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Bill Sentner in the news.

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Appraisers unionize to rattle AVMs









AFL-CIO-sponsored union wants to save appraisers from extinction
Monday, December 02, 2002

Inman News Features




William Sentner thinks too much technology has invaded the appraisal industry. He's determined to put a stop to it and he's using his position as president of the national appraisers labor union to take aim at lenders' use of automated valuation models that he blames for cutting into appraisers' incomes.

Sentner, 64, wants to reposition appraisers and secure their future in the real estate transaction. To further that mission, he turned four years ago to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations—the national labor union better known by its AFL-CIO initials. The union helped Sentner, a Cherry Hill, N.J., appraiser, establish the American Guild of Appraisers, which is Guild 44 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union within the AFL-CIO.

The appraiser union wants to influence legislation that will protect the interests of appraisers, provide work for appraisers, educate AFL-CIO membership about appraisers and offer benefits to appraiser members and their families.

The existence of a union in real estate is unusual. But Sentner said the AFL-CIO has the muscle to knock down what he perceives as lenders' control of the appraisal process. He thinks the union, which has 13 million members, also has a voice loud enough to be heard on Capitol Hill. But he won't disclose how many appraisers have joined the union.

The most contentious issue is automated valuation models known as AVMs.

Sentner thinks the union can help enforce regulation of AVMs and help appraisers establish greater independence from lending institutions that he accuses of manipulating appraisers into producing false reports.

"There's nobody else to defend the appraiser and if the appraiser isn't defended he's going to go the way of Dodo bird because he's going to be compromised 100 percent," Sentner said.

Sentner said federal law requires that an appraiser certify the value of real estate purchased with a federally related loan of $250,000 or more. That threshold potentially eliminates an appraiser from 90 percent of residential real estate transactions now that the national median existing-home price is hovering around $161,000, according to Sentner. He wants the amount eliminated or at least lowered so more appraisals would be required.

Sentner said lenders have adopted AVMs to fatten their own wallets at the expense of the overall integrity of valuation databases. He claims 81 percent of AVM valuations are off by 5 percent, and he believes that fudge factor can skew entire databases over time as more inaccurate figures are entered and relied upon to formulate home values.

"Automated valuations (should) be scrutinized by a licensed certified appraiser who is familiar with the neighborhood," said Sentner. He added that if the appraiser knows the neighborhood is "spotty" or "not too good," he can authorize a physical inspection of the home and arrive at a more reliable figure.

The appraisers union also wants to fight perceived pressure from lenders to produce home valuations that meet the loan requirement.

"Appraisers are subject to largely unchecked and unrelenting pressure to perform appraisals dishonestly," Sentner wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development criticizing its proposed changes to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

He said in the letter that appraisers who resist the pressure to fabricate or fudge home valuations often do so to the detriment of their appraisal practice—risking little or no future business from the lender and earning a reputation as an appraiser who "won't play ball."

The appraisers union wants to engage the AFL-CIO in efforts to educate consumers about the value of an appraisal. The group is organizing a speakers bureau to make presentations at union meetings about the role of an appraiser in a home sale or purchase.

The appraisers union also claims to have rattled a few cages and scored a few victories on other matters.

Sentner touts having had a hand in California Gov. Gray Davis' veto of SB 1866, which would have moved the state's Office of Real Estate Appraisers from the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, where it exists as a stand-alone function, into an office within the Department of Corporations.


Proponents said the legislation would save the state money and was needed due to the declining number of licensed appraisers. But Sentner said it would have placed the appraisal board into a "second-class citizenship" within a commission that also oversees lenders.

The appraisers' union also claims to have had a hand in the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and now is supporting legislation that Sentner said would hold lenders accountable for "pressuring" appraisers to produce valuations required to close deals.

"We have been busy taking on causes we feel are winnable and that directly affect the pocketbooks of appraisers throughout the country and that make their life a little bit easier," he said.


***


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Copyright 2002 Inman News Features
 

Jeff Horton

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If that article is fairly accurate then may we should all take a look at the Guild. Sounds like they are the only group out there doing anything for us. At least that I am aware of. Makes me give them a second thought!

No I am not a member either. Always been anti-union but I am having second thoughts.
 

Don Clark

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Sounds like a good "Free" commercial. I thought Wayne charged for commercials?

Don
 

Austin

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I know Bill’s heart is in the right place, and his intentions are the best, but here is how the public will view this article: “There must be something to this AVM or the unions would not be getting involved. Maybe we should check this new AVM gizmo out for ourselves.” When I was in college in the late 1960’s, I believe there were 80 million union members. I can’t confirm this number but the last figure I remember reading the number had shrunk to around 15 million. In the last year, within 30 miles of where I sit, about 3,500 union jobs have been lost, most recently last week, 250 layoffs at an apparel plant, jobs headed to the Dominican Republic. Don’t waste your time looking for the “union label” on your baby clothes because it ain’t there anymore. You might find a note in the pocket saying: “Help! I am a slave in this factory. Please send help!”
Once when I was in high school we were taking a first aid class. The coach was teaching the class and was asking us questions. Finally he said: “Fellows. If you ever find me bleeding to death on the side of a road somewhere, please keep your damn hands off me and allow me to die in peace.” I think that is the moral of the dilemma we face with unions. I hope I don’t spend Christmas in traction.
 

Paul DelleDonne

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Don,

There you go again, Instead of being anti union - why not try being pro in the direction of supporting]any [/u]organization that lobbies for the best interests of our profession. Support all of them.

I am a member of the Guild and I am renewing my membership.
 

Jeff Horton

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I have a question and I am serious in asking this.

First I want to say I have always been anti-union. I felt (maybe still feel) that Unions were very needed at one time. They are probably still needed in some businesses that would otherwise take advantage of their employees. Overall I felt/feel unions have outlived their usefulness. For the most part they have just run up the cost for most companies and cost us, the consumer, more money. Now I don't want to start a war! I just need to you know where I am coming from.

To me it appears the Guild is actually doing something for Appraisers. IF they are successful and keep working for us then it appears despite my anti-union feelings that it could be to our advantage to join them.

Now my question. Is there any other group that is actively doing anything like what the Guild is claiming? If so I am not aware of it. Is there anyone else that has the pull to do anything?

I am going to stress again that I am not supporting the Guild (yet). I am asking because if there is another group out there that is doing something for us then I want to consider supporting them too. I don't keep up with political issues that close so I might not be aware that AI is doing something or someone else. But from what I have seem the Guild appears to be the only one actually doing anything other than bitc**** and griping. If there are others I want to know.

I feel strongly that Appraiser need to band together. Remember the saying "Divided we stand, United we fall".
 

Austin

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Virginia
Jeff:
Something is being done about this situation, and the thing doing it is called the market place of free ideas. If AVM is as bad as some people say it is, then the market will deal with it accordingly. If AVM performs as advertised, then there is nothing a union can do to stop it. What is the union going to do, go on strike against the lending industry and the Feds? You can’t stop the clock and if you don’t believe me ask the buggy whip union, six-shooter’s union, steam engine union, and the Democratic Party, which is a union of government dependents. They all went the way of the square wheel. I once heard an interview with a union organizer. He was asked why unions resorted to physical intimidation. His reply was: "That is the only thing that will work and make people participate." Remember a few years ago in NYC a group was protesting something and a union leader, very distinguished looking with a $500 suite on showed up with his thugs and bashed the head of the protesters? That is just another reason unions have outlived their usefulness. If that is the only way that works for them, then you can have my part of them. We already have one war to many on terrorism.
 
A

Anonymous

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Austin and Jeff have made some good points about the failures of unions and their excesses in the past. I think that we should concentrate on the union's ability to perform for us in the present and in the future.

I can't think of any other organization which is dedicated to the representation of the appraiser. I know that the union has the legal right to represent us and only through the union can we discuss and set the terms under which we work including fees, types of report, turn around time, etc.

The bulk of the appraisers problems are linked to government regulations, these regulations have been changed over the years to suit the lenders and to hurt the appraisers. With the stregnth of the union we can address these government regulations and take back the power to run our own profession.

I am a charter member of the Guild and I urge all appraisers who are interested in preserving our profession and our economic life to join.
 

USPAP Compliant

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Walt,

I see you are from New Jersey. I wonder if Tony Soprano will be the Guild LOcal president. He seems to have a close and personal relationship with at least one appraiser.


Just kidding of course!
 

Nancy in Friday Harbor

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Washington
Hi All,
Some good points made here, but the fact is the first 3 paragraphs of this article read as follow:


William Sentner thinks too much technology has invaded the appraisal industry. He's determined to put a stop to it and he's using his position as president of the national appraisers labor union to take aim at lenders' use of automated valuation models that he blames for cutting into appraisers' incomes.

Sentner, 64, wants to reposition appraisers and secure their future in the real estate transaction. To further that mission, he turned four years ago to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations—the national labor union better known by its AFL-CIO initials. The union helped Sentner, a Cherry Hill, N.J., appraiser, establish the American Guild of Appraisers, which is Guild 44 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union within the AFL-CIO.

The appraiser union wants to influence legislation that will protect the interests of appraisers, provide work for appraisers, educate AFL-CIO membership about appraisers and offer benefits to appraiser members and their families.

I'd be willing to bet you a significant number of coyote skins (thank you, Bruce) that most readers will never get past these first three paragraphs. The reaction, sadly, will be "Just another bunch of d#%* union members trying to save their jobs at the expense of progress."

There are 19 paragraphs in the article and NOT ONE of them makes any comment on or even refers to the dangers to the economy posed by an inflated portfolio valution! This article portrays appraisers as a bunch of whiny, crybabies who want to preserve their own hides and increase costs to borrowers. It doesn't mention that the ONLY reason the union is interested in appraisers is that so much of the union pension fund(s) is invested in the "Mae's". The closest it comes is paragraph 17 and most people won't read even that far.
The appraisers union wants to engage the AFL-CIO in efforts to educate consumers about the value of an appraisal. The group is organizing a speakers bureau to make presentations at union meetings about the role of an appraiser in a home sale or purchase.

The union is imperiled and will, therefore, take care of itself any way it can. Even if it means supporting/representing appraisers. Don't kid yourself that this is an altruistic action on the part of the AFL-CIO! If Bill Sentner is truly interested in appraisers, he ought to be jumping up and down on the desk of the editor of Inman News and demanding they tell "the rest of the story!!"

The only way we will ever have the general public behind us is by talking about the impact to and effect on all of us if there is a significant downturn in the housing market.....which has been carrying the economy through this downturn.

Why aren't they reporting more fully the increase in foreclosures? And why isn't the media discussing the actual dollar value impact to each and every taxpayer of even a relatively "low" percentage of default? Why? It's easier to play "whack the appraiser" and portray us as greedy dodo birds trying to keep the lending process back in the dark ages. This article does a great job of furthering that position.

Grumpy in Friday Harbor :x
 
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