Desktop Appraisals Soon to Be the New Purchase Wrinkle

The Desktop Appraisals Soon to Be the New Purchase Wrinkle

The desktop appraisals are not necessarily more reliable, which could become an adverse issue for appraisers in the future…

Appraisers, we learned about this late on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021:

Sandra L. Thompson, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) appeared before the Mortgage Bankers Association annual conference on Monday. Her remarks to that group featured this:

The “flexibilities” (i.e., the desktop appraisals) put in place for appraisers after COVID-19 hit, have ended. However, FHFA has been reviewing the data gathered during their use and examined feedback from lenders and other parties. She told the MBA attendees that both GSEs will incorporate desktop appraisals into their Selling guides for many new purchase loans starting in early 2022.

This is an extension based on the ‘trial’ of “desktop” appraisals during the COVID period, which began mid-2020, extending into this past summer.

I’ve learned that the overall use of the “desktop” appraisals (termed ‘flexibilities’) cycled through the GSE’s during the COVID episode was up to about 10% maximum of the total number of mortgage loans processed.  More were used in the Eastern US than in the West.

FHFA (the GSE’s conservator) was probably lobbied heavily by lenders who want appraisals to be simpler, faster and less costly to the borrower. But not necessarily more reliable, which could become an adverse issue for appraisers in the future.

The unknown at present is what will be the appraisal protocol? Will it be similar to the COVID types, or different? And secondly, and most important, how many appraisers will actually agree to do them?

The other aspect of this new process is the SFR ‘form’ itself. When ‘flexibilities’, i.e., the “desktop appraisals” were allowed, appraisers had to ADD a different Assumption and Limiting Condition and Scope of Work page into the report, which negated the existing pre-printed form instructions. So how will the GSE’s implement the new “desktop” forms beginning in early 2022? Will they issue a new ‘form’ we will have to use for a “desktop” assignment?

Secondly, will HUD allow this process also, as they did during the COVID episode?  And will their inspection protocol differ from the GSE’s, as it was then?

Remember, these are NOT ‘bifurcated’ or ‘hybrid’ appraisals, where a separate third party (not the borrower) does the inspection and feeds the property condition and other details to the appraiser on a separate document.

Instead, these “desktop” appraisals rely on data provided by the MLS Listing or homeowner directly to the appraiser, who then must evaluate Quality and Condition and other factors from afar, couple that with data sources, and then render an opinion of value, without actually seeing the property in person.

Various kinds of ‘inspection’ software has been and is being designed and sold to allow the borrower (or RE agent) and appraiser to work together to capture home information. Now that the GSE’s are apparently willing to accept this process, you will begin seeing and hearing about that kind of new technology much more. So far, I’ve seen two different kinds.

Dave Towne
Image credit flickr - Darko
Dave Towne

Dave Towne

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

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Bill Johnson says:

    During the peak of Covid I completed dozens of desktop appraisals for one of my best clients who paid the full fee (full liability / full fee). The question is, will these new desktop orders be at full fee, or at a discounted rate? If discounted, will the lower fee offset the typical time and money spent driving to, inspecting, and coming back. True appraisers run their business first, and the product second, where as the powers that be never consider the business side of appraising.

    Seek the truth.

    • Avatar chris says:

      How does $65 or $75 sound….3 settled sales, 3 actives and a review of the BPO….LOL …..and they say only 30 minutes of work for the appraiser….LOL I just read a Mang. Co letter looking for appraisers to make them a fortune with all the liability on the appraiser…..

  2. Avatar Xpert says:

    I’m not worried because once the market collapses they will want full appraisals again.

  3. Baggins Baggins says:

    With desktops the appraisers liability and overhead costs do not change. Institutionalized increases in efficiency will have a direct relationship to fewer appraisers. Desktop only appraisers will burn out like candles, more stips, lower pay, more requests, slimmer deadlines, vastly more assumptions and presumptions. Fail. I will never rely on an unlicensed third party inspector as being valid information. Those ‘inspectors’ work for ten or twenty dollars per with no liability, no licensing, no insurance. Of course, lenders will continue to refuse to share the actual legitimate home inspection reports with appraisers. Sign it yourself, I’m not participating in desktop only appraisal work.

  4. Avatar Ohio Appraiser says:

    The GSEs have already developed a 1004 Desktop form to remove the need for an appraiser to insert the modified set of Scope of Work, Limiting Conditions, and Certifications to the 1004.

  5. Avatar Tom D says:

    i got paid the same amount for the desktop and full 1004, which i thought was a pay raise. mostly city row homes with lots of mls photos, or refi photos sent by owners. i do a lot of normal driveby appraisals. what is the difference. had the best time doing these driveby covid appraisals, no traffic. loved them. and if i wasn’t sure, i could depart from the exterior, and do an interior. now if the pay is the same, bring them on. now i understand row homes all look alike, so i understand your detached homes concerns. the only problem i could see was that city records wasn’t always right about the gla, but that was a small %.

  6. Avatar Paul says:

    Can someone tell me the approximate number of hours needed to complete a 1004 Desktop Appraisal?


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Desktop Appraisals Soon to Be the New Purchase Wrinkle

by Dave Towne time to read: 2 min