Two Ideas for Appraisal Reform

Lawrence Yun of NAR is complaining that appraisals are preventing legitimate real estate transactions from occurring. Because of the way appraisers sometimes choose comparables, I have some sympathy for this view. And as I noted in an earlier post, Rhonda Porter says the Home Value Code of Conduct is nothing more than a way to line the pockets of Appraisal Management Companies. I have some sympathy for this view as well.

But we should not go back to the days when appraisers were basically paid to stay out of the way of the consummation of a deal. So let me suggest two proposals:

(1) Appraisers should not be allowed to see the offer price of a house. This is the only way their valuation will be truly independent.

(2) Appraisers should use valuation techniques that allow them to report a standard deviation of their estimate. Subdivision tract houses will have small standard deviations; architect designed villas will have large standard deviations.

We could then move to a pricing rule where Mortgage Insurance will be required if (1) the LTV based on appraised value is greater than 80 percent or (2) there is a greater than five percent chance that the true value of the house implies an LTV of 95 percent.

Step (1) would be easy to implement, and I think would help a lot. Step (2) will require lots of training (and perhaps different parameters from those that I am suggesting).

We need to stop kidding ourselves that we can measure house prices precisely. We need to start measuring the level of imprecision.

About Richard K. Green 102 Articles

Affiliation: University of Southern California

Richard K. Green, Ph.D., is the Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. He holds the Lusk Chair in Real Estate and is Professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development and the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Prior to joining the USC faculty, Dr. Green spent four years as the Oliver T. Carr, Jr., Chair of Real Estate Finance at The George Washington University School of Business. He was Director of the Center for Washington Area Studies and the Center for Real Estate and Urban Studies at that institution. Dr. Green also taught real estate finance and economics courses for 12 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was Wangard Faculty Scholar and Chair of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics. He also has been principal economist and director of financial strategy and policy analysis at Freddie Mac.

His research addresses housing markets, housing policy, tax policy, transportation, mortgage finance and urban growth. He is a member of two academic journal editorial boards, and a reviewer for several others.

His work is published in a number of journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Journal of Urban Economics, Land Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Real Estate Economics, Housing Policy Debate, Journal of Housing Economics, and Urban Studies.

His book with Stephen Malpezzi, A Primer on U.S. Housing Markets and Housing Policy, is used at universities throughout the country. His work has been cited or he has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and the Economist, as well as other outlets.

Dr. Green earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his A.B. in economics from Harvard University.

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