Biased Appraisers? I Don’t Think So

Dave Towne

Biased Appraiser? Judging an Entire Profession by Anecdotal Evidence. 

To judge an entire profession by anecdotal evidence is equally both stupid and harmful… The entire emphasis was on “anecdotal evidence” which is not documented or supported. Story after story was told about how appraisers had produced a “biased” report. No documentation and no evidence to support their claims was presented.

Folks, after discussing this topic with and learning more about the appraiser who wrote this following essay, I have decided to distribute the essay below as a way to further support what we appraisers do in our work, and to expose the fallacies that have been presented to date by others with a vendetta against appraisers.

The author is Joanna Conde, an experienced appraiser and AQB Certified USPAP instructor from Arizona. If you wish to reply to her comments, use this email: joannaconde@aol.com. And please share this article with your Congressional representatives.

Biased Appraisers? I don’t think so.

If you want to get really angry click on this link and listen in. This is the recording of the Hearing on Bias in Home Appraisals.

 
What appalled me was the lack of knowledge of our Congressional representatives (both Republican and Democrat) on what appraisers do, how we do it, and the government agencies and entities that are responsible for our guidelines (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA, the Appraisal Foundation, the Appraisal Sub-Committee).

The entire emphasis was on “anecdotal evidence” which is not documented or supported. Story after story was told about how appraisers had produced a “biased” report. No documentation and no evidence to support their claims was presented.

Neither Dave Bunton, TAF President, nor Pledger Bishop, III, current president of the Appraisal Institute, defended appraisers by simply stating something like, “I have not seen the two reports you are mentioning, and therefore cannot comment on the competency of either appraiser. Opinions of Values can be affected by many things, including when the appraisals were done, including the condition of the property at the time of inspection, assignment conditions, and whether the assignment was for a full interior/exterior inspection or a “drive-by”. Not all appraisers, or the appraisal profession, should be judged by the actions, especially anecdotal, of one or two appraisers.”

I also found it very interesting that both Dave Bunton and Pledger Bishop, III are representative of the demographic of older, white, male appraisers and both were non-responsive when asked how the appraisal profession got this way.

To judge an entire profession by anecdotal evidence is equally both stupid and harmful. I can provide a real-life anecdote about taking on a black trainee. She was lazy. Did not show up for appointments on time. Didn’t take direction. Didn’t make an effort to learn how to do things well or correct her errors. Should I judge all blacks who want to be trainees by her actions? No. That would be stupid. (I should also say I have had white trainees who did the same.) To judge an entire profession by anecdotal evidence is equally both stupid and harmful.

Here is another anecdote. The first single woman I ever knew to get a mortgage was Linda Jones. I worked with her at Xerox. It was 1978. She is black. It was in Rochester, New York. Five years later I applied for a line of credit for $300. I was turned down because I was a divorced woman and my (good) credit history went with my ex-husband. I am white.

You can find or create any anecdote you want to support anything you want or want others to believe. Anecdotes are not supported facts and aren’t supported statistical data.

Let it be known that I am a moderate with a tendency toward being liberal. However, attacking my profession, the appraisal profession, for being mostly white, mostly male, and mostly older, and then claim that because of those factors appraisers are biased is over the top.

The implication is that only black appraisers could appraise black owned homes accurately, and by inference then only women could appraise homes owned by women accurately, only Asians could appraise homes owned by Asians accurately, only Muslim appraisers could appraise homes owned by Muslims accurately, etc. Otherwise, anyone who is not of the same identity would be held under suspicion of bias. How stupid is that!? How paranoid is that?

I was discriminated against because I was a woman when I wanted to and then got into the appraisal profession over 30 years ago. Did that stop me? No. I got every bit of education I could, worked hard, and interviewed and interviewed until someone hired me first as a trainee and then as an appraiser. Does that discrimination still exist? I expect there are some people that still have discrimination issues. But, the formula I used still works: Keep trying. Get educated. Work hard. Do a good job. Don’t take “no” for an answer.

It was also suggested by a number of the Congressmen that qualification standards for entering the profession be lowered so that more minorities could enter the profession. That makes no sense and is offensive. It implies that minorities are not capable of meeting appraisal qualifications on merit alone. Nonsense.

One of the people who testified at the hearing was Lisa Rice, President and Chief Executive of the National Fair Housing Alliance. She claimed that appraisers are “subjective” and that the appraisal process needs to be more standardized. This would include using mega-data and other approaches such as the cost approach rather than the Comparable Sales Analysis Approach to value. She did not understand the concept of “neighborhood” and questioned why appraisers don’t go out of a neighborhood to find similar properties with higher selling prices.

Thankfully, there was one educated voice of reason that spoke up, Tobias Peter of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Peter stated that they had done an analysis of 240,000 appraisals and had determined “there was no systemic appraiser bias”. Mr. Peter asserts that the major cause in the discrepancies are based on socio-economic conditions, for example credit ratings. Credit ratings are neutral.

We all know that the higher your credit rating, the easier it is to borrow money, the more money you probably will quality to borrow, and the lower the interest rate. The lower the interest rate, the lower the mortgage payment all other things such as amount, term and down payment being equal. People with lower credit ratings typically live in less expensive homes and poorer neighborhoods regardless of their race, religion, or national origin. A Credit Sesame survey found that “About 54% of Black American report having no credit or a poor to fair credit score.” This compares to 41% of Hispanics, 37% of White Americans and 18% of Asian Americans in the same category (see link here).

On February 23, 2022 the National Association of Realtors published an article on U.S. Homeownership. Only Black ownership rates have gone down and is the only group that is below 50%. These statistics have to be attributable to something other than appraiser bias and it is logical to believe they are also related to credit scores and other factors such as income.

Appraisers are required by law to be independent and unbiased. They are required by USPAP to support their analysis and conclusions and document their findings. We are not “Subjective” we are “Objective” with support. This is critical to how we do everything from the initial inspection, where we document our findings with pictures, through the analysis process where we decide our Scope of Work, to the writing of our reports where we must document within the report, or have documentation in our workfiles to support for our analysis and conclusions.

Good appraisers do their job. They appraise properties, not the people who own them or live in them. I am tired of appraisers being the scapegoats for problems in the housing market that are the result of many different factors and many others involved in the housing market.

Joanna Condé, 5/16/2022

Image credit flickr - Filip de Blois
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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27 Responses

  1. Avatar Realist says:

    One of the appraiser accusers mentioned above has stated that the Cost Approach should be used instead of the Sales Comparison Analysis. Do they realize that if depreciation is accounted for appropriately that the indicated value will almost always be reasonably close to the value indicated by the Sales Comparison Analysis. And the Sales Comparison Analysis is one the best methods to assist in measuring/estimating depreciation. Are questions like this even asked to our accusers, or do they just get softball and useless comments and questions.

    I tracked a certain source of published cost data for many years; and the published cost data for our area consistently ran 15% above actual local building costs. Would this be factored into the Cost Approach. Or would the borrower get an unearned 15% bonus just because the appraiser was not allowed to analyze and use truth to estimate Market Value.

    The way all this seems to be headed makes lender/AMC illegal value pressures look like child’s play comparatively

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    • Tomas Hernandez on Facebook Tomas Hernandez on Facebook says:

      market values are not based on cost, cost approach, depreciation are not sufficient to establish market value of a home

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    • Avatar hammering hank says:

      SCA is without a doubt the best approach to value. Cost is fine for backup.

      BUT the most important item in the CA is the LAND VALUE. Most appraisers skip the CA.

      This is where most appraisers lack knowledge of land value due to location/value of sites and neighborhood locations; thus confusing superior & inferior locations on the grid.

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      • Baggins Baggins says:

        Excellent insight Hank. The land value should always be stated within the cost section, even if the cost approach is not completed. As assessors are in the arrears, and often have a good take on land to home value ratios, the assessed land value is usually reliable and can simply be brought current to mv based on simple review of assessed mv vs current mv, that ratio being applied to the land portion for a reasonable current land value estimate. Land value is important to appraisers as a data qualification step. But land value is also important to lenders and insurers, which the lender often lines up required home owner insurance, especially for first timers. It just happens, you’re into the first home, insurance, mortgage, closing, keys, and then where to store all the paperwork. Reliable land value estimates for developed real property may help the lender and investors more clearly define a myriad of other important metric points, too many to mention, process efficiency now and then too. Never skip the land value entry.

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  2. Tomas Hernandez on Facebook Tomas Hernandez on Facebook says:

    The real problem is that bias issues reign throughout the country on all levels of its law makers, even the law makers of our constitution were bias as most all the signers of Declaration of Independence were slave owners, although appraisers must remain unbiased in valuations, our system is flawed, this goes past bias appraising, sorry I got from track here. If the system is flawed how do you fix the problem?

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    • Avatar VA Klein says:

      The system is not flawed. There is no WIDESPREAD bias in the industry. There is, however, a competency issue that may need to be addressed in some cases.

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      • Avatar Savy Solver Solutions says:

        Definitely a competency issue out there. Some of the people that I review with a certified license have almost NO CLUE what they are doing. I mean, I want to say some are just plain stupid but that is not politically correct in 2022. Somehow they passed the test. They may not be stupid, but they lack even the most basic common sense.

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        • Chris Geering on Facebook Chris Geering on Facebook says:

          Many do not understand basic appraisal theory and it can be frightening. I often call them on it and some understand but others have a hair across their ass and they are the ones we remove from our appraisal panel.

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  3. Avatar Savy Solver Solutions says:

    Black people can only appraise for black people. White people can only appraise for white people. Hispanic people can only appraise for hispanic people. LGBT people can only appraise for LGBT people. Asian people can only appraise for asian people. Yes….trying to inject some humor here but this seems about the safest way to avoid being dragged into court. If you want anymore problems solved, just ask.

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  4. Lana M. Domino on Facebook Lana M. Domino on Facebook says:

    They created a narrative to push their agenda to separate the inspection and who types the appraiser. This is what lobbyist and politicians do all the time to push their agendas. In 26 years I’ve been doing this now this is a huge problem? Cmon not to say it doesn’t occasionally happen but more like a needle in a haystack. I’m not falling for this storyline. They have been working on this since 2020

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  5. Avatar HK says:

    Wow. First you say discrimination doesn’t exist in the profession and then you go on to say you were discriminated against IN the profession. None of you know what bias, discrimination or racism actually means. Nor do you seem familiar with the history of discrimination against black folks in regards to housing. Read, educate yourself. You sound ridiculous. Yes, we all want to produce appraisals that are unbiased. You cannot simply do that by shouting out that you do not discriminate against (my favorite phrase people use) “ white, brown, black, yellow, and PURPLE”. You need to educate yourself. Take a diversity class, read a book about the countries history with racism, do something to address your bias because it is NATURAL. We all have bias. We don’t all acknowledge it and question it. Don’t you want to do better?

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      No, not really. Because I’m awesome and am the best in my current form right here and right now. Your assumptions are not founded in reality, take that rhetoric back to twitter. You see the world through a color coded lens due to your own inadequacies and personal identity shortcomings. Other people don’t operate that way or perceive the world or other people that way. We are not complaining about access in the country which has generated the most astounding opportunities in human history. We do however complain about predatory practices where people use the force of government to push other people around. And thank you for the presumption we’re all just plainly not educated on history.

      You know what’s ridiculous? Blaming today’s practicing appraisers for the economic consequences of over a hundred years of predatory lending and predatory money management process, courtesy of the federal reserve. 100 years of not being federal, and not having any reserves. Stop pushing everyone around and calling strangers racist. Back to the basics I guess. Price is not the same thing as value. The money in your pocket was forcefully devalued by mega corporations whom just got richer, in the time it took you to read this post. Get your mind around it and stop picking on regular citizens who’s 1099 earnings often are not even equivalent to entry level positions. Bait, meet the hook.

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    • Avatar Don Orttenburger says:

      HK, if you want to be a social worker than get the heck out of appraising. I do not need to read a book to know that slavery was wrong. Nor do I need to take a diversity class to know that the most diverse countries tend to be the most violent with clashing cultures, see the Balkans or sub-Saharan African countries as opposed to the Nordic countries or Japan which are very homogeneous. If you want to drink the cool-aid of bias first read some Thomas Sowell, a man that has studied cultures and discrimination and is by the way a black scholar, economist and philosopher.

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  6. Avatar Dan says:

    Where are the competent congressmen & women to ask Lisa Rice to prove her accusations? Why is anyone accepting that two anecdotal cases, which have not even been reviewed, prove systemic racism in appraising? Ayanna Pressley appears to be a bigger racist than any appraiser.

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  7. Avatar Mark Davis says:

    This Congressional committee is a great example of how political agendas are imposed on private businesses. The premise that racism is everywhere all the time (systemic) and government bureaucrats can legislate it all away is naïve at best and insane at worst. Imposing additional “education” (i.e., indoctrination) and counterproductive regulations with penalties is a recipe for disaster. When any industry is battered by ignorant politicians virtue signaling to self-described victims seeking redress to perceived injustices, then that industry is doomed. This process inherently changes the focus of members in the industry under attack from professional methods and individual competence to following contradictory, vague regulations and avoiding penalties imposed by people who have no clue what they are talking about. Mr. Peters nailed it pointing out that the goal of these charlatans is to eliminate all free-market self-governing institutions and replace them with regulation by politicians. This government takeover of the appraisal industry will result in the elimination of market values based on market data, sound methodology developed over many years, logic and competent execution that will be replaced by fiat values determined by political power. They tried to bribe industry leaders with Federal funds which didn’t work so now they are using force to impose Federal “oversight”. The end-all, be-all solution of more diversity (even though “we are all the same”) is a solution in search of a problem. Imposing racist racial quotas will only further undermine the important foundation of any industry: individual competence, expertise and work ethic. The Marxist “march through the institutions” continues with racism being used as the primary excuse.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Excellent, and real estate is not the only industry in which these nefarious trends are occurring. It’s happening to a much greater degree in medicine right now. Mr Davis, you will find this piece very interesting, please read.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9062939/

      2
      • Avatar Mark Davis says:

        Thank you for the kind words and link. I would suggest the RFK, Jr. book The Real Anthony Fauci that is a soul-crushing summary of that troll’s career. That these people are able to commit crimes, lie, kill and get praised for it by a corrupt corporate media for decades is mind-numbing.

        2
        • Baggins Baggins says:

          For sure, that’s why we’ve got a first edition print on the night stand. Try some censored groups. AAPS Online dot org. Americans for responsible tech dot org. The vaccine reaction dot org. / I’m off topic, sorry. Just had to share it was too good of a piece. And apparently it’s not over, pushing renewed mandates in CO just today. Stupid.

          Is there a way for appraisers to challenge the leadership in our industry for replacement? I’m not familiar with AI, but imagine the mechanism like a quorum or something is there in the by laws. Posted below. Leadership is failing, they should have cut this false appraisers are racist narrative off well over a year ago. I have no faith in these groups whom did nothing about amc’s over the past decade. This is the result of failing to reign in amc’s, they were eagerly standing by to adopt whatever narrative which came forth, that would give amc’s even more power, and appraisers even less. Vultures.

          2
    • Avatar Juliana Homstead says:

      Mark, I agree with many of your points, but why must we turn this into a political discussion? The problem on both sides is lack of understanding. Please don’t prescribe divisions where none exist. Yes, the current administration is democratic, but I believe we would be having similar discussions no matter who won the election.

      1
      • Avatar Dan says:

        If you don’t think this is politically driven you are mistaken. The roots of this are much deeper than a few differing appraisals.

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      • Avatar Mark Davis says:

        Juliana, You can ignore politics, but politics will not ignore you. Too many good people sat by why Marxist ideologues captured our institutions over the past 60 years because “it couldn’t happen here”. This attack on appraisers is part of the endgame. Hopefully it is not too late. Ayn Rand warned us 60 years ago the “We are fast approaching the stage…where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission.” We are there now. “Racism” is just a smoke-screen for their relentless advance.

        3
  8. Pamela DeSimone on Facebook Pamela DeSimone on Facebook says:

    Just wondering if any of those perceived bias appraisals were performed by appraisers hired by an AMC bid blast to get the lowest fee. Not that accepting a low fee gives you the right to not do your job, but I see it frequently.

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  9. Avatar Juliana Homstead says:

    Excellent essay! Thank you Joanna for taking the time to present logical and coherent arguments that are on the minds of many appraisers. I am an appraiser who believes this is not a systemic problem. However, I also believe that we need to address it head on in a logical and scientific way. Mr. Peters study in which no evidence of systemic bias in appraisals was found is one way. There are others. We have incredible talent in this industry and the foremost thing in my opinion is having someone at the table who will actually advocate for us and educate members of congress. The head of the appraisal Institute was useless in doing that. Not that that was a huge surprise to me. Where is the AGA? Why are they not involved in these sessions?

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  10. Avatar James Anderson says:

    Here is what is meant, but not said, by the appraisal regulators, “When it comes to certain minorities we don’t want a fair appraisal, we want an equitable appraisal”. In other words, they would like our work to make up for past discrimination. If so, they need to tell us the borrowers skin color and then let us know what is equitable. Maybe blacks will get 125% of market value, Hispanics will get 115% of market value, Asians will get 100% of market value, and whites might get 75% of market value. If it’s a mixed race couple (black and white) that takes you back to 100% of the market value (125% + 75%).

    They just need to let us know what is equitable, because believe me that is the new standard. I couldn’t see what the appraiser mentioned in the lawsuit did that was so terrible. She appraised the home using comparables from the subject’s city. The other appraisers came to higher values using comparables from another city. Both of the cities mentioned are quite different. Apparently, if the identical home sells next door to your subject, you should toss it out and look for higher value indicators in another city.

    All I’m asking of the regulators is, “What do you really want us to do?” Just let us know so we can play along.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      What they don’t seem to understand is the concept of market value itself. Because without a benchmark, there is no reliable value basis. If there is manipulation of end point sale prices based on something other than the pure market conditions imposed by a willing buyer and willing seller, aka private contracts, the influence of the value manipulation will quickly accelerate. Like domino’s, if a subsidy is applied in one location among a set of houses, applied repeatedly, there will be very rapid price acceleration. Because the benchmark to market value is constantly re established higher and higher with each new passing sale instance. That’s is called flipping and can be achieved by way of strawman buyers and deceptive practices, it’s a financial criminals dream to operate that way legally. Just use shell companies to flip the prices higher a few times, then cash out and dump the debt on an unsuspecting set of buyers and their lenders before the market crashes. The more properties you can flip at any given time, the greater your profit will be. Of course they will be gambling with other peoples money with some ponzi investment scheme or the likes, courtesy of GSE’s overly lax lending policies. To apply a negative amount multiplier as you suggest is clearly unconstitutional and that would be easily stopped through judicial process. But they do continue to get away with manipulated market gains.

      They have a dream of manipulating the market for quote unquote more equitable outcomes, but the results will be exactly the opposite of what they expect to achieve. Rapid over valuation will become the norm and as that is the very definition of a market bubble, it will eventually pop and people will experience substantial losses, much more so than if the government had not sought to influence otherwise pure market conditions. Our conditions however are not pure, as an artificially low lending rate with an insane rapid expansion of the fiat dollar has already blew up an unsustainable higher housing cost nationally.

      Lets consider a different metric. Of all those legislators, and all the special interest bankers they represent, all the lawyers and lobbyists they employ, what is the housing ownership ratio in that group? I’d bet it’s pretty high with disproportionate income to boot. That is because they are the first receivers of newly created fed fiat dollars. Quantitative easing via monetary expansion is counterfeiting and legalized theft, they’re devaluing the currency in a prosperity through debt program, but what’s new?

      As they seek to codify an ever expanding higher housing price to mask and conceal their fiat money schemes and accelerated monetary counterfeiting. They’re trying to bury QE in housing, but it’s not working and is about to pop, inflation proves it. They want and need a market crash to cover up how badly the monetary system has been mismanaged. They’ll continue to do this over and over and over again until we fix the money itself by tying the primary money supply back to tangible non manipulatable physical commodity. Gold and silver comes to mind. Article 1 Section X.

      Racism has nothing to do with housing values today but makes for an excellent emotional distraction. To posture that the actions of market manipulation in the past continue to linger today if we have corrected the previous manipulation barriers, it’s absurd. The markets have long since corrected, minorities are not denied access to housing anywhere, not denied education anywhere, not denied employment anywhere. The correction has already happened, the current conditions are the true markets which the people themselves have established with their willing back and forth housing purchases and sales. The verdict is in, most people prioritize affordability over high prices. End of story. That’s all she wrote. Dare to ask the question; What exactly is wrong with lower prices? In times of plenty and economic stability, prices are supposed to come down, not go up. Enjoy the show, it won’t be long know and I hope you’re saving and staying thrifty. Because everything from pensions to 401k’s to all housing value could very well get cut in half while cost of goods and services continues to increase as we catch up to QE, which by the way expanded the monetary supply to unprecedented levels in the past 2 years. Half of it was captured by international criminals, they just gave all the value of the dollar away. There is no turning back.

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Biased Appraisers? I Don’t Think So

by Dave Towne time to read: 5 min
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