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Home Appraisal Mysteries

September 06, 1989|DON G. CAMPBELL

Question: I hope this is something you have an answer for. I recently paid to have my home appraised. I wanted to have a copy of the appraisal report or, at least, know the appraised value of my home. I personally have asked the appraiser, the loan service representative and the customer service supervisor for this information, but all of them refuse to release any information whatsoever. Why can't I get something I paid for?

I can't figure out what the conspiracy of absolute confidentiality is all about--I've even asked other real estate agents, and they don't know.

Besides my lender, whose in-house appraiser did the appraisal (American Savings Bank, formerly American Savings & Loan Assn.), I also had no luck with Great Western (my former lender). These are two very large financial institutions in the state. How can they get away with this? --J.S.S.

Answer: For a while, you had American Savings Bank's spokesperson, Lanya Browdy, at something of a disadvantage, "because we don't charge for appraisals in most cases."

And this, of course, is fairly standard in the lending business--if the lender requires, and pays for, an appraisal on which to base a loan (a trust deed, for instance), it considers the appraisal its property and, sure enough, will normally hold it confidential. (Although a rough idea of the appraisal can usually be deduced by the size of the loan the financial institution will offer.)

"The only time we ask the homeowner to pay for the appraisal," Browdy added, "is when he is paying for PMI (private mortgage insurance), feels that the house has appreciated to the point where he shouldn't have to carry the PMI, and asks for an appraisal to establish that the loan-to-value ratio has hit 80-20."

(Most lenders will let home buyers off the PMI hook once this 80-20 ratio has been reached).

"But in cases like this," Browdy continued, "if the homeowner requests a copy of the appraisal in writing, we're glad to provide it to him."

So, the question was: Which crack did you fall through? Did you pay for the appraisal (which is your recollection) and someone within the organization gave you a bum steer and, on request, should have provided you with a copy of the appraisal? Or is your recollection faulty and you didn't pay for the appraisal in the first place?

In a thrice, however, the indefatigable Browdy was back with the answer: You did, indeed, pay for the appraisal as a part of your understandable move to get rid of the PMI payments.

"Unfortunately," she added, "a clerk told him that he couldn't have it on the basis of his verbal request, and let it go at that."

And so, you can indeed get a copy by writing a request for the appraisal and sending it to the American Savings office where you make your regular monthly payment. Include your loan number.

Let's not be too harsh with the clerk, though. The regulation mandating your right to a copy of the appraisal, Browdy added, "is only about a year old." And that clerk may not have encountered anyone making such a request before.

An aside to readers: Being relieved of your PMI payments once your loan-to-value ratio hits 80-20 is not automatic with any lender. Like J.S.S., you have to request it and pay for the appraisal if the lender requires it.

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