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Appraisal Subcommittee Meets to Address Valuation Bias

HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge (far right at podium) leads the first-ever public hearing on appraisal bias hosted by the Appraisal Subcommittee

The Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) recently held its first-ever public hearing on appraisal bias, bringing together federal agencies, experts from across the mortgage lending and appraisal industries, researchers, and consumers to work toward the fair and accurate valuation of homes for all Americans.

“As the Federal agency charged with oversight of the appraisal regulatory system, we have grown increasingly concerned about the stories of bias that have circulated in the national media in the past several years, as well as recent studies on the topic,” said ASC’s Executive Director Jim Park said at the Hearing. “The ASC is also very concerned about the lack of diversity among appraisers and the excessive barriers to entry that likely deter entry into the profession, particularly for people of color.”

Established by Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), the ASC oversees the real estate appraisal regulatory framework for federally-related transactions. The ASC is a subcommittee of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). The mission of the ASC is to provide federal oversight of state appraiser and appraisal management company (AMC) regulatory programs, and a monitoring framework for the Appraisal Foundation and the Federal Financial Institutions Regulatory Agencies in their roles to protect federal financial and public policy interests in real estate appraisals utilized in federally-related transactions.

The Hearing featured witness testimony from Dr. Junia Howell of the University of Illinois Chicago; homeowners Tenisha Tate-Austin and Paul Austin; Michael Fratantoni, Chief Economist, SVP of Research and Industry Technology of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA); and Craig Steinley, President of the Appraisal Institute. Witnesses reflected on their professional and personal experiences with appraisal bias and provided suggestions to the assembled panel on how to best address this complex and multifaceted issue.

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge delivered opening remarks. Secretary Fudge noted that the overarching goal of the continued work on appraisal bias remains establishing the kind of change that can help “all families, in all neighborhoods, have a better chance at building generational wealth.”

Representatives from all seven agencies comprising the ASC Board asked questions of the witnesses with a focus on the consumer experience, the barriers to entry in the appraisal profession, and the impact on the market.

“It won’t be easy–and nothing worthwhile ever is–but by working together, I’m hopeful we’ll find solutions to these longstanding problems,” Park said. “No one should have to hide who they are to obtain a credible appraisal that is independent, non-bias and performed in a competent manner.”

On behalf of the Appraisal Institute, Steinley offered three suggestions in his testimony to combat appraisal bias:

  • Reconsideration of value/reconsideration of appraisal results
  • Automated valuation models (AVMs)
  • A focus on competency

“Bias in real estate appraisal can be unintentional. To mitigate bias, appraisers should be aware of the potential for bias and base opinions on rigorous analysis and research,” said Steinley in his testimony. “Best practice relies on multiple data sources and techniques to enhance credibility of the opinion of value. As we look for solutions, education and awareness on valuation bias and fair housing by appraisers, appraisal reviewers and those interacting with appraisals is universally accepted as the most direct way to confront and address the challenges of valuation bias.”

Fratantoni added, "MBA supports increasing appraiser accountability, while maintaining appraiser independence. MBA would support having state regulators strengthen their oversight roles by holding appraisers accountable for the quality of the property valuations and any findings of bias. Moreover, MBA would support efforts to bring more independent oversight for appraisers. Finally, MBA supports the objectives of VA’s recent efforts to augment their oversight of appraisers, and we look forward to working with VA to improve and implement these changes."

Members of the public are invited to share their perspective on and experiences with appraisal industry including appraisal bias, suggestions for data and tools that should be made available to help educate consumers about their rights, and topic ideas for future Public Hearings, by sending written comments to [email protected] until Wednesday, February 8, 2023.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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