many home sales — has been taken up by industry trade groups.
The National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders have both identified issues surrounding appraisals as a factor putting a damper on sales of new and existing homes in May — the first month new rules governing appraisals conducted on loans slated for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took effect.
NAR has asked the regulator that oversees Fannie and Freddie to suspend the rules for 18 months, saying they may not be working as intended.
Although existing-home sales picked up slightly in May — posting the first back-to-back monthly increases since the fall of 2005 — the 2.4 percent increase was less than would have been expected from a previous rise in pending sales, NAR says.
Many contracts fell through in May because of “faulty valuations” that kept buyers from getting a loan, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said when the group released the latest numbers on sales of existing homes.
Stories of appraisal problems “have been snowballing from across the country,” he said. Some lenders may be using appraisers who are unfamiliar with a neighborhood, or who compare traditional homes with distressed and discounted sales, Yun said.
Sales of new homes were virtually flat in May, and one of the factors limiting sales was the use of foreclosures and short sales as “comps” and the affect on appraisals of nearby homes, NAHB said.
NAHB is calling for new guidelines for appraisals of properties in areas with large numbers of distressed properties, that would include giving appraisers the option of expanding the geographic area or time frame for eligible sales to get a more representative take on home sales in the area.
Because appraisers can’t inspect the interiors of many properties that are used as comps, they may not be aware of maintenance issues or damage that are common with foreclosed properties, NAHB said. The failure to adjust comparable values of foreclosed and distressed homes often results in the undervaluation of new homes, the group maintains.
In a June 22 letter to the federal regulator that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, NAR placed much of the blame for problematic appraisals on the Home Valuation Code of Conduct — new rules governing appraisals conducted on loans slated for purchase by Fannie and Freddie that went into effect May 1.