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.