A huge number of home value appraisals may be wrong, with most of them being much too high. That is causing banks to back away from mortgages. A house that has been appraised for $400,000 might support a $350,000 home loan. If the bank looks a the property and says it is only worth $300,000 the mortgage application gets put into the waste basket.
The over-valuing of homes could kill a turnaround in real estate and make the persistent and hard drop in property values continue longer than many economists predicted that it would.
National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun said the appraisal problem is serious.
One of the by-products of the appraisal problem is that sellers often have to take less money for their homes than they had planned. This further depresses the value of real estate and often makes sellers take on debt to pay the difference between their mortgages and the amount that they get for their homes. People who take on new, large debt burdens are not likely to be consumers. Real estate values are directly linked to consumer spending.
The problem is hard to solve. Banks almost always rely on outside firms to handle appraisals. If lenders believe that the information that they are getting is routinely inaccurate, they may sharply curtail their overall mortgage operations. Risk and leverage are not words that bankers want to hear right now. The financial debacle of the last two years has cut lending to unprecedented lows. Bogus home valuations will only make that worse.
Douglas A. McIntyre