FHFA to Modify HVCC Enforcement. When Can An Originator Question An Appraiser?

by devteam May 20th, 2010 | Share

The Federal Housing Finance Agency opened yet anotherrnchapter in the ongoing tale of home appraisals, their role in the housingrnbubble, and in the recovery.

In a letterrnaddressed to Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York State Attorney General today, Edward J. DeMarco,rnacting director of the agency announced a change in the administration of thernHome Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC.

The code was implemented in May, 2009 in an attempt torninsulate appraisers from undue pressure and conflicts of interest which manyrnappraisers and others in the real estate market felt had been rampant duringrnthe housing boom of 2005-2007.  HVCC wasrnintended to promote professional appraisals free from inappropriate pressurernfrom lenders, borrowers, or brokers which remained a factor even when thernmarket went into a rapid decline.

The Code set forward specific prohibitions on lenderrnbehavior which could be construed as pressuring an appraiser in order torn obtainrna favorable value and sets up mechanisms to separate the underwritingprocessrnfrom the appraisal commissioning process.  rnDeMarco said that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have found thatappraisalrnquality has improved since the Code's implementation.

Cuomo was particularly aggressive in pursuing mortgage fraudrnand other illegal housing-related activities and, as a result of actionsrnbrought by the AG's office, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae signed an HVCC Cooperation Agreement,rnapproved by FHFA, in December, 2008.  ThernAgreement established HVCC as the standard for all mortgages purchased by the governmentrnsponsored enterprises nationwide and required the enterprises to set up andrnfund an Independent Valuation Protection Institute to enforce provisions of therncode.

In today's letter, DeMarco informed the Attorney Generalrnthat Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which are operating under a federalrnconservatorship, will no longer be funding the Independent Valuation Protection Institute.

DeMarco said, “As conservator of Fannie Mae and FreddiernMac, our priority is to keep the Enterprises focused on the important role theyrnplay in supporting the mortgage market. rnThe need for a complaint process is being addressed in a way that wernbelieve is more practical than with the Institute.”

He cited “the billions of dollars in taxpayer funds thernEnterprises have drawn since entering conservatorships” and said herncannot, as conservator, justify the Enterprises funding the Institute.  Therefore, he said, he has determined thatrnthey will not proceed with that portion of the Cooperation Agreements.

In lieu of the Institute, DeMarco has directed thernEnterprises to provide a targeted complaint process for violations of HVCC.  Freddie and Fannie will use arnstandardized complaint form and process to facilitate submission of the formrnthrough an Internet-based process.  ThernEnterprises will act on matters received, will refer cases to state regulatoryrnagencies where appropriate, identify practices suggestive of fraud orrnnon-compliance with the Code and provide a summary of results to FHFA and Cuomo'srnoffice. The process will be in place in a matter of weeks.

New York's Attorney General has a reputation as a, shall wernsay, aggressive and tenacious law enforcement officer.  It will be interesting to see his reaction tornFHFA's unilateral change to the Agreements.


From Reg Z:

226.36 Prohibited acts or practices in connection with credit secured by a consumer's principal dwelling.

(b)  Misrepresentation of value of consumer's dwelling–(1)  Coercion of appraiser. 

In connection with a consumer credit transaction secured by a consumer's principal dwelling, no creditor or mortgage broker, and no affiliate of a creditor or mortgage broker shall directly or indirectly coerce, influence, or otherwise encourage an appraiser to misstate or misrepresent the value of such dwelling.

(i)  Examples of actions that violate this paragraph (b)(1) include:
(A)  Implying to an appraiser that current or future retention of the appraiser depends on the amount at which the appraiser values a consumer's principal dwelling;
(B)  Excluding an appraiser from consideration for future engagement because the appraiser reports a value of a consumer's principal dwelling that does not meet or exceed a minimum threshold;
(C)  Telling an appraiser a minimum reported value of a consumer's principal dwelling that is needed to approve the loan;
(D)  Failing to compensate an appraiser because the appraiser does not value a consumer's principal dwelling at or above a certain amount; and
(E)  Conditioning an appraiser's compensation on loan consummation.

(ii)  Examples of actions that do not violate this paragraph (b)(1) include:
(A)  Asking an appraiser to consider additional information about a consumer's principal dwelling or about comparable properties;
(B)  Requesting that an appraiser provide additional information about the basis for a valuation;
(C)  Requesting that an appraiser correct factual errors in a valuation;
(D)  Obtaining multiple appraisals of a consumer's principal dwelling, so long as the creditor adheres to a policy of selecting the most reliable appraisal, rather than the appraisal that states the highest value;
(E)  Withholding compensation from an appraiser for breach of contract or substandard performance of services as provided by contract; and
(F)  Taking action permitted or required by applicable federal or state statute, regulation, or agency guidance.

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About the Author


Steven A Feinberg (@CPAsteve) of Appletree Business Services LLC, is a PASBA member accountant located in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

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