The notion that most lenders now instruct appraisers to appraise low has been part of real estate industry folklore in some form since at least the late 1940s, when I started working in my father's real estate business as a teen-ager.
It probably does happen, but in the dozen years I have worked as an appraiser, the only times I have ever been asked to appraise low were by clients involved in some kind of dispute over jointly owned property, never by a lender.
The appraiser's job is to estimate market value, not to support a particular price. An agreed price in a single sale is not necessarily market value. All buyers aren't equally prudent or knowledgeable, and a good sales pitch or circumstantial pressure on buyer or seller can make a major difference. Market value is what a supposedly typical buyer not under any special pressure would probably pay after thoroughly checking out the market. The appraiser tries to estimate it by analyzing a range of recent sales, both high and low.
FREDERICK (ROB) COLE
Cole is past president of the Los Angeles chapter, National Assn. of Independent Fee Appraisers.
'Safety' of Cellular Antennas Not Known
The July 25 "Apartment Life" column ("Does Cellular Antenna Pose Health Risk?") quoted results from a recent epidemiology study that I co-authored. The quotes attributed to me are taken out of context.
Our study of Southern California Edison Co. personnel looked at the issue of power-frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and electric utility workers. These results are not relevant to the question of electromagnetic fields from cellular phone antennas. Different frequencies of electric and magnetic fields interact with people through different mechanisms and should not be arbitrarily lumped together.
Senior Research Scientist, Southern California Edison Co.
Having recently returned from the state Public Utilities Commission workshop on the potential health effects of cellular telephone transmission facilities, I was particularly interested in the July 25 Apartment Life column.
The column discussed extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (60 cycles per second), which are associated with the transmission of electric power. This is quite different from that of microwave facilities used in cellular transmission. Microwave equipment operates at hundreds of millions of cycles per second.
It is true that research done by an Edison employee on other Edison employees found no adverse effects from 60 Hz EMF exposure. However, larger studies, such as those released last year by Swedish researchers and by County USC Hospital's Dr. Stephanie London and Dr. John Peters, did find an association between EMF exposures and increased incidence of childhood leukemia.
The problem with trying to determine a level of safety with regard to cellular antennas is the fact that so little research has been done on possible a-thermal effects of exposure to microwave and other radio frequencies. This makes standard setting questionable, at best, and at present, we're the guinea pigs.
ELLEN STERN HARRIS
Harris is executive director of the Fund for the Environment and was a member of the PUC's EMF Consensus Group.