Two Cheers for an ‘Evolved’ Beltway Entrepreneur… David Bunton

Two Cheers for an Evolved Beltway Entrepreneur... David Bunton. 

We come not to bury David Bunton, the public figure, but to praise David Bunton, the evolved Beltway organism.

Who is David Bunton? Bunton has made a small fortune and canvassed the world at the helm of a 16-employee Washington, D.C., nonprofit that publishes a copyrighted code of conduct. The code gives his tiny fiefdom a big say in how collateral in the nation’s $11 trillion mortgage market is valued. He is a figure with outsized power in an immense market.

His day-to-day funding source? For 30 years, his nonprofit, known as the Appraisal Foundation, has sold copies of its continually changing code to 80,000 captive state-licensed property appraisers. It also controls a monopoly on instructor credentialling and has been able to impose mandatory educational products on appraisers through a spoils pipeline into state regulatory boards and a tiny federal minder run by a former employee of the nonprofit.

He recently issued an ecumenical bull: “Appraisal bias is undoubtedly the most critical issue facing the appraisal profession right now.” With that, he began parroting talking points that accuse the nation’s appraisers of widespread bigotry – a harebrained conspiracy theory that has gained ground in corners of Permanent Washington. The fiction promises big future benefits and power for his nonprofit.

But the appraisers, a vital bulwark in the U.S. mortgage market, should not feel aggrieved or insulted by Bunton’s recent pronouncements. For the long-tenured president of the 501(c)(3) is a highly evolved creature, uniquely adapted to thrive in that insular biome known as The Beltway. As they say about the unusual campus traditions at Texas A&M, ”from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” So, you’ll just have to trust Bunton.

You see, unique evolutionary pressures in this Galapagos-on-the-Potomac have expedited the forces of what biologists call “genetic drift.” It resulted in a highly evolved organism worthy of awe.

The reproductive cycle of the organism is unique. Spawning begins when water temperatures rise to between 65 to 75 degrees in the swamp tributaries. Its young emerge from their mothers’ loins fully formed, sporting $600 haircuts, manicured nails, Patek Philippe wristwatches and smartphones preloaded with contacts on “K” Street. In the case of Bunton, he was born with a powerful musculature, an immaculate push-broom mustache, and a keen appreciation for foreign travel.

Millions of tiny cilia – each 10,000 times more sensitive than the human nose – aid the organism in detecting sources of cash, junkets, power, sinecures, sweetheart investments, braised short ribs glazed with 100-year-old balsamic and desserts served in Baccarat crystal.

These cilia are contained in hundreds of cytoplasmic nodules near the organism’s olfactory nerve deep inside a central proboscis. The cilia are able to detect spoils in concentrations as low as one part per million. The non-homologous organism then attaches to the source in much the same way the red-tipped tube worm attaches to superheated hydrothermal vents at extreme ocean depths.

The creature has now detected the prospects of future cash in a cultural spasm in America that began around the time of the George Floyd killing. Bunton has now embraced a conspiracy theory stoked by those with an interest in weakening appraisers. These are the fintechs, nonbank lenders, homebuilders and Realtors and their allies, Fannie and Freddie. The wild narrative has been gaining ground in the D.C. cesspool. It holds that the nation’s appraisers are responsible for America’s racial wealth gap. The simplistic shoot-the-messenger rationale couldn’t be more daft. It’s equivalent to holding the nation’s thermometers to account for climate change.

Oft-cited research by the Brookings Institution has since been discredited (as has Brookings itself in recent payola allegations involving a foreign government). A handful of performative lawsuits, bankrolled by donation-seeking public-interest groups, have yet to be adjudicated. In an August 2021 report, the U.S. Federal Reserve looked for signs of racial discrimination in mortgage approvals using new data. It found no signs of discrimination.

“On a personal note,” wrote Bunton in his February 2023 newsletter, “I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the ABC documentary ‘Our America: Lowballed’ at the Brookings Institute with Foundation Trustee Jillian White who is featured in the film. It was gut-wrenching to hear stories from Black and brown families who have had to whitewash their homes in the face of appraisal bias. The differences in the appraisals they received were appalling. There is so much work that remains to be done on the issue of appraisal bias.”

Bunton, who is not an appraiser, is now squarely promoting the fiction that appraisers value homes based on the race of the property owner.

“Appraisal bias is undoubtedly the most critical issue facing the appraisal profession right now.” That’s his new message. His medium? The PDF he sells to captive licensees at $75 a pop as a corrective. That’s all you need to know.

Jeremy Bagott
Jeremy Bagott

Jeremy Bagott

Jeremy Bagott is a real estate appraiser and former newspaperman. His most recent book, “The Ichthyologist’s Guide to the Subprime Meltdown,” is a concise almanac that distills the cataclysmic financial crisis of 2007-2008 to its essence. This pithy guide to the upheaval includes essays, chronologies, roundups and key lists, weaving together the stories of the politics-infused Freddie and Fannie; the doomed Wall Street investment banks Lehman and Bear Stearns; the dereliction of duty by the Big Three credit-rating services; the mayhem caused by the shadowy nonbank lenders; and the massive government bailouts. It provides a rapid-fire succession of “ah-hah” moments as it lays out the meltdown, convulsion by convulsion.

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27 Responses

  1. Avatar Bruce W Lennick says:

    Over 30 years of appraising, I can tell you, this guy does not know what he is talking about. I was on the fence about retiring, but after reading what this guy has to say, goodbye to a profession that I have enjoyed for most of 30 years. It is people like him that distort the profession by the actions of only a handful of people. This whole “woke” society is more at sleep than they realize. And I feel sorry for the appraisers that are just starting out. Get rid of this guy and get someone in there that knows what they’re talking about or boycott the Appraisal Foundation.

  2. Avatar JM2C says:

    I had no idea he wasn’t an appraiser. I’m shocked that a person who runs an organization called the APPRAISAL Foundation isn’t an appraiser.

    • Avatar MD appraiser says:

      Maybe one of us should apply to be president of the American Bar Association

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      What a revelation. Those of us whom are not AI members had no idea. For those whom are AI members and failed to correct this egregious error, it is their reputations whom are tarnished alongside. How could they let it go this far without some internal reform? This industry has shed something to the tune of 140,000 licensees in the past decade. Anyone whom thinks this is acceptable should not be in a position of leadership. Anyone whom fails or refuses to acknowledge this is largely the fault of appraisal management companies as well as pandering to avm and lender interests has failed in their duty to uphold the peer standard. We need to revisit the management rule. This is the best article ever posted on this blog. I may just retire from blogging, it’s that good. Nothing will ever best this.

      • Avatar JM2C says:

        Baggins, you’re confusing The Appraisal Foundation (TAF) with the Appraisal Institute (AI). The president of AI is Craig Steinley and he’s an appraiser. The author’s article is about TAF president David Bunton who is not an appraiser. I’m not a fan of either organizations.

        • Baggins Baggins says:

          Well I’m obviously not actually the right person for that position. Sorry, I’ll request an edit below too. The point remains, somewhere way above me, severe industry mis management. Thanks.

  3. Avatar brady Gustafson says:

    I also think that the Brookings Study was useless because it had nothing to do with appraisals, but not sure why you state that Brookings was discredited because John Allen resigned. I think you would mean to say that John Allen was discredited because of actions John Allen took. Seems like an important distinction to me.

  4. Avatar Bruce W Lennick says:

    If I were younger, but someone really needs to be in there that actually knows appraisal work and not somebody like this that turns on the very people that support him and his organization.

  5. Avatar Frank Wilson says:

    I have no doubt he knows this is a nothingburger…but its a nothingburger hes gonna make bank on! From now on when I do an appraisal I will use “documentary” for all my sources.
    I recently watched a documentary, PizzaGate:The Documentary, which is just as factual, if not moreso. I was so moved by those that have been abused by those in similar positions to Mr. Bunton and he needs to be investigated immediately so we know hes not involved, just for the public trust of course.

  6. Avatar Mark Davis says:

    Well said. If only Washington, DC swamp rats would read it. Not many people, even appraisers, realize how the Appraisal Foundation is working to destroy the appraisal industry with politics.

  7. Avatar Dan Swango says:

    Right on – and well written.

  8. Avatar Pat says:

    I hope we are around long enough to see the ULTIMATE outcome of this pure pile of bovine excrement!

  9. If bias is the biggest issue facing appraisers today, per DB, then it happened under his leadership. I guess he failed to do his job.

  10. Avatar Anna Renard says:

    I remember the night I had a conversation with Dave concerning appraiser issues and trying to be profitable in business world after Dodd-Frank. I asked him if he remembered doing appraisals before (assuming he hadn’t completed one since he was working for AF). He told me he had never completed an appraisal and was never an appraiser. I was literally dumbfounded. After I digested the information I said, “Then why am I talking to you? You will never understand.”
    How can you be the President of something that you have never experienced in your life? It truly is dumbfounding.0

  11. Baggins Baggins says:

    Edited comment, thank you. Asked moderator to replace my previous comment, trying to have better focus.

    Who would not be incredibly upset at these revelations, as we’ve struggled for the past decade. Why did nobody above us ever do something about this egregious mis management from improperly qualified people? This own groups funds are used against the best interests of most appraisers. It’s like the appraisal groups managers believe it is their job to cause there to be constantly fewer appraisers over time, cause us all this harm, never provide effective solutions. This egregious mismanagement has cost well over 140,000 appraisers their established career cycles. In turn stripped away incentives so that an untold volume of potential new appraisers never materialized.

    Reform requests: USPAP online free, wholesale charge for printed, put that on a 5-10 year cycle. Better qualification testing including more attention to regulatory structure. Advocate to EO insurers for separated insurance for hybrid remote eval type work. Scrap the idea of certifying avm’s. Reform PAREA to incentivize new hires, while keeping apprentice hourly requirements, namely by demanding Dodd Frank Reg Z C&R $10k/$20k finally be properly implemented, using the VA schedule fees as an initial guide. Advocate for a reducing demins lending thresh hold, as well tirelessly arguing for expansion rather than contraction of full service appraisal requests. Reform election processes to leadership and board positions to a democratic vote based system which allows access to every single licensed appraiser, diminish the ‘stake holders’ and insiders club strangle hold on this industry. Branch out and grow ranks by drawing up additional accreditation programs to include auto art jewelry and other specialties, promote them more broadly, work to grow rather than shrink the volume of licensed appraisers. Take Brookings Institute to court on behalf of all appraisers and fund legal defense programs on behalf of appraisers being harmed by their false accusations of appraiser racism. Limit management compensation programs substantially. Fire the incompetent bozos.

    The real cost of the State is the prosperity we do not see, the jobs that don’t exist, the technologies to which we do not have access, the businesses that do not come into existence, and the bright future that is stolen from us. The State has looted us just as surely as a robber who enters our home at night and steals all that we love. Bastiat

  12. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Off with his head!

  13. Retired Appraiser Retired Appraiser says:

    Very nice investigative reporting Baggins. Four thumbs up. File under “Exposed Legitimate Criminal Activity”.

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Dude, I’m not the author of this article. I also called for edit of comment. Think logically, totally different writing style. However, I must say this guy’s unique take on the matter has been inspiring. Who’s sailing this ship? Maybe people in the know can shed further light.

      Edit; If I’ve misread your comment and that was an actual complement, sorry about that and thank you. If not, I’ll hop back into ms paint. Nobody actually wants that.

  14. Avatar Honest Appraiser says:

    The King Cobra Baggot speaks truth.
    These “people” in DC are NOT our friends..
    They have NO idea or concern of the unintended and/or intended consequences of their actions outside the Beltline
    WE are just supposed to abide without conversation

    Just as our Congress has told us.. “we have to pass it first before we will know what’s in it.”
    Trainwrecks and $Millions to shoot down balloons
    Dudd-Fwank needs some damn Revisions

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      I’m confused what’s going on here. To reiterate, the cobra effect is Mr Bagotts book presentation. He’s an author out of CA if I understand that correctly. We’ve never met and we’ve never talked. I’m the nobody from Colorado who posts online a lot. Don’t call me if there is a stray cobra anywhere, I’m not offering any official services for that particular market segment.

      Did you ever see that 10 days in a transparent box with venomous snakes challenge? It was called Venom in Vegas. My life is like that moment the black mamba snake defied the laws of physics, standing on it’s tippy tail to extend horizontally nearly the entire length of it’s body, I think it became 8 ft tall, cold staring at the guy trying to take a nap on the upper shelf. They actually removed that snake earlier than scheduled. I tried to find a photo for you, not online anymore. It was a viral photo at the time, nobody knew that large of a snake could actually balance in such a manner to go straight horizontal while maintaining a strike ready pose. I might just buy the dvd just to get that photo for a meme. Wake me when it’s over.

  15. Baggins Baggins says:

    Jeremy be like; bag it and tag it. His next article is even better. I won’t be able to retire from blogging with this much intrigue ongoing.


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Two Cheers for an ‘Evolved’ Beltway Entrepreneur… David Bunton

by Jeremy Bagott time to read: 3 min