Excerpts: When a real estate appraiser is called to testify in a court, it could be as one of two types of witnesses. If you are called to testify as an appraiser, it’s important to determine at the time of the request which of the two types you will be: fact witness or expert witness appraisers.

A fact witness is one who testifies only to that of which he or she has firsthand knowledge and who describes only facts (as opposed to expressing opinions). There is no formal definition of a fact witness….

As an expert witness appraiser, you are allowed to express opinions. In fact, your opinions are the very reason for your testimony. The opinions are to be based on the expertise afforded by “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge.”

Short and well written. Includes legal references. To read more, click here

My comments: This is a never-ending hot issue for many appraisers. They don’t understand the difference. The difference is you get paid a minimal fee as a fact witness (similar to a witness of an auto accident, for example). As an expert witness, you are paid very well for prep for expert witness testimony, depositions, waiting outside the courtroom, and testifying. I have written about this in my paid Appraisal Today newsletter.

NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other sections of this long blog post on unusual homes, appraisal waivers increasing, Appraisal alternatives, Covid and appraisers, mortgage loan stats, etc.  

Many residential appraisers complain about the hassles of working for lenders and AMCs. I always tell them that litigation support, including expert witness, is very profitable. Most of the work is for divorces.

In my area, there are very few residential appraisers who will testify in court. When they go up against an MAI who does 1-2, or fewer, residential appraisals per year, they win.

Good demand, repeat business, fees much, much higher than any other type of appraisals, respected as an expert. Almost the opposite of AMC appraisals.

Why are residential appraisers very reluctant to do Expert Witness court testimony? Fear of the unknown I guess. I did them in the past and had no problems with testifying as an expert in court or in a deposition. There are online classes and other information.

Which Appraisal Clients are used the most?(Opens in a new browser tab)


Chicago’s Fascinating ‘House on the Roof’

Just For Fun!! 

Excerpts: a three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home artfully perched on top of a building dating to the 1890s. To access the 2,533-square-foot unit, you take a historic elevator to the eighth floor, followed by a jaunt up a flight of steps.

“Many people who have lived in the neighborhood for years don’t even realize it’s there,” the agent says.

To read more, click here


Mortgage Refinancing Boom Is Too Automated

Computer-driven automated appraisal waivers are an innovation that nobody needs right now.


Just like with the last financial crisis, there are signs that the surge in U.S. consumers seeking to take advantage of ever-lower borrowing costs are being aided by relaxed lending standards…

All this activity is being aided by a relatively new innovation called the automated appraisal waiver from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

As the name suggests, the waiver means a homeowner who meets certain requirements does not need to obtain an appraisal in order to take out a new mortgage. The result has been nothing short of breathless.

The two firms account for an estimated 80% of all conventional refinancings and 90% of all “cash-out” refinancings, according to data compiled by the American Enterprise Institute, or AEI. Refinancings between the two totaled about 618,000 in July, up from 218,000 in January. About 154,000, or 25%, were cash-out refinancings, compared with 93,000 in January, or 43%…

Short and worth reading To read more, click here

Note: political comments follow this article on the same web page. But, this was an excellent article from Bloomberg, so I am including it. I always try to be NPA: No Politics Allows.

My comment: No “official” data on what percent of loans get appraisal waivers. Several California appraisers posted on an email discussion group that lenders they work for are saying 40%.


Appraisal alternatives during COVID-19: What we’ve learned and the future of appraisals panel session

Digital Mortgage Conference Video with Lyle Radke from Fannie and Scott Reuter from Freddie plus a Quicken Loans representative. Recorded 9-17-20 39 minutes



The photo above is of Scott Reuter Freddie Mac

The session discussed Covid appraisal alternatives

This is the first time I have seen both these GSE employees on the same panel. Interesting! Plus input from Quicken Loans, the largest mortgage lender. in the U.S. The moderator is from Clear Capital.

The session started with a look back at 6 months ago in early March (seems like a very, very long time ago) with a bit of humor from the two GSE speakers. They all had to move very, very fast. Compare it with no new URAR since 2005!

Some of the topics:

  • How Quicken adjusted.
  • Very fast roll out – training, implementation of new alternatives (Exterior only and desktop) by the GSEs.
  • Appraiser communication issues with borrowers – explaining what is happening to borrowers and communicate alternatives to lenders (Quicken speaker)
  • How the GSEs work with FHFA to decide extensions of the appraisal alternatives – looking at the trajectory of the pandemic.
  • Issues with appraisers not going inside when the alternatives started, such as estimating sq.ft. About 1/3 of the time appraisers had a building sketch. Comparison with traditional appraisals.
  • Appraisals subject to repairs (about 10% typically) issues. Only about 2% for alternatives. had them. Alternatives had more information about repairs than traditional ones.
  • Explaining to borrowers that they need to help appraisers such as taking photos (Quicken)
  • New technology tools for appraisers. Comparison with old drivebys with no info.
  • Accuracy of MLS photos.
  • Future of flexibilities after Covid.

To watch the video, click here


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Appraisers don’t “Create” Value!

By Tim Andersen, MAI

Excerpts: Anyone who has been in the real estate appraisal business for more than five minutes knows incontrovertibly this is not true. We do not create value. We take the data the market provides us and interpret them for our clients. Can we interpret them incorrectly? Of course, we can! Do we wake up in the morning to decide to discriminate against potential mortgagors X, Y, and Z? Of course, we do not!

…. Which is to say appraisers create/determine value, not the marketplace. Again, we know this is not true, yet how do we get out to the public (whose trust in appraisers and appraisals we are supposed to protect) we are not an industry of bigots and racists?

My comment: This issue keeps coming up with in newspapers and other online information sources. Started last year with a Congress (House) session on appraisals which was mostly appraiser bashing for discrimination against Black borrowers.

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Fannie Appraiser Update September 2020

Appraisal volume is way up and the number of appraisers has not changed.

From the Fannie email notice sent 9-29-20:

“We seem to have settled into a new normal around COVID-19, so this edition focuses on some other hot topics like the new 1004 Desktop and the 1004 Hybrid for use in a small number of appraisal reports, as well as clarification on appraising homes with solar panels and energy-efficient improvements.”

From the Appraisal Update:

The number of appraisers whose appraisals are submitted through UCDP has remained about the same. That means individual appraisers’ volume has gone up significantly.

In 2013, appraisers averaged about 10 appraisal submissions to UCDP per month. By 2018, that number had risen to 13 per month; 2019’s average went up to 16 per month. From January to July this year, appraisers’ submissions have grown to an average of 17.5 per month. Last month, that number was even higher — an average of 20 appraisal submissions per month per appraiser.

To read the email announcement, with a link to the Fannie newsletter, click here

An email to me was sent 9-29-20 at 9 am

My comment: The increase in volume is well known to appraisers. But it is nice to have some stats!!


COVID-19 recent posts at covidscienceblog.com

Fauci Vaccine Update – approval, distribution, vaccination 

Recorded 9-25-20 39 minute video 

Vaccines are a very hot topic now. We are all waiting for vaccine approval! But… there are many issues, of course…

I include a list of all the topics in the session and the time they start. Listen to what you want to know more about.

One small excerpt of what Fauci says in the video. Listen to find out lots more!!

“You might find when you do a clinical trial, that you maybe have three or four vaccines that are effective,” …

Fauci is definitely the best speaker on Covid topics. Lots of experience, understandable, very genuine. Someone we can all trust. I agree with what he says in this video.

To watch the video, click here


Five Covid-19 Misconceptions That Are Important To Know 

Recorded 9-25-20. 4-minute video plus a short, well-written article with lots of references for more information Speaker: Dr. Sanjay Gupta CNN Chief Medical Correspondent.

To watch the video and read the explanations, click here

You can email the link to people you know who are confused. Information on vaccines is changing very fast!


I do new Covid posts regularly. To get the most recent news, subscribe to the blog (upper right side of each page) and receive the posts by email.


Live by the Beach in This Florida Underground ‘Dune House”


It’s difficult to know the “dune house” even exists if you’re not looking for it. But that’s what makes it so enticing.

From the street, all you see are two staircases, two concealed doors, and grass.


To see lots of photos, inside and outside Click hereHOW TO USE THE NUMBERS BELOW. Appraisals are ordered after the loan application. These numbers tell you the future for the next few weeks. For more information on how they are compiled, go to www.mbaa.org </b

Note: I publish a graph of this data every month in my paid monthly newsletter, Appraisal Today. For more information or get a FREE sample issue go to https://www.appraisaltoday.com/products.htm or send an email to info@appraisaltoday.com . Or call 800-839-0227, MTW 7AM to noon, Pacific time.<


Mortgage applications decreased 4.8 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 30, 2020) – Mortgage applications decreased 4.8 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 25, 2020.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 4.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 5 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 7 percent from the previous week and was 52 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent compared with the previous week and was 22 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage rates decreased last week, with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage declining 5 basis points to 3.05 percent – the lowest in MBA’s survey. Despite the decline in rates, refinances fell over 6 percent, driven by a 9 percent drop in conventional refinance applications,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “There are indications that refinance rates are not decreasing to the same extent as rates for home purchase loans, and that could explain last week’s decline in refinances. Many lenders are still operating at full capacity and working through operational challenges, ultimately limiting the number of applications they are able to accept.”

Added Kan, “Purchase applications also decreased last week, but activity was still at a strong year over-year growth rate of 22 percent. Even as pent-up demand from earlier in the year wanes, there continues to be action in the higher price tiers, with the average loan balance remaining close to an all time survey high.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 63.3 percent of total applications from 64.3 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity remained unchanged at 2.2 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 11.4 percent from 10.1 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 11.9 percent from 12.0 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.5 percent from 0.6 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($510,400 or less) decreased to 3.05 percent from 3.10 percent, with points increasing to 0.52 from 0.46 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $510,400) decreased to 3.33 percent from 3.35 percent, with points decreasing to 0.39 from 0.42 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.15 percent from 3.23 percent, with points increasing to 0.43 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.65 percent from 2.64 percent, with points increasing to 0.49 from 0.47 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 2.95 percent from 3.19 percent, with points decreasing to 0.55 from 0.64 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The survey covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100.


Ann O’Rourke, MAI, SRA, MBA

Appraiser and Publisher Appraisal Today

1826 Clement Ave. Suite 203 Alameda, CA 94501

Phone 510-865-8041

Email  ann@appraisaltoday.com 


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