference call it was stated that the primary role of an FHA Roster appraiser is to, ‘Observe, Analyze and Report’ what he/she encounters during their on-site visit to a property. There were a number of specific examples cited in which the HUD staff presenter indicated that the appraiser has effectively completed their assignment when they have documented and reported their concerns to the lender or underwriter. The problem, however, is that no specific guidance was provided to the lenders & underwriters as to how to deal with the problems reported by the appraiser. In fact, the draft 4000.1 Handbook has many examples of this dilemma and needs to be modified before it is implemented.

“One topic discussed was, ‘Appraisers must now make a statement as to whether or not the subject property can be legally rebuilt if destroyed when the property has a legal non-conforming zoning designation.’ However, what about situations in which the property cannot be rebuilt if it is more than 75% destroyed?  Should the underwriter reject the property for mortgage insurance although the borrower’s will be required to have adequate hazard insurance coverage?  No guidance is provided in the Handbook or on the call.

Another topic was, ‘Appraisers will report to the lender if they could not observe the roof surface.’ Should a lender then require a roofing certification, a roofing warranty or would a hold-harmless letter from the borrower be acceptable? No guidance is provided in the Handbook or on the call.

“‘An Appraiser must report whenever he/she cannot gain access to the attic area and state why it is not readily accessible.’ The underwriter will be required to make a decision as to what actions (if any) are deemed necessary to close the loan transaction.  No guidance is provided in the Handbook or on the call. In fact, an underwriter on the conference call stated that she had a recent case in which the appraiser stated that he could not gain access to the attic area but observed no signs of problems with the roof shingles or any evidence of roof leaks on 2nd floor ceilings. This underwriter documented the file accordingly but received an Indemnification Agreement request from HUD subsequent to the loan closing.

“And, ‘Appraisers must perform a highest & best use analysis and let the lender know when it is determined that the subject property has Surplus Land.’ Specific guidelines, however, have not been provided to lenders as to how to deal with a transaction in which the Appraisers determine if there is Surplus Land.

“To access the draft Handbook [meant to consolidate much of HUD’s efforts] go to the www.hud.gov website and type in 4000.1 Handbook in the Search Box. NOTE: On April 22, 2015, HUD/FHA Headquarters staff conducted a follow-up industry conference call to discuss the recently published new Section of the draft “Origination Through Post-Closing/Endorsement” Handbook (4000.1) dealing with Appraiser and Property Requirements. This Handbook will ultimately serve as a single reference point for FHA underwriting and appraisal policies & procedures and is targeted to be effective for all transactions in which the FHA case number was assigned on and after June 15, 2015.”

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17th May 2015

Free Appraiser Marketing Webinar

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Register Now For The Next Webinar – we’ll see you there!

Bryan Knowlton

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14th May 2015

Hey Fannie, It’s Not a Comp, It’s a Sale!

Appraisers,

Something’s been gnawing at my craw ever since January when FNMA’s wonderful CU was unleased to the world.

And before that, which still continues, is the AQM process they still use to judge the work of appraisers. No one else has written about this, or even mentioned it, so I will: It has to do with the word “Comp” which is used liberally by FNMA.

What exactly is a “Comp?”

In FNMA’s world, it’s any property that they obtain, either by their vast AVM process which examines millions of property transactions, or properties that have been extracted from appraisal reports submitted by appraisers… yes, your work. In their fuzzy logic, it’s a “Comp” considered for your report if they say it is. It is not!
A true “Comp” is a property viewed and/or analyzed by a real living, breathing, mirror fogging appraiser who compares that sold property against the subject property in terms of multiple features, characteristics and amenities. It is not determined by an AVM or algorithm within the vast bowels of FNMA. Until the property has such analysis done by an appraiser, it is merely a SALE…it is not a “Comp”.

This FNMA lie really became evident to me yesterday (4/20/15) when FNMA released a news release about how CU has been integrated into their on-line Desktop Underwriter software mortgage lenders use, which you can read http://www.fanniemae.com/portal/about-us/media/corporate-news/2015/6239.html?p=Media&s=News+Releases&from=RSS

Within that news release is this quotation from a VP at a mortgage lender: “The collateral information that CU provides is invaluable and simply staggering,” said Breck Tyler, Executive Vice President, Trustmark Mortgage Services.

“CU has aided in providing important comparable data that was previously unavailable or very difficult to get. CU messages in DU will help streamline appraisal review and make the underwriting of an appraisal a much more informed process.”

Then today, FNMA released info directed to Correspondent Lenders who intend to use the CU process in UCDP, but don’t intend to sell the loan to FNMA:  https://www.fanniemae.com/content/fact_sheet/collateral-underwriter-non-seller-implementation-guide.pdf which has this statement: “Fannie Mae does not instruct or suggest to lenders that they ask appraisers to address all or any of the up to 20 comparables that are provided by CU for most appraisals.”

I want to repeat what I said above in case you missed the point: A PROPERTY IS NOT A “COMP” UNLESS YOU DETERMINE IT IS AND INCLUDE IT IN AN APPRAISAL REPORT. Otherwise it’s just a “sale”.

If you’re an appraiser who liberally uses the word “Comp” in place of a “property sale” I would ask that you be more careful. If you receive info from a lender, AMC or anyone else who asks you to look at the “Comp” they have provided, correct them and use the words “sale property” until you have determined that it truly is a “Comp.”

I’m also asking members of appraisal organizations and associations to communicate your concern about this lie perpetrated by FNMA directly with them, and ask FNMA to change the word “Comp” used in their CU Reports, news releases, instructional materials, etc. to “Property Sales” so that there is no misunderstanding about the significance of this issue.

If organizations and associations won’t do that on behalf of appraisers, then we might as well kiss the profession of residential real property appraising goodbye. Because if a list of ‘sales’ are considered “Comps” then an actual human appraiser won’t be needed to provide supportable property analysis and market value reports.

So, you may distribute this message to anyone.

By Dave Towne, AGA, MAA Owner / Educator Towne Appraisals, Mount Vernon, WA Dave Towne in e-AppraisersDirectory.com

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13th May 2015

U.S. sues Quicken Loans over improper FHA loans

DETROIT — The U.S. Justice Department suedQuicken Loans on Thursday alleging the Detroit mortgage lending giant had improperly originated and underwrote mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court inWashington, D.C., alleges that from September 2007 through December 2011, Quicken knowingly submitted, or caused the submission of, claims for hundreds of improperly underwritten FHA-insured loans.

The government is claiming that Quicken encouraged its employees to disregard FHA rules and falsely certify compliance with underwriting requirements in order to reap the profits from FHA-insured mortgages.

Jay Farner, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans, said in a phone interview Thursday evening that Quicken would not settle the case but would defend itself against the charges.

“We can’t agree to charges that are blatantly false,” he said. “We will continue to fight for what’s right.”

And he added that Quicken’s practices were the “gold standard” for processing FHA loans.

The government also said that Quicken granted “management exceptions” whereby managers would allow underwriters to break an FHA rule in order to approve a loan.

Last week, Quicken, in anticipation of such a suit, aggressively denied any wrongdoing and took the unusual step of suing the government for a declaration that its actions were proper and legal.

“Those who do business with the United States must act in good faith, including lenders that participate in the FHA mortgage insurance program,” said Benjamin C. Mizer, principal deputy assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “To protect the housing market and the FHA fund, we will continue to hold responsible lenders that knowingly violate the rules.”

Quicken, founded by billionaire Dan Gilbert, has said it is the nation’s largest originator of loans backed by the FHA. In recent fiscal quarters, Quicken has ranked as the nation’s second-largest lender for direct-to-consumer mortgage lending, although its total volume, like that of all major mortgage lenders, has declined since the refinancing boom started to fade in 2013.

In its own lawsuit filed last week, Quicken stated that the Justice Department had “cherry-picked” 55 examples that were problematic out of more than 246,000 Quicken originated in 2007-11. The Quicken lawsuit says Justice was threatening a high-profile lawsuit involving a much larger number of loans unless the company agreed to pay a large settlement and admit flawed lending practices and federal Fair Claims Act violations.

In another email, the same divisional vice president for underwriting wrote to a group of Quicken executives stating that 40% of the management exceptions on FHA’s early payment defaults should not have been granted, adding: “We make some really dumb decisions when it comes to client service exceptions.”

In yet another email discussing an FHA loan, Mike Lyon, identified as the operations director, a senior level executive, explained that a loan was approved based on “bastard income,” which he described as “trying to put some kind of income together that is plausible to the investor even though we know its creation comes from something evil and horrible.”

Farner said that the emails the Justice Department cited in its suit were taken out of context and that a fuller reading would support Quicken’s version. “I’m very confident about the emails,” he said.

The government’s complaint alleges that as a result of Quicken’s knowingly deficient mortgage underwriting practices, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has already paid millions of dollars of insurance claims on loans improperly underwritten by Quicken.

In one case, the government said, one mortgage applicant requested the return of his $400 mortgage application fee so that he could feed his family, but Quicken approved the loan instead. The borrower quickly defaulted.

In a statement Thursday, Quicken said it will continue to offer FHA mortgages for now, “but like nearly every lender in the country, we will be evaluating the prudence of our continued participation in the FHA program.”

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/04/24/quicken-loans-fha-hud-lawsuit/26290987/

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