Fee Transparency, Pivotal Point for Appraisers

Isaac Peck

Appraisal Fee Transparency Act of 2019: Pivotal Point for Appraisers…appraisers may finally have a chance at making the goal of fee transparency a reality…

Keep your eyes open, events are happening fast.

Ever since the passage of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) in 2010 and the monumental rise of Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs), one of the main issues appraisers have pressed for is transparency for consumers in terms of the fee split between appraisers and AMCs. Specifically, how much of the actual “Appraisal Fee” being paid by the consumer goes to the licensed real estate professional and how much is withheld by the AMC “manager.”

Now, over nine years later, appraisers may finally have a chance at making the goal of fee transparency a reality.

Passed the House

H.R.3619, the Appraisal Fee Transparency Act of 2019, is a new piece of legislation that has already passed the House of Representatives and is currently being reviewed by the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in the United States Senate.

The primary provisions of the bill accomplish the following:

(A) SEC. 2: Allows the Appraisal Subcommittee to establish a new formula for fees in regards to the AMC Registry.

(B) SEC. 3: Requires appraiser trainees to be placed on the ASCs registry.

(C) SEC. 4: Requirement to Disclose Appraiser Fees. Amends the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) of 1974 (12 U.S.C. 2603(c)), striking “may” and inserting “shall”.

(D) SEC. 5: Adds a designee from the Department of Veteran Affairs to the ASC.

Section 2 of this new legislation allows the ASC flexibility in determining AMC registry fees, whereas Dodd-Frank mandates a single formula for determining the fees that must be strictly followed. This provision is intended to allow the ASC to create an alternative formula to determine AMC Registry Fees, if they deem necessary.

Section 3 mandates that Trainees be placed on the ASC registry and is intended to help alleviate lender pushback that licensed appraisers sometimes encounter when employing trainees. Mark Schiffman, the Executive Director for the Real Estate Valuation Advocacy Association (REVAA), a national coalition for AMCs, says that this is something REVAA supports because many (not all) lenders prohibit an individual who is not credentialed by a state from working on an appraisal assignment. “Therefore, without a credential, an appraiser supervisor can’t use a trainee to do work for assignments from those lenders. By placing Trainees on the Registry, they will have a verifiable credential that should eliminate the aforementioned barrier to lenders allowing the use non-credentialed trainees,” says Schiffman.

Fee Transparency

Each of H.R.3619’s provisions is significant in its own way, but perhaps none affects real estate appraisers more than its Section 4: Requirement to Disclose Appraiser Fees.

RESPA was originally passed in 1974 but was modified by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011 to include a seldom discussed provision 2603(c) which states:

Disclosure of fees
c) The standard form described in subsection (a) may [emphasis added] include, in the case of an appraisal coordinated by an appraisal management company (as such term is defined in section 3350(11) of this title), a clear disclosure of-

(1) the fee paid directly to the appraiser by such company; and

(2) the administration fee charged by such company.

The legislation passed by the House and currently being considered by the Senate would only change a single word, striking the word “may” and inserting “shall,” effectively making it mandatory to include a breakdown of appraiser and AMC fees in mortgage loan disclosure documents for consumers.

Richard Hagar, SRA and nationally-recognized appraisal instructor (How to Support and Prove Your Adjustments and Adjustments II: Solving Common Problems), says that he fully supports the Bill as it is good for consumers to see the separate fees being paid to both the appraiser and the AMC. “The goal here isn’t to brand the AMCs as the bad guys, they’re not, but we want everybody’s portion of the transaction to be stated and transparent. AMCs should have to negotiate their own fees with the lender. Additionally, disclosing the AMC fee and the appraisal fee to consumers upfront may help discourage much of the predatory, low-fee shopping that takes place in the industry,” says Hagar.

Hagar continues, “We’ve seen plenty of appraisal fees being offered by AMCs where the AMC takes 50%-60% of the appraisal fee. This demonstrates the need for transparency—it’s something that consumers need to see. Consumers might start questioning these fees when they find out they are paying $250-$350 just to ‘manage’ the appraiser, while the licensed appraisal professional is only taking home $300-$350. The consumer deserves to know what they are paying for,” argues Hagar.

Transparency is also important in terms of how the “appraisal fee” is defined. Many lenders have complained that in some markets appraisal fees are “out of hand” and “too high,” but what is being represented to the public and even to lenders is not strictly the appraisal fee, but the appraisal and AMC fees combined. Yet, too often, appraisers are the ones who are blamed, according to Hagar.

Appraisal Institute Efforts

Bill Garber, Director of Government and External Relations at the Appraisal Institute (AI), reports that AI has worked heavily to positively shape and advance HR 3619. “Fee transparency is something that we’ve been fighting for years for and it was originally going to be part of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. RESPA was amended by the House of Representatives that AMC Fees should be disclosed by mandate but when the bill reached the Conference committee at the Senate the wording was changed from ‘Shall’ to ‘May’ at the last minute. Some of the Senate staff at the time had concerns that consumers would get confused by multiple lines on the disclosure form and that it might not be a benefit to consumers. As a result of the law and subsequent rule making, lenders have continued to bundle AMC Fees with Appraisal Fees and the consumer is unaware of what’s being paid to AMCs,” says Garber.

One of the challenges is that while it was envisioned to apply only to Closing Disclosure form, it may end up being interpreted to apply to the Loan Estimate as well. In fact, that is exactly how many are understanding the legislation. Nanci Weissgold, a law Partner at Alston and Bird specializing in national regulatory compliance, writes in her blog that HR3619 will “require the disclosure of the appraisal management fee separate from the appraisal fee on the loan estimate and closing disclosure.”

Both the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure are governed by TRID (TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure) rules. The Closing Disclosure is the final loan document the consumer must sign to consummate a mortgage loan. The Loan Estimate, on the other hand, is the initial mortgage disclosure the consumer is presented with when evaluating a mortgage loan.

The new TRID rule now classifies appraisal fees in the zero-percent tolerance category-along with all the other fees that consumers cannot shop for. The result is that, except in very specific circumstances, the original appraisal fee quoted to the borrower cannot be changed. While it is conceivable that the AMC Fee and Appraisal Fee could be itemized on the Closing Disclosure as an extrapolation of the original “Appraisal Fee” listed on the Loan Estimate, it remains unclear whether such a “fee extrapolation” would be compliant with TRID or if TRID would be modified in some way.

The ultimate passage of the bill is not guaranteed and it may be modified further as the Senate considers it. “It’s more likely that the Senate will take up a Senate introduced version of the Bill than work with the one passed by the House. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fee transparency portion of the Bill is removed or modified from the Senate bill. There isn’t currently consensus around that provision and typically they tend to favor bills with provisions that have broad consensus,” says Garber.

Appraisal Orders: Robo-Bidding

How the current Bill ends up being modified and interpreted with respect to the fees presented on the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure will have a significant impact on the appraisal industry. One positive effect of requiring the separate, upfront disclosure of the appraiser and AMC fees on the Loan Estimate is that it may discourage the practice of robo-bidding or “order by email blast,” that appraisers frequently encounter. This occurs when an AMC sends out an email blast to all appraisers in a given area, detailing a particular property, and either offering a specific fee for the assignment or asking the appraisers to quote their “fee and turn time,” effectively creating a bidding situation where too often the lowest bid wins the order.

Such practices are widely criticized by appraisers as a “race to the bottom” to find those appraisers who are willing to work for the lowest fees possible, instead of selecting appraisers based on relevant professional metrics, such as quality of work, professionalism, experience, and geographic competency.

According to Pat Turner, IFA, President of Virginia Coalition of Appraisal Professionals, this zero-sum framework allows the “appraisal fee” paid by consumers to be split in a non-transparent way between AMCs and appraisers. This incentivizes AMCs to search for those appraisers who are willing to perform the assignment at the lowest fee, instead of finding the best, most competent appraiser for the job. The lower the fee paid to the appraiser, the more the AMC makes on that particular order. The zero-sum basis of this model prioritizes finding the cheapest appraisers, not the best appraisers, according to Turner. “The problem with focusing on finding the lowest bidding appraiser is that it ignores the quality and geographical competency of the appraiser who accepts the bid, and the result is low quality, poor appraisals,” warns Turner. “The current lack of fee transparency doesn’t protect the public trust, and it threatens the safety and soundness of the financial system around the world.”

(Real) Turn Times

Speed is another potential benefit of having transparency of appraisal and AMC fees. When AMCs are incentivized to find the lowest bidding appraiser, the search adds extra time. Many appraisers testify to seeing low-bid orders circulated for weeks before someone accepts it or the AMC raises the fee. In a world where lenders want to close mortgage loans in one to two weeks, having the AMC take a few days, to a few weeks to shop for the lowest appraisal fee slows down the mortgage process and leads stakeholders in the lending industry to blame appraisers for the delays.

With the recent national alarm regarding an existing or impending “appraiser shortage,” lenders have been pressuring regulators to expand appraisal waiver programs and pass legislation that would alleviate delays in the mortgage process due to what they claim is an “antiquated” appraisal process. (See Bifurcated Appraisingfor more.)

“We see situations all the time where the ‘appraisal fee’ actually being paid by the consumer is $600 or $650, but the AMC begins bidding out the job at $275 or $300,” Turner says. “They may solicit appraisers via email for days with this low fee, even having their administrative staff call appraisers urging them to accept the assignment. After a few days of not being able to find an appraiser to take the low fee, the AMC might up it to $350, then $400 and so on. In some cases, the order is actually passed to a second or third AMC as they are all unable to place the order at the lower fees. We have seen certain assignments make the rounds for several weeks. If the Customary and Reasonable (C&R) fee for a given assignment is $500, but the AMCs are only offering $300 to pad its profit margins, a lot of time is spent finding the appraiser who will do it for the cheapest,” says Turner.

Solution: Cost-Plus

In many ways, some advocates of the bill are making identical arguments to those that have been made by proponents of the Cost-Plus Model of appraisal and AMC fees. The cost-plus or “full fee” AMC model is one where appraisers and AMCs are compensated separately; the appraiser receives the full “Appraisal Fee” and the lender/mortgage broker pays the AMC an additional fee for its management services (See WRE: Fee Solution: Cost-Plus Model?). Dart Appraisal, a national AMC which is in favor of a Cost-Plus model, explains the benefits of Cost-Plus in its January 3, 2018 blog here.

REVAA Position on Fee Transparency

Schiffman says that REVAA, the largest and most influential coalition of AMCs in the country, is not opposed to fee disclosure and is in favor of transparency. “A significant majority of states regulating AMCs already either: (i) require an AMC to report all fee split information to its customer; (ii) prohibit an AMC from restricting the appraiser’s disclosure of their fee in an appraisal report; or (iii) require an appraiser to include in the appraisal report their fee and the AMC’s fee. However, REVAA is not in favor of this provision of H.R.3619 because it does not believe it is a correct way to accomplish fee transparency,” says Schiffman.

Action Step

In a world where appraisers are being blamed for long turn times and accused of charging exorbitant appraisal fees, Turner says that H.R.3619 is exactly what both the appraisal industry and public need.

Turner urges appraisers to write, email and call the Senate representatives in the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, where the Bill is currently being considered. “If there was ever a piece of legislation that has the potential to improve the industry standards for boots-on-the-ground appraisers, this is it! This is a pivotal point for appraisers. Please call and email your representatives and encourage them to make the right decision. The American Banker’s Association (ABA) and REVAA are currently against this provision of the bill and are trying to get it removed, so appraisers need to stand up and let their voices be heard,” urges Turner. “I urge every professional appraiser to contact their Senator and explain why this transparency is fair, balanced, and needed for the protection of the American homebuyer.”

Click here for the list of Senators in the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Click here to read H.R.3619, the Appraisal Fee Transparency Act of 2019 in its entirety.

>> Take OREP/Working RE’s Bifurcated Appraisal Survey

Editor’s Note: At press time, HR 3619 is being considered in the Senate and no action has yet been taken.

Reprinted with permission from Working RE magazine and published by OREP, a leading provider of real estate appraiser E&O insurance nationwide.

Isaac Peck

Isaac Peck

Editor of Working RE magazine and the Vice President of Marketing and Operations at OREP.org, a leading provider of E&O Insurance for appraisers, inspectors, and other real estate professionals in 50 states. He received his master’s degree in accounting at San Diego State University. He can be contacted at isaac@orep.org or (888) 347-5273.

You may also like...

21 Responses

  1. Respectfully disagree. It’s flawed legislation. WHY must we continually settle for a few distracting crumbs while the larger issues remain ignored?

    Kudos to AI; their lobbyists, and VaCAPs Pat Turner for their efforts, but we need meaningful laws…not toothless laws that continue to support existing abuses.

    IF REVAA supports it, that should be a huge clue as to how flawed it really is.

    Instead of supporting flawed legislation, let’s write to these same committees with constructive suggestions on how to make it better…and meaningful.

  2. Avatar Rick says:

    The problem is this. The consumer / borrower / buyer won’t care. They go to settlement. They’re barraged by all of the paperwork. Who among us thinks they’re going to see the settlement sheet and say, or think to themselves “OMG – that poor appraiser we need to do something.” It just doesn’t matter. Unless there is a movement ahead of time such as “Truth in Lending” that will educate the public at large ahead of time, nothing is going to change fee wise. Want to make this change and get people aware? Ask your clients to forward their settlement statement – redact it and post it everywhere. If we all did this then SOMETHING might just happen.

  3. Avatar Mike says:

    Thank you for the update. While I appreciate the progress and attempts to have more transparent fee disclosures, I can honestly say that it is a very sad state of affairs that licensed professionals in this day and age would even have to rely on legislation to accomplish this. To be instructed by AMC’s not to include invoices in the report has been completely misleading to the public trust since day one.

    • AMCs have been prohibited from preventing you from including disclosure of the amount paid to you within the report for some time. Some appraisers use an addendum page as a preface to their reports indicating” THE FEE THAT THE APPRAISER HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED TO BILL & INVOICE THE APPRAISAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY (AMC) BY THAT AMC, TO THE APPRAISER, IS $XXX.00. IT IS A FEE THAT IS REQUIRED TO BE BILLED. AS OF THE DATE OF THS APPRAISAL IT HAS NOT YET BEEN PAID.”


      While I don’t like billed fees as a concept, if we are to continue to be coerced by FNMA into not being able to collect our own fees at the time of the appraisal, then this disclosure to the consumer seems a reasonable alternative. Keep in mind a HUD1 at the close of escrow is a mandatory truth in lending-related disclosure documents. If lenders and escrow are telling borrowers that appraisal fees have been paid when in fact they have NOT been paid to the appraiser, then its a misleading document and borrowers have a right to know.

  4. Avatar Eric West says:

    Consumer do care and want to know fees upfront. Charging the consumer $715 when the appraiser is only getting $300 but the AMC gets $415 is THEFT!

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      What’s the deal with focusing on amc’s? Non amc distributors are raking off the top too. Can’t you see the setup here for a continuation of this unearned fee raking model? If all the amc’s shut down tomorrow, consumer fees would not change. Rather, direct assignment order fees would be reduced under the illusion of supply and demand as lenders pocketed the difference to expand their distribution staff which is currently funded by… drumroll… The improperly co mingled appraisal fee. Fee transparency is not the issue here, not anymore. Too far down this path. Fee surveys are meaningless. Consumer fees paid are on the books for each and every frt transaction through easily accessible digitized form. Why is it exactly nobody compiles that data? You can’t call it theft when both parties willingly colluded to defraud the consumer. Perhaps from the consumers point of view that may be true. From the appraisers point of view, because the appraiser voluntarily accepted the engagement contract, such a statement is categorically false.

    • Avatar kd says:



      • Greg Wilkinson on Facebook Greg Wilkinson on Facebook says:

        Then shop better clients. AMC’s are not the end all be all. It takes hard work but shop better clients and stop playing games with places like that.

        • Baggins Baggins says:

          Greg I have this covered. I just wrote an entire article on this matter to help KD and other appraisers out. Expect that in the next day or two. Forwarding to admin tonight. All I need is a catchy headline. Thank you.

      • Craig Levy on Facebook Craig Levy on Facebook says:

        Greg Wilkinson is correct, it takes hard work to gain the confidence to leave the AMC world. I can’t be thankful and grateful I’ve left the BS associated with the AMC’s. Best business decision I ever made. If all appraisers quit putting up with the BS and walked away, I’m guessing 3 weeks later every stakeholder would utilize Mercury Network or some other blind ordering method.

      • KD-All true.

        As an aside, do you type your appraisal reports in all caps as well? If so, you should seriously consider not doing so.

  5. Avatar Pat Turner says:

    Mr West
    Would you please contact me
    Pat Turner

  6. Avatar Cotton Cornell says:

    The AMCs had every opportunity to engage appraiser’s in a positive way from the inception of Dodd Frank. The AMC’s have taken serious advantage appraisers from the beginning. Now after years of lies and deception these issues are now just being addressed? The fact the AMCs were able to retain over 60% of the appraiser’s fee with zero (and I do mean ZERO!) added benefit to the appraiser and the consumer is mind blowing. When your standing in front of the state board is the AMC standing next to you? Did the AMC help you in anyway with the entire appraisal process? Did the AMC provide any service to the borrower? Nope! While we can all sit back and blame the AMCs for this behavior the only people we can really blame is ourselves! We allowed this to happen! The government is also shares responsibility for this behavior. They dropped the Dodd Frank bill and to date we have never seen 1 instance of an AMC being audited or forced to truly comply (I would not considered the Louisiana scenario any major victory). The fact there is a entity know as REVAA is absolutely bananas! REVAA is the equivalent to a group of criminals organizing to promote and protect their criminal behavior? We the appraiser have been turned into common filthy street prostitutes. Remember you all allowed this to happen! Absolutely Pathetic!! 

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Cotton, Best. / It’s time for appraisers to face facts. The government can not regulate honesty and appraisers who continue to work for amc’s are the cause, and effect, in one. What’s next, a codependency law. This is a very well written article but is only a synopsis, nothing new.

      What is not mentioned is that these distribution structures entice unethical behavior from appraisers as they ignore the management rule and provide a thing of value to the assigning company in order to be the preferred selectee. Undercutters and those willing to collude with middle management to defraud consumers, protected by feigned ignorance. There will be no further forward movement on this issue regardless of legislation until appraisers step back and stop promoting and assisting in the billing fraud by way of their willing participation. SOW is a contract for all intensive purposes. Contractual participation is voluntary.

      These exact same people involved in appraisal distribution know very well that same order goes for twice the rate to the next guy whom may have some protection like on the va panel or under various other circumstances. Nobody is going to rock the boat of pocketing unearned fees. As long as appraisers still willingly participate, the boat will float.

      In a series of systematic collusion and racketeering, mismo participating companies all withhold supportive data from the appraisal community. Alamode only made the mistake of publishing fee data once and quickly learned their lesson. Count the number of appraisers and related people participating with these companies and talking about these issues. Then provide a statistical ratio how many of them actively engage with amc’s or accept their money or services. Appraisers are barking in the mirror about ethics but nobody is home.

      My interest in this issue is to have more direct assignment access. Amc appraisers do not deserve settlements or legal protections for having participated as if there was no other choice. It’s been a long 10 years scraping up direct orders in the face of unethical competition. It’s not that difficult to ask what the consumer was charged before quoting your fee. It sure is impossible to get a straight answer though. Stockholm syndrome.

    • Avatar Always Question says:

      Please clarify, who all let this happen?

  7. Avatar Raymond says:

    FYI: this is suggest a bogus explanation of our appraisal profession and sadly its stated by non-appraisers. It shows, how appraisers are being pushed aside, in more ways than one. https://www.nationalmortgagenews.com/video/the-future-of-the-valuation-industry


Leave a Reply

We welcome critical posts & opposing points of view. We value robust & civil discourse. You may openly disagree, but state your case in an atmosphere of mutual respect, in which everyone has a right to a particular view about the topic of conversation. Please keep remarks about the topic at hand, & PLEASE avoid personal attacks. If the poster gets you upset, it is the Internet, you can walk away from it.

Personal attacks harm the collegial atmosphere we encourage on AppraisersBlogs.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

xml sitemap

Fee Transparency, Pivotal Point for Appraisers

by Isaac Peck time to read: 10 min