What is the purpose of the AIR?
Enacted May 1, 2009, the Appraiser Independence Requirements (AIR) is a set of rules for the mortgage lending and real estate appraisal industries. The intended purpose of the AIR is to protect appraiser independence and prevent pressure from being applied to appraisers to produce a desired property value. Ultimately, these safeguards are intended to protect consumers. Even though there has been considerable debate about the unintended consequences of the AIR, compliance is required for all loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
What can I expect to change because of the AIR?
Nothing will change in the actual appraisal reports we produce. We've always focused on ensuring accurate, independent valuations in our appraisal reports. It's the core value of our business. We'll continue to do that going forward and we're ready and qualified to make sure everything we do complies with the AIR.
The process of ordering appraisals has changed, however. If you're a homeowner in need of an appraisal of your home, an attorney needing a property appraisal, or even if you work for a small community bank or credit union and will continue to communicate directly with appraisers, click here to order an appraisal now.
If you're a mortgage loan officer or a mortgage broker who isn't allowed to order appraisals directly from an individual appraiser and are seeking an AIR-compliant appraisal ordering system or service, I recommend using the Mercury Network for ordering AIR-compliant appraisals. It's the fastest, most compliant and effective way to order appraisals from regional appraisers familiar with the San Antonio market place without overhauling your entire appraisal ordering process.
After you complete your own Mercury Network profile, you can add appraisers to your appraiser panel, if you choose to. The network's Intelligent Selection System (ISS) enables you to order appraisals "blind", based on pre-set ordering criteria so you can be confident you're ordering appraisals with complete AIR-compliance. You'll also appreciate the network's pre-populated status message and text box-driven communications which provide you with an audit trail for each transaction.
Where did the AIR come from?
The AIR was born from an agreement between the New York State Attorney General, OFHEO, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2007 New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed suit against First American Corporation and its appraisal management subsidiary, eAppraiseIT, accusing them of enabling Washington Mutual to pressure appraisers to change values, as well as hand-pick which appraisers should be used for WaMu's appraisal reports.
Attorney General Cuomo then subpoenaed Fannie and Freddie in order to learn more about loans purchased from banks like WaMu and the valuation processes they used. One of the results of the investigation was the AIR, which was agreed upon and approved by Fannie and Freddie. From May 1, 2009 forward, every loan eventually funded by Fannie and Freddie must be in compliance with the AIR.
What are the specifics of the AIR?
The AIR specifically prohibits any party from coercing, suggesting, or influencing appraisers in any way to produce a specific or desired value for a residential property.
Only the lender or a party authorized by the lender can engage the appraiser and order an appraisal that will be backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Mortgage brokers and real estate agents, without lender permission, are not allowed to engage appraisers or order appraisals. Also, internal loan production staff members or any other person who is compensated on a commission basis are not allowed to engage the appraiser or have any substantive communications with an appraiser.
A specific exception has been made for institutions which, because of their small size or limited staff, would be unable to establish absolute lines of independence. These smaller institutions are required to clearly demonstrate that they have implemented “prudent safeguards to isolate its collateral evaluation process from influence or interference from it s loan production process.”
All loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac must abide by the AIR. The code doesn't apply to FHA and VA insured loans, or to appraisals ordered for non-lending purposes.
Lenders are required to ensure that the borrower receives a copy of the appraisal report at least three days before the loan closing. The lender, not the appraiser, must provide the copy to the borrower, at no extra charge. This allows the buyer to read the report and decide whether to go forward with the purchase.
You can read the full AIR on Freddie Mac's website by clicking here:
Mortgage Brokers and Appraisals
On March 31, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac released an update of answers to questions frequently asked (FAQ) about the AIR, including whether or not a mortgage broker is allowed to order an appraisal directly from an appraiser. The answer is clearly "no" and that has not changed. However, within that same AIR FAQ update, the question of "Web portals" was addressed. Within the context of appraisal management, Mercury Network falls within the Web portal category.
The 16th question and answer located in the Freddie Mac AIR FAQ states:
Question: May a lender direct a broker to use a Web portal set up either by the lender, or by the lender's authorized agent, through which the broker inputs a request for an appraisal and then triggers the lender's system to order an appraisal?
Answer: Yes. A lender may direct a broker to use a Web portal in this manner.