Fannie Mae Frequently Asked Questions
Did you remember that Fannie Mae maintains a “Frequently Asked Questions” feature on its website. It was last updated May 15, 2015. It is only 11 pages with 46 questions. I highly recommend that you take a look at it. I bet you will find helpful information on it that you never knew before.
The following are a few of the FAQ’s:
Q7. Why does Fannie Mae require the lender to provide the sales contract to the appraiser?
Fannie Mae’s policy is intended to help ensure that the appraiser is aware of all relevant aspects of the transaction. The sales contract provides important sales and financing data, including whether there are any concessions as part of the transaction. If the contract is amended, the lender must provide the updated contract to the appraiser to ensure that the appraiser has been given the opportunity to consider any changes and their effect on value. If the appraiser determines that there is no impact to value, then no additional commentary is required from the appraiser.
Q11. Is it acceptable for an appraiser to obtain and provide the required interior photographs at the time of the inspection for the Appraisal Update and/or Completion Report (Form 1004D)?
Yes. If the property being appraised is proposed or at a stage of construction where the required photographs cannot be obtained, they may be obtained at the time of the inspection for the Certification of Completion and provided with the Form 1004D.
Q12. If an appraiser provides an Appraisal Update and reports an increased value, can the lender utilize the value increase to underwrite the loan in process?
No. The purpose of the Appraisal Update portion of the Form 1004D is to indicate whether the value has remained the same or decreased. If the value has increased, the lender would need to obtain a new appraisal that reflects the increase in value in order to utilize the higher appraised value in underwriting the loan.
Q17. Are the trends that are reported on the Market Conditions Addendum to the Appraisal Report (Form 1004MC) the same trends that are to be reported in the One-Unit Housing Trends section of the appraisal report (Form 1004)?
Yes. The conclusions regarding trends that are obtained from the Form 1004MC must be the same trends reported in the Neighborhood trends section of the Form 1004. The information reported on both forms must be consistent to provide the lender with a clear and accurate understanding of the market trends and conditions present in the subject neighborhood, based on properties that are considered competitive with the subject being appraised.
Q19. Will Fannie Mae accept a loan for which the lender has requested the appraiser to appraise only a portion of a larger piece of property?
No. Fannie Mae expects that the appraisal will reflect the value attributable to the entire property. It is important for the underwriter and Fannie Mae to fully understand the value of the entire property that is serving as security for the loan.
Q23. Are loans secured by unique or non-traditional homes eligible for delivery to Fannie Mae?
Yes. Fannie Mae does purchase loans secured by unique or non-traditional housing types, such as, but not limited to, log homes, earth berm homes, and geodesic domes, which can be located in all areas, including rural locations. Loans on these types of properties are eligible for delivery to Fannie Mae provided the appraiser has adequate information to develop a reliable opinion of market value.
Q30. What is expected with regard to the appraiser’s inspection of a property?
Fannie Mae requires that the appraiser conduct a complete visual inspection of the accessible areas of the interior and exterior of the property. The appraiser is responsible for noting in his/her report any adverse conditions (such as, but not limited to, needed repairs; deterioration; or the presence of hazardous wastes, toxic substances, or adverse environmental conditions) that were apparent during the inspection of the property or that he/she became aware of during the research involved in performing the appraisal. The appraiser is expected to consider and describe the overall condition and quality of the property and identify items that require immediate repair as well as items where maintenance may have been deferred and which may not require immediate repair. On the other hand, an appraiser is not responsible for hidden or unapparent conditions. In addition, Fannie Mae does not consider the appraiser to be an expert in all fields, such as environmental hazards. In situations where an adverse property condition may be observed by the appraiser but the appraiser is not qualified to decide whether that condition requires immediate repair (such as the presence of mold, an active roof leak, settlement in the foundation, etc.), the property must be appraised subject to an inspection by a qualified professional. In such cases, the lender may need to ask the appraiser to update his or her appraisal based on the results of the inspection, in which case the appraiser would incorporate the results of the inspection and measure the impact, if any, on his or her final opinion of market value.
Q33. Can the appraiser use comparable sales that closed over twelve months ago?
Yes. The best and most appropriate sales may not always be the most recent. A sale more than 12 months old may be more appropriate in situations when market conditions have impacted the availability of recent sales as long as the appraiser reflects the changing market conditions. Additionally, older comparable sales that are the best indicator of value for the subject property can be used if they are appropriate. For example, if the subject property is located in a rural area that has minimal sales activity, the appraiser may not be able to locate three truly comparable sales that sold within the last twelve months. In this case, the appraiser may use older comparable sales as long as he or she explains why they are being used.
FHA Bailout Imminent?
by Henry S. Harrison
The FHA was founded as a government agency as part of the National Housing Act in 1934. For the first time since its creation, it may require a financial bailout from the U.S. Treasury (a.k.a. the U.S. tax payers) so I thought it would be worthwhile sharing my understanding of the FHA and shedding some light on the looming bailout.
The tow major goals of the FHA is to (1) improve housing standards and conditions and (2) provide an adequate home financing system through insurance of mortgage loans. Another goal stated in the National Housing Act of 1934 was for the FHA to help stabilize the mortgage market. The Commissioner of the FHA is Carol Galante.
Historically, the FHA has done much more than insure single family houses. In 1935, Colonial Village in Arlington, Virginia was the first large-scale, rental housing project erected in the United States that was Federal Housing Administration-insured.[During World War II, the FHA financed a number of workers housing projects including the Kensington Gardens Apartment Complex in Buffalo, New York]. It also insured nursing homes. Currently, the FHA has about 4.8 million insured single family mortgages and 13,000 insured multifamily projects in its portfolio.
While a government agency seeking more funding isn’t exactly unheard of, the FHA is required by Congress to keep enough cash on-hand to cover expenses at all times. The initial estimates as to how much the FHA might require in taxpayer assistance are said to be around $943 million, according to the Boston Herald. The nearly-$1 billion dollar bailout would be for loans insured by the FHA that were posted as losses. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) stated, “It's of great concern to us.”
The FHA has until Sept. 30 to make a decisions as to whether or not they’ll actually require the money in order to continue operation. The Treasury, which does not require Congressional approval, would be providing the bailout which means it would be paid for by the taxpayers.
There has been suggestions that the FHA take over the running of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Can you imagine what it will be like if that happened?
Welcome to the Real Estate Valuation Magazine Online Fall 2013 Issue.
We did not run a Summer 2013 issue of the magazine because this summer has been a difficult time for me. In May, I was diagnosed with Shingles which penetrated my sciatic nerve, causing severe pain down my right leg and into my foot. For June, July and most of August I was wheelchair-bound because the disease affected my balance and walking was very painful.
I have taken the summer off to get well, and while I still have pain in my big toe, but I am relieved to report that I am feeling better and stronger every day. The road to recovery is long, but my condition has improved enough that I feel confident returning to work at this time.
There have been many interesting developments in the appraisal field during the summer. After five years, we are still feeling the lasting effects of the foreclosure crisis. We are getting reports that the flow of appraisal work is slowing down after a bit of an up swing this past spring and summer.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about Life After Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so the editorial of this issue takes a closer look at the Rise and Fall of these two agencies. While some people are calling for the FHA to take over Freddie and Fannie, I am more concerned that FHA may also needing a financial bailout.
Speaking of the FHA, any appraiser who is doing FHA appraisals needs a laundry list of publications (nearly 350 pages in total). While these documents are available across the FHA website. I personally find the FHA website to be abysmal to navigate. Given how cumbersome it is to download these documents individually, I have compiled all of these resources into a packaged set available for purchase today!
With that introduction, we hope you will enjoy the Fall 2013 Issue of the magazine. Our son, H Alex continues to be actively be involved with producing the magazine as our editor. As always, if you have appraisal questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. For technical issues or other general questions regarding REV, or our website, please email our editor, H Alex Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. For information about free listings and advertising in our publications email: email@example.com
Photo credit: Fresh Home.
Real Estate Appraisers — whose livelihood is closely tied to the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — as a group seem to be ignoring how the future of these two organizations will affect their businesses. The latest figures show that these two giants are now guaranteeing about 90% of all the single family home mortgages in the US.
On December 29, 2000, the price of Fannie Mae stock hit an all-time high of $86.75 per share. Eleven years later, it hit rock bottom at a low of $0.20 per share. As of September 18, 2013, it closed at $1.17 per share. So the question remains, why is it trading at all, given the government takeover?
The answer is there are a number of people and hedge funds who believe that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will survive the present governmental conservatorship and will once again become publicly traded companies. What makes this unlikely, in my opinion, is that the government created a new government senior preferred shares which placed the common stock last in line to receive any assets of the company that remain if and when the conservatorship is terminated. If you are looking for a very long shot investment, Fannie Mae stock should be considered. Your stock broker should be able to tell you how to do this. However, this is not a recommendation.
Most appraisers know that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in trouble. But who they are and what they have done politically to prompt the federal government to announce it is standing by with a possible multibillion-dollar bailout remains unknown to most.
Here is their history.
Do you have an explanation as to why Fannie Mae allows the cost approach to be used for determining adequacy of insurance limits? Let me explain.
“The lender wants to be sure the property owner carries adequate insurance to protect the lender.”
If this were the case, why would the lender request the cost approach? The cost approach is a new construction based estimate, not the cost to rebuild after a loss. It may be more accurate to say that lenders need documentation to satisfy Fannie Mae requirements to sell their mortgages into the secondary market. The estimate from the cost approach will satisfy Fannie Mae, but that wouldn’t be adequate insurance to protect the borrower or the lenders’ collateral. The insurance industry has different cost guides.
- Marshall & Swift/Boeckh – RCT & BVS (not the same cost guide as the MVS books)
- Xactware – 360-Value
These are all reconstruction based replacement cost estimating tools. Borrowers that are advised to set their insurance limits based on the “replacement cost” estimate in the cost approach section of the real estate appraisal will be underinsured. They won’t have enough to fully recover from a total loss, and they’ll be in jeopardy of a coinsurance penalty on any partial losses.
So I ask again, can you explain why Fannie Mae allows the cost approach to be used for determining adequacy of insurance limits?
Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac do not require the Cost Approach but permit its use when the appraiser thinks it is necessary. If in your scope of work dialogue with the lender/client a cost approach is asked for I see nothing to prevent you from providing it. I do believe that the reproduction cost you provide could be useful to the lender. I don't understand why using the reproduction cost would result in the property being under insured. There are a variety of ways homeowner insurance policies are written concerning what definition of value will be used to determine the amount of a claim or the amount of insurance needed.
Many insurance policies are based on the Actual Cash Value of the improvements. This is the depreciated value of the improvements. It does not include the value of the site and site improvements. Some insurance policies are based on replacement cost of the improvements. Usually this is less than the reproduction cost. The URAR begins the cost approach with an estimate of the "Reproduction Cost."
FHFA Sends Congress Strategic Plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Conservatorships
FHFA identifies three strategic goals for the next phase of the conservatorships:
• Build. Build a new infrastructure for the secondary mortgage market;
• Contract. Gradually contract the Enterprises’ dominant presence in the marketplace while simplifying and shrinking their operations; and
• Maintain. Maintain foreclosure prevention activities and credit availability for new and refinanced mortgages.
“With the conservatorships operating for more than three years and no near-term resolution in sight, it is time to update and extend the goals and directions of the conservatorships,” DeMarco wrote. “FHFA is contemplating next steps to build an infrastructure for the secondary mortgage market that is consistent with existing policy proposals and will support any outcome of the leading legislative proposals. FHFA looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration on a resolution of the conservatorships and a comprehensive review of the nation’s housing finance system,” said DeMarco.
Link to February 2010 letter
July 27th, 2011
FHFA Sues UBS to Recover Losses to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Washington, DC – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), has filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York against UBS Americas, Inc., and related defendants alleging violations of federal securities laws in the sale of residential private-label mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to the Enterprises. FHFA seeks to recover losses and damages sustained by the Enterprises as a result of their investments in UBS Securities.
The lawsuit alleges that UBS Americas made numerous material misstatements and omissions about the mortgage loans underlying the private-label MBS, including the creditworthiness of the borrowers and the quality of the origination and underwriting practices used to evaluate and approve such loans. The defendants also failed to conduct adequate due diligence. This lawsuit seeks to recoup the losses suffered by the Enterprises related to their $4.5 billion investment in securities sold by UBS.
As conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, FHFA is charged with preserving and conserving the assets of the Enterprises. Through this lawsuit and additional lawsuits expected to follow, FHFA seeks to recover losses suffered by the Enterprises in connection with the Enterprises’ investments in private-label securities.
“FHFA is taking this action consistent with our responsibilities as conservator of each Enterprise,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “From the issuance of 64 subpoenas last year to the filing of this lawsuit and further actions to come, we continue to seek redress for the losses suffered by the Enterprises.”
The defendants named in the lawsuit are UBS Americas, Inc., UBS Real Estate Securities Inc., UBS Securities, LLC, Mortgage Asset Securitization Transactions, Inc., and former UBS executives David Martin, Per Dyrvick, Hugh Corcoran, and Peter Slagowitz.
If a floundering submarine has sunk and is now taking on water, why in the "h***" would anyone stay on board? Gee, that sounds like Fannie/Freddie......morally, ethically, financially — and now intellectually — bankrupt. Why would anyone listen to their 'guidelines' and/or the 'new' UAD? I know that I am not writing this as a lone wolf, as over 51% of the appraisers would rather be pursuing some other career at this point. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Fannie is trading 'OTC' at .39 cents a share! Wow — how the mighty have fallen from a high of around $65.00 a share!! I sure am glad that I told our investment club not to invest in Fannie 6 years ago. I could smell it coming. Apple Computer has done better with a pay-off well in the 5 figures as an investment.
I see Fannie/Freddie as just another failed institution. So: UAD — why, and who cares? Like a loan officer once told me, "You know, Don, the more paper work that is required by Fannie/Freddie, the better the loan..." (Of course, he was kidding!)
Seems the powers that be are determined to take the 'art' out of appraising. That's something to think about.
I am sure many appraisers would agree with your desire that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disappear. Buying their stock now is like buying a lottery ticket. In my opinion, they may change their names and they may become government agencies again, but they are not going to go away. Freddie and Fannie play a key role in the mortgage market that may be impossible to replace, at least in the short term. I agree that it is unlikely the UAD will make much difference in the quality of appraisals. This is not its primary purpose, which is to standardize the way appraisals are electronically transmitted. However, after studying the UAD for over three months in preparation for writing the UAD/URAR guide, I don't think there is anything in the UAD that prevents an appraiser from producing a quality appraisal and complying with the USPAP.
The computer, unfortunately, has contributed to removing the "art" from appraising. I agree with you that appraising is not a science, and that making good appraisals is really an art.
FHFA Before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government-Sponsored Enterprises
Chairman Garrett, Ranking Member Waters and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to speak this morning on the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) role as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) and on proposals regarding the future of the Enterprises...
It is critically important that Congress and the Administration begin the work to define the longterm structure of housing finance. While substantive disagreements about the features of that structure exist, there is near universal agreement that we should not follow the old paradigm. We appreciate the efforts that the Sub-committee has taken to start this process... Read More...
The UAD is scheduled to go into effect September 1st, 2011. What will happen to the UAD requirements if Fannie and Freddie are no longer around in September?
It's anyone's guess how long Fannie and Freddie will "be around". However, I'm a betting man and will accept reasonable wagers that both of these so-called Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) will be around on September 1, 2011. I might even consider a bet on September 1, 2012.
In my Editorial in the Fall 2010 online issue of Real Estate Valuation Magazine, I addressed the issue of whether we still need Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I offered some solutions as to what I felt would be a prudent solution to Fannie and Freddie's future.
This week, President Obama released the Administration’s plan for dealing with Freddie and Fannie in the context of the entire home mortgage market, entitled “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market – A Report to Congress, February 2011."
Some of the report's major recommendations include:
- Winding down Fannie and Freddie to a revised role in the mortgage market
- Implementing immediate improvements to mortgage servicing and foreclosure processing by establishing national standards for both activities
- Setting goals and targets to reduce the FHA's role in new mortgage production.
- Reducing conforming loan limits.
- Reducing the portfolio size of mortgages held by government housing finance agencies.
- Increasing the required down payment to a minimum of 10% over a phase-in period.
- Raising insurance premiums for government guarantees on mortgage products.
- Returning FHA to its traditional role as the target lender of affordable mortgages.
- Using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to empower consumers to make better informed decisions and avoid unfair lending practices.
- Reforming the securitization market for home financing by increasing its regulation and monitoring.
- Reforming servicing compensation and mortgages to eliminate the differences between first and second mortgages.
- Revising goals and practices for how affordable housing and rentals will be supported by the government.
This is an overview of the Administration’s plan, which must be passed by Congress before it can be implemented. It affects the well being of some of the most powerful corporations and other interests in the country, represented by very powerful lobbies. In addition, the views of the political parties are very far apart on what needs to be done. This plan is just the first step in what is going to be a long and hard battle in Congress.
The entire Obama proposal (31 pages), which is summarized in this article, can be downloaded by clicking here.
My editorial containing some different ideas about what should be done is available in the Fall 2010 REV Magazine, downloadable at: http://www.revmag.com/downloads
I am appraising a home that is yet to be completely finished. The subject is a new construction property, and the owners are looking for permanent financing. One staircase is missing a handrail; however, a door at the top has been blocked-off in order to prevent anyone from using the stairs. (I know in the past handrails were required on anything over three steps, but is that still the case?) Also, the balcony railing has yet to be installed, but a temporary railing has been securely attached to the balcony; is this acceptable per Fannie Mae guidelines? Barricading the door and the temporary balcony rail do meet our local codes.
In general, Fannie Mae requires that the house be complete prior to finalizing longterm financing. You should describe any items that you observe that are not complete. You should emphasize any unfinished items that present a safety hazard. If required by your scope of work agreement with the lender/client, you should provide an estimate of what it will cost to complete the house. If you are in an area where a Certificate of Occupancy is issued by the local building authority, you should report on whether one has been issued, and if it contains any conditions regarding what must still be completed.
I am seeing appraisers applying time adjustments in a wide variety of ways. It would be good if everyone were on the same page!
The Fannie Mae guideline on time adjustments says that if the sale is over 3 months old, you should apply a time adjustment. Does this mean that if the sale is under 3 months old, no time adjustment is required, even though the market is declining? Should the time adjustment be from the date of contract to the subject appraisal date, or to 3 months prior to the subject appraisal date? I have been unable to find an answer to this question anywhere. I am making time adjustments on all comparables up to the effective date of the subject appraisal, but don't know if I am being overly conservative. Thank you in advance for your help.
The Fannie Mae guidelines (which Fannie Mae points out are just guidelines, and not mandatory requirements) suggest that a time adjustment is desirable for comparable sales that are over 3 months old. When you don't comply with a Fannie Mae guideline, I recommend that you put a comment in your appraisal report explaining why you made this decision. This will be helpful to readers (and reviewers) of your report. This 3-month guideline does not imply that a time adjustment is unnecessary when the period is less than three months, if the appraiser thinks one is necessary.
I am appraising a four unit property that has all four units rented. Page 1 asks me the property rights. Do I check leasehold, fee simple, or other. There are some education courses stating that if one of the units is rented, then it is leased fee and the appraiser should check the box “other” on page 1 and call it leased fee.
My question is what is the appraiser supposed to mark at this time? If it is a leasehold, or leased fee, does the appraiser then mark the comparables as leased fee if the appraiser can verify leases? What if the appraiser cannot verify the leases for the comparables — are they then marked "fee simple"?
What is page 1 asking? Aren't they asking for the rights that transfer if the property sells? Would it not be common for the complete rights to be transferred with the Leased Fee interest referring back to the Leaseholder at the time of transfer; therefore, wouldn't the transfer be fee simple as the whole bundle of rights are transferred to a new owner?
What is the correct way in the eyes of Fannie Mae to complete page 1 if the subjects 4 units are under lease? I need some definitive clarification on this as I am seeing many different takes on this. I have always considered such properties "fee simple" because the duration of the leases are short term. I am not addressing land leases. Owner of land is also owner of the improvements, who is leasing four units to renters on a yearly lease. Please help!
It sounds like you are doing a mortgage appraisal that is going to be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They are only interested in property that is owned in fee simple, so that is what you should indicate on the form. If there is a long lease on the property, at some rent other than market rent, you would have to deal with the possibility that there is a leasehold interest on the part of the tenant. That is very unusual in a four family dwelling.
However, when you appraise any property that is leased, you have to be careful that there is nothing unusual in the lease. I recommend — as part of your dialogue with the lender/client — that you tell them you must have copies of all the leases. If they are not obtainable, you are going to have to say this in the appraisal report, and then make some about the key features of the leases. This is not going to make anyone happy. If you decide go this route, you should get permission in writing to do this from the lender/client before you proceed, only to find out later that the appraisal is not acceptable to them. If you are, in fact, doing a leasehold interest appraisal, you need to have a clear understanding with the lender/client as to what you are doing and for whom!
I have been an appreciative customer and fan of your publications for decades. However, in your current online REV Magazine where an appraiser is complaining about having to take lots of comp photos, I submit the following sample of a letter received from one of our clients in this regard:
"There is commentary in the Addendum stating: "Some MLS photographs are used for comparable sales, as it had not been determined at the time of the property appraisal inspection which comparables would be most appropriate to use in the sales comparison approach." In the Appraiser's Certification, under Scope of Work (#3) [typically page 4 of the URAR form], it states: The appraiser must inspect each of the comparable sales from at least the street. Please address whether or not the appraiser inspected the comparables used in the appraisal report.”
Our clients insist that if the appraiser inspected the comps (as the Appraiser’s Certification indicates), then why couldn't they takea picture to show they were there? They can provide MLS photos in addition, if they better represent the property. Hopefully you can get the word out as to why this is simply good practice, as not doing so can delay the mortgage process.
A Concerned Fellow Appraiser
Name and email withheld by request
Keep in mind that the USPAP does not even require the the property be inspected. The URAR Fannie Mae #1004 - Freddie Mac #70 was created by Fannie and Freddie to codify some of their "Scope of Work" requirements which they require from Lenders selling mortgages to them.
I agree that in this age of digital cameras (and camera enabled cel phones) it would be prudent for the appraiser to photograph every potential comparable sale they inspect, and then select those photographs later for the comparable sales they use in the report. If the MLS photograph provides better information about the comparable sale, it should also be included in the report. The USPAP requires that there be a dialogue between the lender/client or their representative as what they require for each appraisal. This would be the appropriate place for the photo requirement to be communicated to the appraiser.
Back in the 1980s, we had a large appraisal company which at its peak had about 50 appraisers. This was before digital cameras were common. We had special 35mm cameras that recorded the date, time and address of each photograph. We required that our appraisers photograph every potential comparable sale when they inspected them from the street. We also keep all of these photos in the permanent work files. It was costly at the time, but in our judgment a worthwhile requirement. Now, with digital cameras and cheap CDs, mini-zip drives, and other storage capacity, I recommend that all appraisers follow this procedure.
Dear Henry & The Editor,
Regarding your short article on the need for Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. The following quote was from your article:
“From before the end of World War II, it was axiomatic in the minds of most Americans and reflected in the thinking of Congress and the various Presidential Administrations (both Republican and Democratic) that rising home ownership was desirable.”
“These people choose to ignore the two major problems caused by homeownership: the lack of mobility of the labor force at a time when moving was often the best way to get a new job; and the high use of energy caused by suburban living (large inefficient houses and excessive use of automobiles).”
I think this reasoning is incomplete insofar as it does not delve deep enough into the rationale that grew up around the home ownership bandwagon.
After years of decline, many urban planners began to see that their forays into social engineering in many urban neighborhoods had led to disaster. This was evident in many cities, but in New York especially. Sometimes the reason for the decay outgrew from good intentions or improvements that were deemed beneficial despite certain consequences. The construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway in the Bronx by Robert Moses was a case in point. There was a definite need for a cross county corridor extension of interstate 95 from NJ to other northeast states. Given the location of the GW Bridge built in the 1930’s, a stretch from the west to the northeast end of the Bronx made perfect sense. However, one of the unintended consequences of bisecting the borough was to effectively cut certain, vibrant neighborhoods in half, thereby constricting the unfettered flow of people and commerce between both sides of a now in place expressway. The unintended consequence? A little more than a decade later with urban flight exacerbated by the road divide, you had a bombed out south Bronx reminiscent of Berlin after the bombings it sustained in WWII.
A microcosm of the malaise that home ownership sought to combat can be seen from what generally happened in urban areas after WWII. After the war, the population of the country started to blossom. The Great Depression was a distant memory and America was revitalized as a manufacturing giant due to the war effort. Population growth was especially acute in urban areas and eventually spread to surrounding suburban locales. As the demographics in urban areas changed, so did the social profile and a concomitant need for additional housing. Many cities like New York built extensive projects to house this new demographic. At the same time the concentration of the less affluent in these areas exacerbated the urban flight by the post WWII generation. Neighborhoods once filled with law-abiding immigrants now began to disintegrate leaving a growing core of a poorer class in its wake. Within a short period of time, the new projects became bastions for increased crime and drug trafficking. One only had to walk through the interior halls of many of these project buildings to see the degradation sprayed on the walls. Urine smelling elevators, dimly lit hallways, graffiti laden walls – all gave a picture of defilement. City planners even coined a name for it, calling it “urban decay”.
This blight did not stop with real estate. It also extended to the families that occupied these areas. After a couple of decades of this deterioration and its debilitating effect on the esteem of all those concerned, city planners in league with legislators reasoned that if families living in these circumstances were given an opportunity to “own” their own residence, this might improve self-esteem and engender a sense of responsibility an observed byproduct of ownership. This, in turn, would arrest further deterioration and might eventually lead to a revitalization of areas and an attraction of private capital for new development and gentrification.
The goal was a worthy one and it did have the desired effect of revitalizing entire neighborhoods through various home ownership programs. However, at some point, what was an admirable goal morphed into a no-one-is-refused free-for-all for home ownership and equity refinancing encouraged by low interest rates and an overall easing of loan qualifications. Thrown into this mix was the emergence of what was to become an insatiable appetite for mortgage securitization by Wall Street and the entire process went haywire (no-doc loans, ARMS with teaser rates, etc.) in an effort to multiply fee and bonus income.
In response to the point in your article, job mobility was not really the issue as seen from the above. As long as prices were generally rising (and they were), selling one’s residence to move was not an issue. It is an issue today because equity values have been wiped out in many cases and home values are below the level of mortgage indebtedness making refinancing impossible. Nor was high energy usage a major factor at the time.
Peter von Nessi, CSA-G
Certified General Appraiser
Bronx, NY 10465
Editor's Note: There is currently a movement away from the MacMansions, Hummers and giant SUVs of the previous decade, even among those who can afford them. We agree that this is not primarily due to the expense of fuel. In our "greener" times, more people are concerned about their impact on the environment, and some are even prepared to make lifestyle changes to help mitigate it.
First of all thanks for all the information you publish. I have read several of your books and they were all very informative.
Now for the question: Are appraisers responsible for assuring that construction permits were issued for any construction on the subject property? As far as I know, we are responsible for determining whether the property is a legal use, grandfathered, or illegal. However, I really don’t think that researching construction permits is the responsibility of the appraiser. This is the request I've received regarding the property, directly from the Lender.
"There is a discrepancy between the GLA stated by the appraiser and the GLA stated in public records. The appraiser is asked to explain. If additions were made, were final permits obtained? Appraisal reflects 2037 sq ft while public records reflect only 1898 sq ft. Public records also reflect a year built of 1926 but appraisal reflects 2008. Was the subject recently totally rebuilt? If so, was it completed with the proper permits?"
What should I do?
Leading Edge Apppraisal
Dear Friend at Leading Edge:
When you are appraising a new home, you should consult your lender/client as to how much investigation they want you to do. You may wish to charge extra if you have to visit a record center to obtain building permits and occupancy permits. For older houses, you normally would not do this unless it is customary in your market area or you suspect there is a problem.
The Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac forms ask for your opinion about the zoning. You need to do whatever is necessary to offer a correct opinion.
In most areas, it is expected that the appraiser will accurately measure the house. Relying on others is looking for trouble. If you accurately measured the house, you would respond by stating that is what you did, and what you found the GLA to be.
It is worrying that an appraiser would mistake a 1926 house for a 2008 house, no matter how much remodeling was done!
P.S. Thanks for the kind words. We always appreciate reader feedback.