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At Last, Some Praise for Appraisers

August 18, 1996

Robert J. Bruss' article ("Five Tips for Getting Fair Home Appraisal," July 21) raises some excellent points, but it also leaves the reader with several misconceptions.

It is not true that "appraisers are an endangered species." Computer programs are being used by many lenders to provide opinions of value on individual homes, but they are tools, not substitutes for carefully completed appraisals.

The reason why it is important not to completely rely on automated appraisals is because computer programs are only as good as the input on the description of the property being appraised and the data regarding comparable properties.

Without a live appraiser actually viewing the properties and using his or her training and judgment, it is extremely likely that comparable data would be inaccurate. Second, without an inspection of the property, the results could be a myth because the unverified property description could be erroneous.

There also seems to be confusion as to who the appraiser's client is and what the appraiser's confidentiality requirements are. The appraiser's client is the person who hires the appraiser, usually the lender, when a loan is involved. The appraiser has the ethical obligation to disclose analysis, conclusions and other confidential information only to the client.

On the other hand, the lender has a legal obligation to provide a copy of the appraisal to the borrower when the borrower pays the appraisal fee. Therefore, if the potential borrower pays for the appraisal, the law states that the borrower has the right to obtain a copy of the report from the lender but not from the appraiser.

It is true that appraisers are caught in the middle between home sellers, buyers and owners on one side and mortgage lenders on the other side.

However, appraisers have an ethical obligation to ignore the preferences of those interests. All this must be done at a price that may be less than the fee to have someone read the loan application and within far less time than it takes to obtain a title insurance policy. Hiring a trained, ethical, live appraiser may be the best deal in town.

ROBERT J. WEST, Director

State Office of Real Estate

Appraisers, Sacramento

*

Bursting bubbles is what residential real estate appraisal is all about. Real estate appraisal is about determining the market value of a property based solely on market data, not emotion. Had Bruss bothered to consult appraisers, rather than real estate agents, about getting a "fair appraisal," his five tips would have reflected that truth.

Every homeowner feels that theirs is the best on the block. Too often that opinion translates into an unrealistic expectation of value. When the appraisal does not meet those expectations, naturally it is the appraiser, not the homeowner, who is wrong.

An appraisal may not reflect a homeowner's desired value. It may come in far below the sales price, but that does not mean the appraisal was not fair. It may in fact be right on the dime.

LISA BLAKE BERKE

Los Angeles

The writer is an appraiser.

*

Bruss' biased article informs homeowners how to get the "high" and unprofessional appraisals they want by putting the appraiser between a rock and a hard place. The appraiser can either play ball and risk losing his or her license or be honest and professional and not be rehired and then go out of business.

To state that appraisers are an "endangered species" and "the weakest link in the home mortgage chain" indicates that the writer has an ax to grind against appraisers.

WILLIAM LEAVY JR.

President

William Leavy Real Estate

Appraisal Service

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