New Professional Requirements, Tech Could Improve Appraisals By Aly Yale

The real estate appraisal process has long been bemoaned as slow, inefficient, and more advantageous to cash buyers, but according to appraisal experts at a recent Urban Institute Housing Finance Policy Center panel, there are ways to change that.

Zach Dawson of Fannie Mae, Pete Carroll of Quicken Loans, David Bunton of The Appraisal Foundation, and Sue Allen of CoreLogic recently took part in a panel discussion on the state of the appraisal industry. Though they had many ideas for how appraisals could be improved, three themes emerged: streamlining the process, reevaluating professional requirements, and embracing new technology.

According to the HFPC, the number of licensed appraisers has dropped significantly over the last 10 years—a problem that can be largely attributed to the volatility in the industry. Data from The Appraisal Foundation shows that state-licensed appraisers dropped from 30,000 to just under 8,000 since 2007.

As Dawson put it, mortgage origination volume is “highly variable,” while the capacity of the industry’s appraisers is fixed. Ultimately, this means a lot of unpredictability in appraiser earnings, appraisal costs, and turn times.

“This disparity became a significant problem in 2016, as the government-sponsored enterprises saw unprecedented levels of appraisals performed by a static number of appraisers,” the HFPC reported. “The unpredictable earning potential for appraisers is a deterrent to new people joining the profession, and increasing education and experience requirements make it hard to become an appraiser.”

The solution? The panelists said it’s time to simplify appraiser qualifications. Carroll suggested removing the college education requirement and shortening the amount of required experience, while Allen suggested alternative educational pathways toward licensing that combine experience and college classes.

To address the issues of slow turn times and inefficiencies, the panel had a few suggestions: shortening the process, requiring only relevant data on appraisals, creating a centralized database of market- and property-level data, and including appraisal alternatives or waivers.

“Technological advances could bring significant improvements (and disruption) to this industry,” the HFPC reported.

These advances though, according to Allen, “must be tailored for specific uses, implementable on a large scale, and cost-effective to minimize errors.”

Ultimately, the HFPC panel found, it will take a combination of all of these efforts to move the industry forward.

“Leaders in the appraisal industry can help by exploring options for entering the profession, simplifying the process, and adopting new technology,” the HFPC reported. “These efforts can improve the real estate appraisal process for everyone, putting mortgage borrowers and cash buyers on more equal footing.”

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