Can’t We All Just Get Along?

“Our investigation and the Board’s review concluded that the evidence did not reveal a violation of the Board’s laws and rules governing the practice of Real Estate Appraising. The Board has, therefore, closed the file in this matter.” That is how the most recent complaint against me ended. The ordeal began last spring. I have been called upon multiple times from my current clients to please be willing to go to a new area. It is an area with few appraisers, and there is a need. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a drive for me so I have avoided it so far. Finally, I decided (for more reason than one) to venture forward. Now comes the problem of geographical competency.

I will not bore you with the details of what I did to gain competency, but—needless to say—it took more than 3 months before I felt comfortable even trying a sample report. The process I followed is found HERE, but it includes creating a sample report and putting it before a local, competent appraiser to get a review of how you are coming with your competency. This is what I did. Well, the ‘review’ (I use quotation marks for a reason), came back and it was laughable. First of all, the appraisal was about as straight -forward as they come. Some appraisers refer to this type of home as a ‘cookie-cutter.’ All of the comparables were in the same neighborhood, were similar in almost every way, and were all within the past 6 months. This appraisal, even for a novice in the area, should have passed with flying colors. Nevertheless, the reviewer took me to the woodshed. I mean, she destroyed me.

As I further investigated the situation, I became aware of what had happened (at least as far as I can gather). ThoughAppraiser Relations I had attempted to act anonymously in my order for an appraisal review, I had inadvertently included my automatic signature in several of the emails I had sent. In other words, though all references to me had been blacked out on the appraisal report, the reviewer knew who I was. Now, I have no idea if she knows about my coaching materials or the blog post referenced above, but she obviously knew I was an appraiser who was not native to her geography. It was obvious that this was on her mind as in her review report, she made specific reference to ‘geographic competency’ on more than one occasion. Now, the next part is my opinion only, but if I had the space to outline all of the signs though, I think you would agree; the reviewer does not want me becoming her competition. I have a feeling she likes being one of only a handful of appraisers in this area.

My suspicions were confirmed further when I received a certified letter a few days later from the Real Estate Appraisal Board of the State of Idaho. Yep, she had turned me in to the board. Her complaint? Geographic competency. Well, to make a long story short, I was able to defend my report against the allegations made. Frankly, and you are just going to have to take my word on this, her problems with my report were silly and unfounded. It was obvious to me, once again, that she saw me as a threat and was looking under every rock for things to complain over. In the end, my defense was vindicated by the “you’re off the hook” letter from the state.

This is actually the second time I have been turned in to the state board by another appraiser who, I believe, was acting out of their own self-preservation rather than the principle of justice and protecting the good name of the valuation profession. I will fully admit, I may be wrong in my synopsis. I am only putting the pieces together (many of which are discombobulated). Yet, you know this kind of thing happens. The fact that, in most states, complaints can—and do—come in from peer appraiser reviewers is curious to me. I am not saying it should not be allowed, but I am wondering if there ought to be some checks and balances on such a process. Even that, however, is not the real point of my article. After all, it is not like the state board slapped the cuffs on me. They could see how unfounded the complaint was as well. The justice system works!

My real issue comes down to the way we run our businesses and the way we might treat others who are (or could become) our competition. Many years ago, I befriended an old codger who called himself an appraiser. He was a mentor of sorts to me and always had plenty of fatherly advice to dispel. One day, while talking about review appraisals over a Coke, he said, “Here is how I look at any review I am asked to do. I try to remember that behind every appraisal report is an appraiser. Every appraiser is also a human being who is just trying to feed his or her family. I was always taught to do unto others as I would have others do unto me.” That does not mean, of course, that if an appraiser has truly screwed up we should not call him or her on it. No, our job as reviewers is to do exactly that. Rather, it is a plea to avoid vendettas. You are not the boss over who does or does not do business in ‘your area.’

Just be nice. That’s all.

26 thoughts on “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

  1. Pingback: Can’t We All Just Get Along? - Appraisal Buzz

    1. That is horrible. I hate it when appraisers turn on other appraisers like this. There is plenty of business to go around. She did you wrong. I would file a lawsuit against her.

  2. I’ve reviewed some reports that were garbage, and I’ve been reviewed by ding-a-lings who didn’t know what they were doing, but who were determined to do it anyway. I’ve “turned in” only one report. It was egregiously wrong. I sent it to a professional organization for review, and not to the state. I won’t state that I would *never* turn in another appraiser, but s/he’d have to work hard to get me to do that. State action should be reserved for extremes.

    Having said that, I’ll agree with you that the justice system does work. But you weren’t in it. You were in the Administrative system. If I were in your shoes, I would not be interested in “getting along” at this point. I would instead be filing a lawsuit for libel. Then you’d be in the justice system. I’d also be filing a complaint about the review report.

    My point is that when you turn in another appraiser and allege violations of professional standards, be sure that you are right. Talk to an attorney before you do it; make sure the facts support your allegations, and that you have articulated those facts in a clear and logical manner without emotional baggage. Better yet, just call the appraiser if you can find out who it is. There may be a logical explanation for your concerns–perhaps one that you had not considered.

  3. I always call the OA when I have questions while doing a review. Common courtesy is all. I wonder if some appraisers spend too much time alone? Turning in another appraiser would be the method of last resort. I am happy to find our state has a peer review committee.

  4. That reviewer acted with bias (USPAP violation). If she said you lack geographic competency that could also violate Standard 3. Turn her ass in.

    1. Michael Morris

      The reviewer was correct in that the appraiser did NOT have geographic competancy. You do not gain geo comp in “3 months”. The rest of the review might have been gargage, but the appraiser ws not geo comp in that area, PERIOD.

      1. Also, bro, a reviewer should never state in a review that an appraiser lacks bro comp. Ever. You are reviewing the work of the appraiser not the appraiser.

      2. What? Who are you to say that you cannot achieve geographical competency in three months? It has nothing to do with timeframe, in my opinion. With the proper data and teacher, it is possible for someone to achieve more geographical competency in one hour than some appraisers achieve in three years!

  5. I absolutely detest the peer review process. Really, It is not the process that is the problem, it is the fellow appraiser who views each review as an opportunity to slice and dice the work of a colleague, as if to prove his or her superiority in the appraisal profession . I know that this mentality exists because I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve worked in the same office space as these types of individuals. These are the same individuals who complain about the quality of work performed by their competition. If you are truly concerned about the quality of work your fellow appraisers are putting out into the world, and you truly know more than everyone else, please take the time to educate us. Seriously, consider the review as an opportunity to educate in a constructive manner. Don’t get personal. Use the review as an opportunity to impart something useful. Are there ignorant, sloppy appraisers out there? No doubt! All the more reason to use the review process as a way to help a fellow colleague make improvements in this profession and produce higher quality reports in the future. Are there occasions where egregious or fraudulent activity should be submitted to the appraisal board? Absolutely! But I believe those cases are rare. I believe most are working very hard to produce reliable and credible reports. Don’t take shots at a hard working individual. I guess what I’m trying to say is…Review the appraisal report, not the appraiser.

  6. Nice story. In my state of Oregon, there is a new process that this would have never happened. The state has a process for a committee to pre review any allegation before it becomes a complaint. The allegations that do not pass muster never become a complaint and the appraiser may not even be notified. Most allegations like this are quickly dismissed without any formal letters. I hope the systems spreads to other states because prior to this, I had witnessed many similar situations as you describe.

    1. I am in Oregon too, and I like this new system. I have had several complaints against me by homeowners, and realtors in the past, because they didn’t like the value. The process would take over a year to resolve, and each time the complaints were dismissed. But, I still had the complaint in my record. Now, I believe when this happens, they get dismissed before they become an official complaint. This is a much better system, and all states should do this.

  7. First, Dustin let me apologize on behalf of female appraisers everywhere. We are not ALL out to get you. 🙂

    I know that the attitude of “thinning out my competition” by turning in / reporting appraisers to appraisal boards is out there in our profession. And I have never understood it. I hear comments that run the spectrum. From those that believe they are doing the public a favor by filtering out the “bad” appraisers, to those that use their review work as a chance to “kill my competition”… if there is a severe shortage of appraisal work and stabbing the other guy in the back will help me.

    To paraphrase a well-known quote;

    First they came for the “low quality” appraisers, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a “low quality” appraiser.

    Next they came for the “cheaper/faster” appraisers, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a “cheaper/faster” appraiser.

    Then they came for the “corner cutting” appraisers, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a “corner cutting” appraiser.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    If you are one who thinks that reporting fellow appraisers for every small error you can possibly find will clean out what you consider to be inferior appraisers (or your competition) ….beware. They’ll be coming for you next.

    I am all for quality appraisers performing quality appraisal reports. However, when I review an appraisal report, I do just that… the REPORT…not the APPRAISER. It does not matter to me if the appraiser works in my coverage area or not. In fact, the only reason I even look to see if the appraisers info is left in the report is to see if I personally know them. If so, I decline the assignment based on conflict of interest. I don’t want it to be said that I gave them a “good” review only because we were aquainted.

    While reviewing reports with the appraiser’s info included, I have picked up the phone and called them to clarify questions I had. They have always been surprised that I would even give them a chance to explain. However….I have NEVER had an appraiser contact me to say they were reviewing my report. Wonder why? And let me also say up front that I have yet to report an appraiser to the appraisal board…..because I have yet to come across a report I believed to be so poor or negligent, or to be so deliberately fraudulent, that it warranted action. If that ever happens, I will consider it. Surely (I hope) we realize that we all are all in this together. If we don’t stand up for each other, who will? Don’t we get blamed by everyone for everything but global warming already? Must we attack each other mindlessly as well?

    Finally, my personal feeling;
    The attitude by appraisers that the way to improve our profession is by “getting rid” of other appraisers that we consider to be “our competition” is a huge reason that we cannot come together, get on the same page, get organized and have a united, clear, STRONG voice on issues affecting us.

    When we FINALLY do that…..we will ALL benefit.

    But hey…..that’s me. 🙂

  8. Is it not intersting that with CU the new rule of the land, uspap is not discussed. Because it totally puts it in the garbage as the useless document that it is. The State of Iowa is by far the most unlawful bunch of in the appraisal department in the nation. The head of it makes her own rules to suit herself to illuminate the competiton for the very Apraisial Firm that beneifts the most and the reviewer is from that frim. Talk about USPAP voilation of BIAS Standard three of this now useless forever changing junk rule book (USPAP). Back to Iowa after five years of bullying and harrassment hearing after hearing and thousands of tax dollars spent being in bed with and working for the other larger appraisal frim they/she finally got me by her rules not the rules of the state or USPAP.. But now the fight begins.

    1. Michael Morris

      As long as the appraisals he is “turning in” to the state board have numerous USPAP violations and/or are misleading, grossly negligent or fraudulent, I say good for him. I “love” getting rid of those appraisers myself. So far I have turned in 5 appraisals to the state board in the past 2 years and every one of the appriasers have been disciplined with 3 being relieved of their licenses.

  9. I have long thought that a large problem in the review process is that the reviewer takes on all the liability of the original appraiser. Therefore appraisers can become unfairly tough and nit picky. If it ever goes bad they can show why they are not to blame because of all the problems they found in the report. Maybe that liability keeps reviewers from just rubber stamping reviews without looking at them but I still feel it is a problem. May I second or third the statement made by others her. Remember there is a hardworking appraiser behind that report who is almost surely just trying to do good work and support their family. We all make mistakes and the value is an opinion so two absolutely right on appraisals may have different opinions of value. ( hopefully similar though).

    1. Michael Morris

      “Remember there is a hardworking appraiser behind that report who is almost surely just trying to do good work”

      That’s a stretch.

      Evidently you never come across “surely trying to turn out the most appraisals he can in the quickest time and is hit all the numbers guy”. You know, pretty much every Countrywide trained appraiser between 2000 and 2007.

      1. I stand by my statement. I agree there were and still are some bad appraisers. However 2007 was while ago and I think most appraisers working now are trying to do a good job making an honest living in a very tough environment. P.S., I have never done a single appraisal for Countrywide ( thank heaven )

  10. A tough story to hear. Sounds like she may also have violated some things in her review as others have pointed out – not sure how geographical competency would be something that should end up in the actual review report, unless you Dustin, made a point to disclose it in your report. Aren’t we suppose to disclose our efforts to the client? Maybe I am wrong and that includes disclosing that in the report itself? That said, if geo-competency is to be a nit-picked issue, the vast majority of appraisers would be in trouble. What I mean is, the only way to become 100% geo competent (if there even is such a thing) would be to reside in the area you are appraising for many years, or somehow get a realtor from the area to educate us on all the anomalies of the area (and even then?). In my opinion, it is too tall an order in many cases and is also needless in many cases as well to expect 100% geo competence. What I mean is sometimes what more proof do you need of value than sales prices? If appraisers are expected to know why a home on one street is worth more than the next street over, 100% of the time, I don’t think that mark would be hit even in the best of efforts. IMHO.

    For reviews, it is sad that too many appraisers think it is a grand opportunity to slam the next guy. Many appraisers think that is what the client wants, which is not true or they think if they don’t, they may end up on the chopping block next, which is also not true. As a guy who has been the client ordering reviews, I can say the biggest problem with reviews (form 2000 that is) is that reviewers don’t read the instructions pre-printed on the form. The instructions clearly state if the reviewer disagrees, they must provide SUPPORT for why they disagree, note it does not say to provide an opinion of why they disagree. In my opinion reviewers should keep an open mind that just because you may have an alternate opinion, that does not exactly mean the other guy was wrong.

    I had to rebut a review of my own report last year that was performed by someone I came up in the ranks with, but have not spoken to in a very long time. This person slammed me pretty good. I wondered if they did because they were worried about the personal connection and were trying to not appear biased. The review was so adverse against me, AND it was such a horrible, horrible review, I had no choice but to give it right back and point out how the reviewer didn’t have a clue. That was sad because I care personally about this person. I tried to give a call so I could “teach” them how to do a review (seeing how we started in the same place), but they wouldn’t return my call. I keep thinking about how many other appraisers have been slammed by this person and that it might one day catch up with them. I would have reported them to the board if they were anyone else.

  11. I consider doing a review as a learning experience and I recognize that three competent, experienced appraisers, with equal access to MLS and public data, can arrive at three different opinions of value. The other appraiser may do things differently than I would and arrive at a different value than I would , but if his/her process going from Point A to Point Z does not appear to miss bunches of points and does appear to be reasonable, I am not going to downgrade the report. I used to do a lot of RELO work and I like their basic process: they order two appraisals, if the value opinions are within 5%, both are acceptable.

    I turned in one supervisory appraiser as the result of a review several years ago and I stated that the two reports I reviewed were examples of either fraud or gross incompetency. The worst report involved an average quality home on 5 acres in a rural area of the county. The appraiser (a trainee) had provided 5 sales comparables – none closer than 8 miles, two in a subdivision of luxury homes 23 miles away (reported as 5 miles distant). I found out later that I was the third person to file a complaint against the supervisory appraiser. Over a year later I was enroute to the Department of Licensing to testify at the Admin Law hearing, when I was contacted and told the supervisory appraiser had agreed to surrender his certification at the beginning of the hearing.

    As I said above, doing a review is a learning experience. Usually I learn some other acceptable methods to develop a credible report — rarely do I examples of what NOT to do.

  12. Dustin,

    Good comments for us to follow, but there is an ingrained culture of “gotcha” in our appraisal industry. Other ways of saying it is that “we eat our young” or “throw one another under the bus.” The review process so often is viewed an opportunity to express negative opinions from unskilled and most likely less than competent appraisers. What their motive is is not at all clear to me, but I suspect earning fees is a priority. Review is an enormous responsibility and until that is fully understood it will frequently be abused.

    1. I appreciate Edd’s comments. I guess, since we are largely independent contractors, there are those that see reviews as grandstanding opportunities and tearing down fellow appraisers is the way to build “professionalism”. I’ve had 2 appraisers do that to me over the years, each case the reviews were not USPAP compliant. I basically had no specific comparables offered from the reviewers to rebut. Unfortunately, due to an ignorant work force in the lending industry the “review appraiser” is mistakenly assumed to be the greater expert…surely if the title is “review appraiser” that must mean they’re more qualified. I’m not sure how we counter that ignorance. I did not file a complaint on the two I mentioned…maybe should have, but I’ve always been busy and figured that was the client’s place to complain.

  13. Several years ago, I had a report reviewed. The reviewer was obviously trying to do only one thing, discredit me. I appraised a property that had been remodeled and updated extensively, with the addition of 2 bed rooms and a second full bath. All of my comps were very similar in GLA, bed & bath count, condition, etc. and were all in close proximity to the subject. The reviewer did not use the GLA from my sketch, but instead used the GLA from the subject tax card, before the remodel. The reviewer found 3 sales in close proximity to the subject. All were REO sales, purchased by investors, and required extensive work before they could be put on the market for e-sale. I visited each property and took lots of pictures. I wrote an extensive rebuttal, including conversations I had with the investors and the workers at each property. Needless to say, my original report was accepted by my client. I did not file a complaint against the reviewer. I did point out to my client that I considered the review report to be fraudulent and misleading. In my opinion, the reviewer stole money from his client. He did not give the client the report they asked for, he gave the client the report he wanted them to have. I have never turned in another appraiser. I do reviews as honestly and as accurately as I can. If I do not agree with the OA value, or find issues with the report, I point out all the issues and the reasons I do not agree with the OA value. I believe if a complaint is to be filed, it is up to the injured party to do so. Including one review I performed where two of the OA sales comps did not even exist.

  14. What a great conversation. One of the things I take issue about in our business is the distance an appraiser goes for an assignment. Would you rather have an appraiser with a degree in Real Estate, 20 years of brokerage expericence, 20 years of appraisal experence no brokerage business, advanced training from the AI and the Society, 20 years working in that county , 3rd generation property owner in that county, but with a office adress 35 miles away, or the village idiot. Also same guy would have to be a trainee afetr all the education and the 20 years of brokerage. To who? The village idiot?

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