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Staying Ahead of the Real Estate Valuation Game

It is important to review your real estate valuation program, as it is fundamental to the value of your loan portfolios. Remaining apprised of real estate value fluctuations and obtaining periodic appraisals according to the rules can keep you ahead of the game.

What are the Interagency Guidelines?

Begin your evaluation by revisiting the cornerstone of any valuation program, the Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines. These guidelines apply to appraisals and evaluations for all real estate-related financial transactions originated or purchased by regulated institutions, whether for the institutions’ own portfolios or as assets held for sale. The guidelines cover residential and commercial mortgages, capital markets groups, and asset securitization and sales units.

Most transactions valued at more than $400,000 require appraisals, although certain transactions (listed in Appendix A to the guidelines) are exempt. In addition to the exclusion for transactions at or below the $400,000 threshold, exceptions include:

  • Business loans secured by real estate for less than $500,000 (the $500,000 limit for commercial loans took effect on April 9, 2018) whose source of repayment is from other than the rental income or sale of the real estate
  • Extensions of existing credits
  • Loans not secured by real estate
  • Transactions guaranteed or insured by the U.S. government

The exemptions are limited, so be sure to scrutinize transactions to determine whether risk factors or other circumstances make an appraisal necessary. Some exempt transactions require a less formal evaluation.

Is your Program Independent?

Your institution is responsible for developing an effective collateral valuation program. First, consider the independence of your program, which should be isolated from influence by your loan production staff. Individuals who order, review, and accept appraisals or evaluations should have reporting lines independent of the production staff as well. Appraisers and individuals performing evaluations (evaluators) need to be independent of loan production and loan collection and obviously should have no interest in the transaction or property.

Special rules apply to smaller institutions that lack the staff needed to separate their collateral valuation programs from the production process. For mortgages and other loans secured by a principal dwelling, review amendments to Regulation Z that impose strict independence and conflict-of-interest requirements on appraisers.

What are the Selection Criteria for Valuators?

Next consider how you select valuators. Set criteria for selecting, evaluating, and monitoring appraisers and evaluators, and for documenting their credentials. Among other things, ensure that those selected are qualified, competent, and independent and that appraisers hold appropriate state certifications or licenses.

Select and engage appraisers directly (though appraisals prepared for other institutions may be used if specific rigorous requirements are met). Approved appraiser lists are permitted, provided you establish safeguards to ensure that list members continue to be qualified, competent, and independent.

What are the Minimum Appraisal Standards?

You then need to make sure your appraisals conform to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, although safe and sound banking practices may call for stricter standards. Written reports should provide sufficient detail (according to the transaction’s risk, size and complexity) to support the credit decision.

Appraisers should analyze appropriate deductions and discounts (detailed in Appendix C of the guidelines) for proposed construction or renovation, partially leased buildings, nonmarket lease terms and tract developments with unsold units.

What are Some Other Factors?

In addition to these touchstones, your program should facilitate credit decisions by ensuring the timely receipt and review of appraisal or evaluation reports. It also should provide criteria for determining whether existing appraisals or evaluations may be used to support subsequent transactions.

Moreover, your valuation program should have in place internal controls that promote compliance. And it should contain standards for monitoring collateral values and for handling transactions not otherwise covered by appraisal regulations.

If you outsource valuation functions, your institution remains responsible for all appraisals and evaluations. The interagency guidelines discuss the resources, expertise, controls, and due diligence procedures your institution needs to identify, monitor, and manage risks associated with these outsourcing arrangements.

Is it Working?

The only way to confirm that your real estate collateral is sound is to set up an effective, efficient, and comprehensive program; you also will need to review it regularly and adjust as needed to keep it on the right track.

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