Time for an Appraiser Union?

Much talk has occurred lately on a variety of injustices incurred by appraisers through scope-creep, indemnification clauses, decreasing number of appraisers, lawsuit volume increases, and the like. Naturally, there are a whole lotta unhappy appraisers out there. Surely, there are many things to be concerned with, but there is a greater fear that overrides all other issues; the fear that there ain’t a dang thing we can do about it.

The lack of ability to make changes to those things we view as wrong is a debilitating feeling. As small business owners, we are used to getting things done our way. The ability to see a problem and then implement a plan to fix it is in our very natures. On the opposite side of the coin, seeing a series of major issues with our industry, yet having our hands tied as to their solutions, leaves us feeling frustrated, angry, and powerless.

I just returned from a conference of high-power ‘suits’ in the appraisal industry. For 1.5 days, these thought-giants listened to speakers, broke into workshop roundtables, and tossed around ideas on such important issues as appraiser fees, scope-creep, litigation, and more. There were some strong opinions voiced and some great ideas shared. After the conference, I spoke to one of the participants in the hallway (I will keep his name confidential as you would recognize him, and I do not have permission to share his words). During our brief meeting, I told him how impressed I was with the caliber of individuals and the great ideas that had come forth. I then asked what happens now. Who now has the power to begin implementing these great solutions? His answer was only slightly disheartening. To paraphrase, he said, “Well, no one really. We are more of a think-tank. Our purpose is to discuss problems in the appraisal world and come up with possible solutions. It may be that some of the people in that room have contacts in government and other institutions and might catch the ear of those that can implement changes, but that is all.” Oh, boy. Now, don’t misunderstand. I think it is great that these types of brains come together periodically to have these kinds of collaborating conferences. I am simply disheartened by the fact that they really have no power to make any of the changes they spent hours hammering out in the end.

Furthermore, it is not just the intellectuals with all of the good ideas. As The Appraiser Coach, I spend a good deal of time interacting with appraisers across the country, and they are concerned with the same problems that you and I are. Furthermore, the solutions I hear from Mr. Appraiser in Columbus, OH or Ms. Trainee in San Diego, CA are sometimes better than the ones I hear from the experts in the many conferences I attend each year. The problem? Well, it is the same on all levels of our profession; we have no power in the big scheme of things to make any meaningful changes.

Is it time for an appraiser union? Now, before I go any further, I should outline my general philosophies in regard to unions. There has been a lot of bad press lately on the topic of unions. Rightfully so. I believe the majority of private unions (and ALL public unions) are corrupt at their core. Union bosses are in bed with politicians, union membership is forced in non-right-to-work states, and union dues are often funneled directly into legislation that directly benefit some while harming the rights of others. However, private and voluntary unions have their place. There is power in a large group of like-minded individuals gathering together to fight for a common cause. That is the American way. Our Founders depended upon it, and our country was established on that very foundation. It is protected even in the First Amendment. Yet, words carry emotion, and since the word ‘union’ has a generally bad connotation in today’s society, I will refrain from using it throughout the remainder of this paper. Instead, let’s use the word ‘coalition.’

Is it time for a national appraiser coalition? I think so. Now, some will argue that such an organization already exists. Though I would agree there are many good and helpful appraiser groups, none rise to the level that I am advocating here. There are national groups who do some of what is necessary, and there are local and regional groups who do most of what will be required to turn this ship around. The problem is; there is no group(s) big enough to make a national splash who is/are actively doing all that must be done to really cause the wheels of change to begin turning.

What I am promoting is something similar to the size and scale (ratio-wise) of the National Realtors Association TM. Now, I realize there are many more members of NAR than there are total appraisers in the U.S. (many of us are even members by nature of our affiliation with local realtor boards). I also realize the NAR has a lot of problems (beginning with their obvious disdain for appraisers), but I am not advocating we copy them. I am simply pointing them out as a model of what we might consider in forming our own coalition. We need a group with strong leadership, clear goals, connection to Washington and state governing bodies (the right way), and one which benefits appraisers in such a way that nearly all of us will not be compelled – but desirous to join and pay our dues with pleasure.

I imagine a powerful organization who meets with its members, listens to its members, and has the ability to make changes that actually affect the lives of its members. If we have concerns about fair pay for service provided, we should be able to express those concerns and not feel that our cries are falling on deaf ears. I foresee a group who has the resources and media time to educate and inform the common man on what an appraiser is and what an appraiser is not. I see an organization with the kind of clout to cause movers and shakers to take notice when they speak. I HAVE A DREAM that some day… (sorry, got a little carried away there).

The fact is, we can (and should) do much better than we are currently doing. This coalition could come about in one of several ways. It is possible (with the right leaders) to begin from scratch and develop such a society from the ground up. This is not likely, however, as it is difficult to gain membership without traction, and it is hard to gain traction without membership (the old catch-22). It is more probable that this type of problem-solving society will rise from either a current organization (by making major changes to their foundational structure) or the voluntary combining of two or more contemporary organizations (by one or both of them humbling themselves and realizing the power in unity).

This paper is not intended to have all of the solutions. Rather, it is an attempt to begin the process of discussion. Why are we not having these discussions? It seems to me that, if we put as much energy into pushing for organizing such a coalition as we do complaining about what is wrong with our current industry, we might see something come together for our good as a whole.

So, where are the leaders ready to step up and cause it to happen? When will the heads of current appraiser societies begin talks with their peers? Who is willing to make the first move? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


Dustin Harris
Latest posts by Dustin Harris (see all)
Dustin Harris

Dustin Harris

A multi-business owner and residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers. His principles and methodologies are also taught in an online, Mastermind group. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children. Dustin Harris on e-AppraisersDirectory.com

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14 Responses

  1. Retired Appraiser Retired Appraiser says:

    The AGA effort with the AFL-CIO is the closest appraisers will ever come to this pipe dream. I’ve been pushing the idea for over three years. The biggest problem you have today is that vast majority of those who were dinked by HVCC & HVCC 2.0 are gone. Those accepting the residential work today (those with 2 to 4 years experience) are ecstatic over being covered up with work with no marketing effort required. The other half of the group accepting these orders are AMC employee/appraisers.

    I recommend that you take the fight directly to the homeowner and expose the crime there. Expose the crime, get them fired up, and you have instant an instant mutiny on your hands. Remember Molly Katchpole? Bank Of America remembers her…vividly. The only difference being that the national media was quick to expose her cause. They refuse to touch this issue.

    If you want a coalition or angry mob Dustin (either will do) turn to homeowners. They were given 1/10 of the screwing that appraisers were but they have a knack for getting wrongs righted when they are given the full story.

    I’m willing to turn over the keys of http://www.BankRape.com to you coach if you are willing to work it from this angle. We’ve removed nearly all references to appraisers from the site because it was confusing the message to consumers. We’ve also abandoned efforts to garner attention in the media and turned to the poor man’s news network (but just as effective) as a means to getting the word out to consumers (TOPIX). Topix has over 10,000,000 readers who love nothing more than gossip. In this particular case the gossip is 100% truth.

    • Mike Ford Mike Ford says:

      Dear Retired Appraiser,

      We don’t need a gripe site slanted to stir up home owners to fight for what WE need and want.

      We need to focus PRIMARY efforts on OUR needs; not to dilute our message by straying off into the weeds of homeowner issues, valid as those may be.

  2. Annemieke Roell Hamilton via Facebook Annemieke Roell Hamilton via Facebook says:

    There is an appraisers union. The Appraisers Guild of America – AGA

  3. Avatar Donna Corrado says:

    I had a full office for 10 years and I am barely hanging on to my business. The fact that AGA took action brings tears to my eyes. I love this business but we are treated worse than animals. The AMC blacklist us if we don’t do what they say. My company was blacklisted from F_ _ _ S _ _ Rafter an incompetent reviewer stated the subject property was on a busy street. The bank called my appraiser non credible, when in fact the subject is on a dead end. They don’t pay us in a timely manner or at all. For example Appraiser Loft and many others are going out of business. The reps are calling around for the appraiser who has the lowest fee and the fastest turn time. They black list good appraisers like myself and those in my office that have NO CLAIMS VIOLATIONS and a $1000000 E&O policy….. That is golden.
    The AMCs ask us to do reviews and encourage us to hang the prior appraiser just to satisfy their client’s needs to blame someone. Sure let’s go after the appraiser with the insurance. I could testify to the antics and provocations because I kept every insulting dubious letter and email safely in my vault dating back to 2008. I have written the attorney general, the Governor, the senator and the Congressman and have received no help. I grew up in the mortgage business and appraisal business and have taken black eyes from these AMCs. Your help in making Congress aware is a start, I just hope we can hang on…

    • Avatar Joan Huhn says:

      My son was just given suspension for the exact same thing that you had from LandSafe. Must be on their list to accuse people of missing busy streets. He went up and took about 5 pictures and sent it to them showing there was no cars anywhere. It was a route# and may have been busy 20 miles away. They must be trying to end the business because they are doing a good job with their lies. I heard in class that they have 1000 pat phrases of wrong doings that are just thrown at any good appraisers. They want total control and we aren’t included. 10 yrs there won’t be any appraisers or management companies only the greedy crooked bank.

  4. Avatar Sad Appraiser says:

    We do need a strong leader, or leaders, who can head up such a coalition. That is the problem with Appraisers, we are solitary and by no means united. There are many efforts around the country that are trying different means to get something…anything done to improve our desperate situation, however, the problem is we don’t hear about them. If we had such a coalition, we would hear everything. I think it is a great idea in theory.

    • Retired Appraiser Retired Appraiser says:

      Agreed. There are nearly a dozen groups that say they are fighting for appraisers but it goes nowhere.

      Wouldn’t it be great if these groups could unite for one cause? Independent in spirit but united temporarily for a single purpose. If you can that off Dustin you’ll earn the title Grand Wizard.

      Best Of Luck

    • Mike Ford Mike Ford says:

      Respectfully disagree.

      Each of us have been “trying to organize” for years now (at least since 2009). In California we had the Ca. Coalition of Appraisal Professionals. GREAT people. Rey Cano of Malibu Appraisal STILL sends us each very helpful emails monthly. Problem is they had too little participation to remain viable.

      I AM going to join the AGA ($275 a year). They will be exactly as WE make them. Trying to reinvent the wheel (union) when one exists will just waste another five years.

      Dustin (The Appraiser Coach) is 100% right in his union advice-& I don’t often find myself in agreement with him. READ about the AGA. Most of what WE don’t like about unions is not applicable to AGA. Also we will NOT find stronger advocacy than the OPIEU of the AFL-CIO.

      I have been a member of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), AND United Steel Workers (in a different life, eons ago). Neither were worth a damn. At least AGA has tried to DO SOMETHING!

      Don’t wait on The Appraisal Institute. They’ve lost their direction. Don’t count on Appraisal Foundation either. THEY have become just another huge federal agency designed to promote self growth.

  5. Avatar Stand Together says:

    I am pro Coalition, Pro Nationalization for appraisers. It is a crime what is happening. We are doing 40% more work and getting paid 40% less. I say too many it is a crime. Over ten years in this business and I should be cruising, banking money for retirement. Instead I must fight for a “reasonable fee” of $350 when I should be getting $400 per job for the amount of work we do today on every report. And it ain’t easy to move into a new career with two kids still in school… Also long term this is not good for health of Real Estate industry. If the quality of appraisers slips then we will see more stumbling blocks for the economy…

  6. Avatar Joan Huhn says:

    Landsafe with their ‘dark ages’ punishment to appraisers, 90% because of their incompetance, destroying the business to make themselves show power and control. Is this really our constitution that allows this scam?? A lot of appraisers locally said they are refusing to do any full appraisals for them. Aooner or later they will get to you and will punish you for 30-60-90 days with no work…should you dare answer them and show them you are right, you are in bigger trouble. Takes you longer than it would to do 4 other appraisals. Try it, get together. No full appraisals for Landsafe until they get rid of the tyrants that are ruining us, the economy and cheating the borrowers.

  7. Avatar Van Wolslagel says:

    An Appraiser Union is not a necessity – Talk to the Teamsters, I did, they are ready to help begin and support the Union process for appraisers.

  8. Avatar Dan Drelich says:

    This is all you need to know. No need to start from scratch.

  9. How wonderful to have the gift of 20/20 hindsight ( meaning me-not a dig at the author).

    Since I last wrote on this thread a year ago, I joined the AGA. (American Guild of Appraisers); http://www.appraisersguild.org . I’ve found myself agreeing more and more with “Retired Appraiser” and appreciate him for being the necessary goad that he is. I also joined NAR as a full fledged REALTOR (r) which nearly ALL appraisers can do; and became designated by NAR (GAA & RAA). There is a long range plan associated with that.

    More importantly, I also found the people Dustin was talking about. Peter Vidi; our unpaid Guild President Leo Regensburger, his right hand man, and Jan Bellas our National Marketing Coordinator and spark plug of the organization. By the way, you can reach any of them at 1 (800) 660-1835.

    In the past three months, there was not a week that went by in which I didn’t hear of some horrific new potential or actual career destroying abuse of appraisers. These were not isolated incidents or anecdotal tales. As the [pompous sounding but necessarily parsed] National Appraiser Peer Review Committee Chairman who investigates and responds or recommends response to these individual issues I can state the number of instances is growing. The threat and risk to good appraisers being referred for investigation to their State Boards is increasing drastically. Through no fault of their own! Being an MAI, SRA, IFA, ASA, GAA, RAA, etc. does not protect you from this. Who do YOU call when you need help?

    We’ve already written letters to Governors, Governmental Labor Relations Boards, Individual Lenders, Attorneys and others on behalf of our members. We have already seen numerous successes. So far we have NOT had a single definitive failure in our efforts to resolve our members problems! No doubt we have been blessed so far though statistically that cannot hold up forever. However, the point is that we ARE doing something and we ARE making progress!

    If you are one of those (like I used to be) that cannot abide the term ‘union’, OPEN YOUR EYES! we understand unions past reputations and we have no intention of being just another corrupt voting block for one favored political party. We WILL set our own destiny. In the process we may well educate our sponsors.

    Not convinced? OK, then answer this. “How will YOU address or handle the MANDATORY complaint referral to your state board when your client ‘shops’ your value because you would not change it (raise it)?

    You appraise a brand new house for the sale price of $750,000. Its the highest sale in the project. You at the extreme upper end of what you believe is the reasonable range of market value; but you documented your work well and strongly supported your conclusion. You even had a same price comparable from the developers adjacent project that’s a near model match. A week later the lender realizes they made a mistake. An addendum to the escrow instructions supposedly not then in their possession modified the sale price to $810,000 due to $50,000 more in upgrades the buyers decided they needed; AND $10k added to cover seller concessions to the buyer (they are called something else, but a ‘credit’ not previously there shows up too).

    You cannot support the ‘new’ higher price either as a new appraisal or a modification via addendum. Lender says the tract sales manager told them a competitors project three miles away sells for $800,000 to $900,000. You checked it out and all sales and neighborhood are superior to your subject. Your data shows you are still at $750,000. This famous Banks In house AMC Regional Appraisal Manager says you are killing the deal AND they have another appraiser who already said he can ‘bring it in’ at the sale price using the ‘new comps’. You hold firm.

    They do a desk review of your work. You disagree with its results and hold firm. YOUR appraisal report is forwarded to their National Appraisal Review headquarters, in say, Phoenix. You are notified next in writing that you have been suspended (or removed completely) from their approved roster of appraisers for various USPAP offenses including a misleading appraisal report with a low value.

    Three months later your state board asks for your work file. NOW it is a crap shoot! You did a great job but your regression analyses were not absolutely definitive. They are arguably subjective. Same with limited pairings you used. Your M&S cost figures are lower than those the developer provided to the lender. The LEAST that happens is you have six months of worry ahead; including reporting the incident to your E&O provider as required. You also retained an attorney, because you are in Minnesota or similar state perceived as having an over reactive enforcement board to make up for past years laxity; or more interested in ‘scoring’ large fines. True or not, you have a mess on your hands.

    Can’t happen to you? Far fetched? WRONG! Lenders are not allowed to shop appraisers OR to do reviews just to justify second appraisals. Despite that, their AMCs do it all the time. Also, in order to justify ordering the second (higher) appraisal they HAD to find deficiency in your work. Dodd-Frank also REQUIRES the lender to refer deficient appraisals to the state regulators. It is NOT optional anymore.

    By the way, even if you prevail with the state, it does not get you back on their list OR FNMA’s or Freddies! Do you think you or your state coalition has the power to influence Freddie Mac or the lenders regulators? Guess again my friends. Several state coalitions are wonderful organizations, but limited in their scope and effectiveness.

    The above ‘incident’ was a compilation of three recent cases I reviewed and worked on through AGA. One already succeeded, with the appraiser being reinstated. Two are pending and likely to take awhile. One of those may become a new legal test case potentially to be brought by the Appraisers Guild (AGA). That is till being considered.

    We need YOU right now. Respectfully, you also need “us” just as much. We want to end unfair blacklisting; establish a rehabilitation& reinstatement  process for those who made past errors, and we want to focus on the “reasonable” side of customary and reasonable fees. We want to retake our profession and insist on being treated as the highly trained professionals that we are. There are many other issues we’d like to take on as well, but we need your bodies and financial support to do so! Feel free to call me at (714) 366 9404 anytime.

    Lets put some of the independence back into being an “Independent Fee Appraiser” and ALL of the professionalism back into being an appraiser!


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Time for an Appraiser Union?

by Dustin Harris time to read: 5 min