What’s Wrong With this Sentence?

Dave Towne

Dave Towne

Certified Residential RE Appraiser at Towne Appraisals
AGA, MNAA, Accredited Green Appraiser - Licensed in WA State since 2003.
Dave Towne on e-AppraisersDirectory.com
Dave Towne

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Unacceptable sentence in appraisal report

AMC says sentence was unacceptable based on one word in that sentence

Beware appraisers, big brother is watching what you write.

This is the sentence in question. See if you can figure out what is considered to be ‘wrong’ about it:

“Skagit County is centrally located between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, and is considered a desirable residential area with good appeal and has had continued stable growth for years.”

Okay…now re-read that sentence again.

Then, read this, which is from the FNMA Seller’s Guide, pg 567 in the Feb. 2016 edition:

Unacceptable Appraisal Practices

The following are examples of unacceptable appraisal practices:

  • development of or reporting an opinion of market value that is not supportable by market data or is misleading;
  • development of a valuation conclusion based either partially or completely on the sex, race, color, religion, handicap, national origin, familial status, or other protected classes of either the prospective owners or occupants of the subject property or the present owners or occupants of the properties in the vicinity of the subject property;
  • development of a valuation conclusion based on factors that local, state, or federal law designate as discriminatory, and thus, prohibited;

There is more in this section, but this is the relevant part.

I was called on Wed morning, March 2, by an AMC’s review appraiser, with the lender’s checklist in hand, who said the sentence I wrote was unacceptable based on one word in that sentence. Can you guess which word?

…desirable…

I was told that this word may be one of the ‘banned’ words in the EEOC Fair Housing law. I’m not sure if it actually is. I don’t have time now to research that law. I was told that since this word is only ‘subjective’ and not based on actual objective supportable facts (in the report), it was unacceptable to have it in the report. I was told that the FNMA Seller’s Guide quoted above backs that up.

What is sickening, and time wasting, is this sentence has been in my reports for at least 10 years. I didn’t put that word in the sentence on purpose as a way to thumb my nose at the EEOC law. I was merely trying to describe the quality of the region, and not the specific neighborhood.

No one, until today, has bothered to be concerned about it.

So once again, we appraisers are forced to write reports that are very generic in some cases***, with lots of CYA statements mainly to protect us, and allegedly, the lender from potential loan buy-backs.

*** This is probably the reason I see such Pablum in many reports I review. I see very little in terms of specifics and much wording that can apply to a home in Nome, AK, or in Key West, FL.

Image credit flickr - Shadowgate
Dave Towne

Dave Towne

AGA, MNAA, Accredited Green Appraiser - Licensed in WA State since 2003. Dave Towne on e-AppraisersDirectory.com

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22 Responses

  1. C. Myers says:

    “Desirable” jumped out immediately.  I used to do a high volume of review appraisals which helped me work the bugs out of my reports, although I’m sure there are still mistakes in them since we are humans.  “Subjective” also has a positive side, if an adjustment can’t be supported with data, it shouldn’t be made.  A client has never questioned the lack of an adjustment when it’s explained that an adjustment couldn’t be supported and would be subjective.

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  2. bubba jay / Retired Appraiser II bubba jay / Retired Appraiser II says:

    this is a great example of one of the biggest problems with this profession that will NEVER be fixed – everyone splitting hairs over the stupidest of finite, time-wasting, and ridiculous details. whats has happened to this profession is totally absurd and insane.

    the insanity continues . . . . .

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    • Mike Ford Mike Ford says:

      I once (long ago) used ‘pride of ownership’ evidenced by predominantly well maintained, neatly ‘manicured’ lawns; freshly painted house exteriors and swept walks and drives.

      THAT is how I had this drivel pounded into me. Coincidently I was using it to describe an area of Compton California (predominantly African American).

      Phrases that MAY have been used as code for “white” in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s are not code for anything today. Its time for FNMA & FDIC and ALL regulators to join the 21st Century.

      Back around the same time Los Angeles County real estate agents used 3 x 5 index cards for notes on listings (MLS was not available to each agent in an office then) with penciled #7’s in the upper corner to denote an area that was predominantly Black; or a 4 for Asian (specifically a Japanese area that was HIGHLY SOUGHT after).

      Are the numbers 4 & 7 banned from appraisals today too?

      I am tired of having MY English language banned from use because someone once THOUGHT it might be a code word or phrase for discrimination. “price of ownership; and desirable” are NOT merely subjective. They are abbreviated ways of conveying POSITIVE physical or economic characteristics WITHOUT having to write the Great American Novel. Yes I CAN communicate the exact same sentiment about a neighborhood in purely non subjective statements of fact but one way takes 2 seconds and the other may take ten minutes for each such sentiment expressed.

      I think perceived in the market as a “high crime area” is also prohibited, yet this and all the above (positive) factors are EXACTLY why people do or do not move into given areas and why some areas are more expensive than others!

      Unfortunately, Use of Common Sense being permitted is NOT one of the fights we are going to win any time soon.

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    • Baggins TD! Baggins TD! says:

      Good ones. PR gone wrong is the rule of the day. How does that go again…. An overdeveloped sense of sensibility. I say get tough, or get out. I’m just the value analyst. If a word is hurting someones feeling, they probably should see a counselor long before trying to control liberties pertaining to my freedom of expression. The underwriter hating on the word; Desirable, is likely an indication he or she presumes the appraiser is being racist. Like a sort of envy created by their own lackluster career choices. More psychiologically based, than based on the reality of those word uses. It’s not my fault, they are feelings hurt that one area is desirable, and their apartment lifestyle is not. Oh wait, presumptions killed the cat. If I got that ‘correction request’, I would tediously copy dictionary definitions for each word in the sentence, reiterate their logical correlations, and demand the underwriter prove the substance of their concern. Of course, with the detail of actual language definition, they won’t be able to do so. The concern is rooted in inference, not fact.

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  3. It’s the word “Desirable” but is not this the same word which is a key word in definition of market value?

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  4. You are Confused says:

    I do not see desirable once in the MV definition Nana Smith… DEFINITION OF MARKET VALUE: The most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: (1) buyer and seller are typically motivated; (2) both parties are well informed or well advised, and each acting in what he or she considers his or her own best interest; (3) a reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; (4) payment is made in terms of cash in U. S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and (5) the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions* granted by anyone associated with the sale. (Taken straight from the 1004 Form).

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    • Good catch! You are absolutely right, not in regards of confusion though, since I get confused very seldom, if any. But I should have said principle of substitution!

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      • Got me too Nana. With all the principles, rules and regulations we have to absorb and apply over so many years without conscious thought anymore, its easy to mis-remember.

        Interesting that the State of Oregon and 11 other state appraiser regulatory boards that THEY consulted with ALL claimed failing to complete work on time was a USPAP violation…affecting competency and a host of other alleged “infringements”. So much for AARO and the blind leading the blind on the enforcement level!

        I wonder if instead of ‘desirable’ I am still allowed to say “superior” about a feature or characteristic, including location?

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  5. Retired Appraiser Retired Appraiser says:

    QUIZ #2

    Which word is considered inappropriate when used in the following sentence:

    “Appraising residential property in the U.S. is considered to be a desirable profession”.

    Answer:  This is a trick question.  Both “desirable” and “profession” are considered to be inappropriate terms within the sentence after 2009.  Websters describes the use of these terms as “Puffery”.

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    • Baggins TD! Baggins TD! says:

      Zinger!  Retired Appraiser strikes again!  HAHAHAHA.  “The record growth of the increasingly popular amc servicing industry has been desirable to investors.” /  LOL /  Dave, just try this out for size;  Response;  Reviewer is nitpicking minutia and needs better focus regarding what is and is not a substantial concern for real property appraisal development, and the subsequent goal of reliable final value opinions. /  Just another in a long line of examples how the near instantaneous proliferation of outsourced review activities, has led to many misconceptions regarding what the appraisals purpose really is, and what the reviewers purpose is.  Remind the ‘reviewer’ they’re not reviewing reports for english class, they’re reviewing reports to judge the credibility of the collateralized value position.  /  Use this instead;  This specific neighborhood has continued to experience stronger buyer acceptance and demand, than several other neighborhoods surrounding, and typically supports elevated pricing, yada yada yada – NO SOUP FOR YOU!  Another stupid reviewer.  What’s new?  It’s obvious when reviewers have no direct experience with purchasing, or closing a deal.  They focus on english, rather than real estate.  Temps.  LOL.

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  6. Karen Ryan on Facebook Karen Ryan on Facebook says:

    Like it or not, the use of “desirable” in describing neighborhoods, etc. is considered subjective and unacceptable by Fannie, a possible violation of “fair housing” laws. Can you prove it’s desirable? If you’ve been getting away with it, the reviewers have been letting it slide or ignoring it. Or they don’t know the regs. However, it could be an issue when the lender gets audited. I’m not at work today or I’d post the FNMA verbiage. If you’re going to do appraisals for the secondary market, it’s just another rule to follow. Sorry you don’t like it.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Can an appraiser prove the area is desirable? Well, let’s see. Here is a seller, here is a buyer. The buyer found the home and neighborhood desirable above other choices, and purchased there instead.

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    • mike ford mike ford says:

      Karen, we understand that. It’s more a case of “don’t like it” because it is one of those policies made back in the 60’s or 70’s that no longer has relevance. It is simply not politically OR socially acceptable for anyone to be a racist anymore.

      FYI, do you know what the SINGLE largest source of racial redlining on commercial property is today? It is the United States Census Bureau and the ongoing reporting BY the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT via census tract numbers with residents broken down into racial, ethnic and often national origin! They’ll argue its needed to analyze ECOA and fair housing laws, but if that were true, the data wouldn’t have to show on every single NDC, RealQuest, CoreLogic, Realist property profile every pulled would it? I mean the federal government has eliminated the need for racists to even have to write special area racial composition codes of their own down! Average Americans have (largely) overcome racist attitudes, or at least acts; but banks & business investors? Not so much, I think.

      The Feds micro manage how we deal with the minutiae but miss the 600 lb gorilla in the room for every single appraisal report submitted in America today (where census tract numbers are provided).

      About six+- mos ago a local loan broker told me the bank had cancelled a commercial appraisal because the manager looked up the census tract number and said “it was a bad area” (Compton, CA)… and no, I could not get him to tell me the name of the bank or banker. Is this prevalent? Who knows? Loan brokers usually don’t quote racist branch managers to others.

      Apologies! I don’t usually go into social sermonizing here.

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      • Tom D says:

        hmm, census tract numbers are coded areas for those other people?  i gotta be careful about not putting in any undesirable numbers.  Ahhhh!!!!

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    • “…is considered subjective and unacceptable by Fannie, a possible violation of “fair housing” laws…”

      And THIS is illustrative of yet one more  problem with FNMA. Talk about micro management and activity that should be prohibited! How about telling us WHICH specific proper English language words we may not use?

      Here’s one they wont recognize but should look up in their nearest medical dictionary before availing themselves of it:

      “headandaasectomy”

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    • Karen, “desirable” is exact word which describes a desirable neighborhood. “attractive, sought-after, in demand, popular.” If all houses are well kept and updated, if lawns are manicured and plans are gorgeous, and schools are the best in area…is not this “desirable” neighborhood in comparison to one which does not have well-kept house, no lawns at all or dirt around house with wire fence, and schools far from being good? Why stating so will be considered “subjective.” Does fair housing act states not to use word “desirable?” It’s “considered” by FNMA. It is subjective and unacceptable because FNMA wants so and it is true FNMA watching.

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  7. bubba jay / Retired Appraiser II bubba jay / Retired Appraiser II says:

    a good appraiser who knows his markets, will know which markets/neighborhoods are more desirable than others, and in which markets/neighborhoods homes sell faster than others, or certain areas where people move in, but rarely move out.

    the problem with labeling something “desirable” is, you would also have to eventually label an area as “undesirable”, and thats a label that probably scares the heck out of people.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Great insight.  Never thought of it that way.  I suppose that’s not even a concern for me, because I fill so much writing space with detail on the subject, and comparative detail to the market comparisons, ranges of research, etc.  The initial stage of research is defining the area, so I guess I just talk about the neighborhood individually, and only rarely detail multiple neighborhood comparison statements.  It’s always a headache to have to comp out of area.  One presumes it’s still o.k. to label an individual home as desirable or undesirable.

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      • mike ford mike ford says:

        …as long as you don’t say its undesirable because of the gang graffiti in the surrounding neighborhood!

        Lol! “My house is more desirable than others in my immediate neighborhood because we have only had three shootings in the past three years within one block.” (true btw, & only one was right out  front).

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  8. Lauren Willis says:

    I don’t use the word because I don’t want to see the report back for revision. But if the neighborhood is desirable to it’s market of buyers and meets market expectations, such as a lot of graffiti than it’s DESIRABLE.  As long as it’s not your personal opinion, it’s the opinion of the MARKET!!!.  This job annoys me.

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  9. Al says:

    What I find scary, is not one reviewer has commented on this in 10 years, this list has been out. Was anyone reading your reports? Maybe it explains why we are where we are in the appraisal profession, THEY ARE FINALLY READING THE APPRAISAL.

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  10. Diana N. says:

    What would you call a neighborhood where there is minimal amount of turnover and homes generally sell within 1-2 weeks or less after going on the market? I certainly wouldn’t call it an ok area.  Why don’t they just let the machines make the decisions and write our reports. 🙂

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What’s Wrong With this Sentence?

by Dave Towne time to read: 2 min