Housing Fraud Is Back – Real Estate Industry Intentionally Inflating Home Appraisals

Almost 40% of appraisers surveyed from Sept. 15 through Nov. 7 reported experiencing pressure to inflate values, according to Allterra Group LLC, a for-profit appraiser-advocacy firm based in Salisbury, Md. That figure was 37% in the survey for the previous year.

“If you thought what was happening before was an embarrassment, wait until the second time around,” said Joan Trice, Allterra’s chief executive and founder of the Collateral Risk Network, which represents appraisers employed by lenders and other companies and has been meeting with regulators to discuss concerns about appraisers being pressured into inflating values.

– From the Wall Street Journal article: Dodgy Home Appraisals Make a Comeback

When in doubt, just make sh*t up.

That seems to be the mantra of the U.S. real estate industry. A place where home values must always rise no matter what. After all, there’s nothing better for an economy than pricing out average citizens from their means of shelter.

As the WSJ reports, inflated home appraisals have become such a concern that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is looking into it. Which means precisely nothing will be done to stop it. After all, it is official government policy to encourage risky loans to keep housing bubble 2.0 inflated. Recall: Mel Watt, Federal Housing Finance Agency Head, is Pushing Banks to Make Extremely Risky Home Loans.

The WSJ reports:

Home appraisers are inflating the values of some properties they assess, often at the behest of loan officers and real-estate agents, in what industry executives say is a return to practices seen before the financial crisis.

An estimated one in seven appraisals conducted from 2011 through early 2014 inflated home values by 20% or more, according to data provided to The Wall Street Journal by Digital Risk Analytics, a subsidiary of Digital Risk LLC. The mortgage-analysis and consulting firm based in Maitland, Fla., was hired by some of the 20 largest lenders to review their loan files.

The firm reviewed more than 200,000 mortgages, parsing the homes’ appraised values and other information, including the properties’ sizes and similar homes sold in the areas at the times. The review was conducted using the firm’s software and staff appraisers.

Bankers, appraisers and federal officials in interviews said inflated appraisals are becoming more widespread as the recovery in the housing market cools. While home prices are increasing generally, their appreciation is slowing, and sales have been weak despite low interest rates. The dollar amount of new mortgages issued this year is expected to be down 39% from last year, at about $1.12 trillion, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

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