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Following Instructions

Josh Wallit discusses how to deal with revision requests from AMC's and lenders

 
I normally get very few revision requests, and usually for minor items. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, but to explain how surprised I was a few weeks ago when I received two revision requests in the same week. And they weren’t just any type of revision request: they were the dreaded “instruction” from an underwriter.
 
“Appraiser to include a second sale whose unadjusted sale price supports the opinion of value, and resubmit report.”
“Appraiser to remove the time adjustment from comp #3, and resubmit report. Our investor does not allow time adjustments.”
 
A few months back, I got another memorable instruction: “Appraiser cannot include any comps that exceed per-line, net or gross adjustment percentages of 10%, 15%, 25%. Appraiser to include different sales that do not exceed these requirements.”
 
I won’t go into details related to these reports, because I want to focus instead on how we can respond to these types of instructions from lenders and AMCs. (And, no, I am not a regulatory expert. I recommend taking a class or webinar on appraisal-related regulations.)
 
The issue at hand is that TILA, many states’ AMC rules, HUD, Interagency Guidelines, and other entities restrict this type of instruction from lenders and their agents (AMCs) because such conditions may lead to reports that are not based on the appraiser’s independent judgement (or even sound valuation principles). For example, the first request above turns the appraisal process on its head. Normally, the appraiser chooses comps based on similarities to the subject, then develops an opinion of value. Instead, the appraiser is being instructed to develop an opinion of value, then choose comp/s based on that value opinion. In the second, the appraiser is being instructed to ignore or remove a necessary adjustment. Remember learning, in your first-ever appraisal class, that you must adjust for market conditions? (By the way, in this situation, the client agreed with my data and analysis – that the market had increased – but simply didn’t “allow” adjusting an older transaction.)
 
So, how can we handle these instructions?
 
First, be polite. Don’t make insulting, belittling or threatening remarks. Simply state facts: facts related to the subject property, the comps, the market, and acceptable appraisal methodology. Consider this an opportunity to teach; whether they learn or not is in their control. If you respond negatively, don’t expect a positive outcome. Show your willingness to work through the situation compliantly and professionally.
 
Put it in writing. Submit your information in writing (email, fax, online messaging system), and specifically request a response in kind. This way, you can fall back on exactly what was communicated. And be sure to ask yourself how your message would look if (hypothetically) published in the newspaper or read by a regulator, a colleague or your mother?
 
Ask for the individual’s name and title who is making the instruction. I’m not suggesting we burn bridges by making it personal. But if they believe they are right in instructing you, let them identify themselves and be accountable. “Please provide the name and title of the individual requesting this, so I have it for my workfile” is simple and to-the-point; in the same message, let them know what action you are taking in the meantime.
 
Don’t be pig-headed. Are they asking you to fix a Mountain photo that you’ve labeled “Interior” instead of “View”? Is that worth arguing over? Be gracious and fix it. But on the other hand, if they are saying “Please change the label from ‘Barn’ to ‘Outbuilding’; we do not allow barns”, then that alteration could be misleading.
 
Keep your license. Ultimately no one other than you truly cares about your license. If a loan goes south in a few years and the a lender is examining the file, they won’t care who instructed you to do what – but they’ll surely see a misleading report, improper methodology, incorrect information, or other violations. And whose signature will be on that report?
Finally, be certain. Don’t make it up. If you’re not exactly sure of methodology, State interpretation, USPAP, TILA, etc. on a specific issue, then go to those sources before you start “quoting” incorrectly. Call your state’s division of real estate, re-read sections of USPAP, read through the applicable sections of TILA, even look at the FNMA Selling Guide. Don’t make it about how YOU appraise, make it about what is correct, reliable and credible for appraisal work.

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