Appraisal Foundation: Appraisers must take course on bias

Reacting to headlines pointing to racial bias in some home appraisals, the Appraisal Foundation this week said that it would require all appraisers to take a seven-hour course focused on fair housing laws and bias.

The move is in response to a series of well-publicized instances over the past year in which white appraisers were accused of valuing homes for minorities at lower values than whites in the same neighborhood.

The seven-hour course will be released later this year and will focus on “timely appraisal topics,” as well as giving test takers resource materials to better answer questions that may come up during an appointment, the industry group, which sets uniform standards for appraisers.

“Specifically, the first half of the course will focus on guidance and discussion on how USPAP addresses issues related to fair housing laws and bias,” said Lisa Desmarais, vice president of appraisal issues at the Appraisal Foundation. “This part of the course will concentrate on how to avoid both bias and the perception of bias in appraisals.”

The second half of the course will include test exercises consisting of “case studies” with several questions each. The answers to these questions will be supplied to the test taker, but they will have to figure out where those answers can be found within the book on standards, called the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP)

The case studies were developed using data collected by the Appraisal Foundation of all the USPAP-related questions received. The most common questions and issues were then chosen as topics for the test.

“In this way, we are directly reacting to appraisers needs to maintain and enhance public trust, as well as be a valuable and useful resource for appraisers with relevant and timely course materials,” Desmarais said. “Essentially, we are concentrating on helping appraisers master USPAP, so they can more easily apply these tools in their day-to-day appraisal practice.”

In concert with the required seven-hour course, the Appraisal Standards Board announced that it will extend the current edition of the USPAP through Dec. 31, 2022.

In a statement, the Appraisal Foundation’s Appraisal Standards Board Chair Wayne Miller said “pressing issues” have arisen in appraisals over the past year, ranging from concerns about fair housing matters to how to conduct a socially distanced property inspection in the midst of COVID-19.

“USPAP is a maturing document, and it can take longer to study the complex issues facing our profession and how they will impact our standards,” Miller said. “We believe all of these are all critical issues and deserve thoughtful consideration before we issue guidance.”

Added Desmarais: “The current environment demonstrated the need to re-focus on this very relevant and important topic.”

Appraisals were already a hot-button topic in the housing industry with the onset of COVID-19, as many prospective homebuyers and sellers transitioned to online portals and companies that offered virtual appointments. This led to an uptick in hybrid appraisals, and with it, some concern from the appraisal industry on the future of their jobs.

Considered the quality control standards for property appraisers, USPAP was adopted in 1987 by a joint group of U.S. and Canadian appraisal organizations – the same groups that eventually created the Appraisal Foundation. Soon after, the Appraisal Foundation took control of USPAP.

All U.S. states and territories require appraisal licensure for valuation work on federally regulated institutions, and 35 of those states and territories require appraisal licensure for all valuation work performed.

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