The appraisal industry’s hidden hand

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After attending the eponymous university of pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts, David DeZarn decided that his life’s calling was to be a pastor.

DeZarn became an ordained minister – “I married them and I buried them,” he said – and immersed himself in youth church services by the early 1990s.

The church never quite paid the bills, and DeZarn needed a flexible second job. He started contracting with home mortgage lenders to appraise the value of the property tied to a loan. “It fit well. I have always been good with numbers, and I enjoy looking at houses,” he said.

But DeZarn was an independent contractor business of one, and he lost his clients in 2008 when the housing market imploded. He reentered the appraisal business through a different door. Today, DeZarn is chief appraiser of Appraisal Management Services of America, an Irvine, California-based business that is one of more than 1,000 appraisal management companies across the country.

Appraisal management companies, or AMCs, quietly exploded following the lender reforms that came amid the Great Recession. But a decade later, AMCs are utterly anonymous to the actual person buying or refinancing a home. Appraisers decry them as counterproductive, even exploitative middlemen, while lenders offer a pat on the back for keeping them one step ahead of government auditors. 

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