GSEs to Halt Hybrid Pilot Program?
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My colleagues in the appraisal industry and I have been confused/alarmed by the actions of the former GSEs Fannie & Freddie over the past several years in their efforts to raise mortgage volume. Banks continue to remain in the fetal position on risk post-financial crisis and low mortgage rates and inverted yield curves aren’t helping. As a result, the GSEs, who remain in receivership, are doing all they can to remove pain points for banks to lend more and as a result, exposing the mortgage process (and, of course, the taxpayer) to unnecessary risk.
As an appraiser, I’m clearly biased to this effort based on my first-hand experience because it has become clear that appraisers are a target of US Treasury’s efforts toward “modernization” which I view as code for “automation.” Think of replacing a large swath of boots on the ground mortgage appraisers with AVMs (automated valuation models) or the equivalent of “Zestimates” but the taxpayer is on the hook if the housing market goes bad. Fannie is already waiving appraisals on 12% of mortgages they take on. No matter what claims are being made today, the reliability of AVMs is beyond unacceptable. For reference, 50% of Zestimates are within 5% of true value and 50% are not within 5%. Junk.
The US Treasury is attempting to return mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private ownership. Mark A. Calabria, Director of FHFA, who regulates Fannie & Freddie has been asked what keeps him awake at night to which he has replied “risk management.”
I have heard through channels that FHFA has told the GSEs to kill all the projects that involve “appraisal bifurcation” – the highly controversial process where an unlicensed, untrained inspector completes a non-standardized observation of a property and then a licensed appraiser completes a desktop appraisal. However, I haven’t been able to confirm this in writing as a source so please share if you have.
Appraisers know bifurcation would be a disaster for valuation reliability (i.e. quality) and be more expensive and slower. This is why the appraisal industry is so concerned about the GSEs’ intent to expand the use of bifurcation in the mortgage process. I’m sure there are times when such use is reasonable but not with wholesale adoption. The actual reason for the promotion of bifurcation is to remove a pain-point for lenders in the mortgage process. The idea of lowering costs or reducing turnaround is not something consumers have ever clamored for so such an effort is bizarre, otherwise.
Indy Politics recently interviewed Michael Calabria of the FHFA, the regulator who oversees both agencies.