I recently had a question come up regarding an appraisal assignment that I was unsure about, and in trying to find the correct answer I got a lot of insight into why Fannie Mae has some of the problems it does.
I got a request from a client to appraise a house on 5 acres of land. However, the actual legal parcel is about 35 acres. Now, I do these on somewhat regular basis, and I simply make them "subject to" receiving a copy of the new survey showing the 5 acres they have subdivided, and also note in the report that the value is based on the hypothetical condition that the property is legally able to be subdivided, blah,blah,blah.
However, the subcontractor I was using for this assignment called and said he didn't think you were allowed to do that for Fannie Mae transactions. Okay, no problem, let's get an answer to this question. How difficult could it be?
Well, you would be surprised. I spent 30 minutes on the main Fannie web site and also the efanniemae.com, and was only able to determine that they really don't have much information for appraisers on there.
Okay, next step is to call. Of course they will have support staff knowledgeable about exactly what they will and will not accept on an appraisal report, right?
I called the main number, and was told to call their local Dallas office. By the time I had a few minutes, they were closed for the day (it was after 5pm). Well, if the Dallas office has people that know the answer, then it makes sense that the west coast office would have the same people, right? Apparently not. I called there, and the operator said EVERYONE was in a meeting. The rest of the conversation went pretty much like this:
"Okay, how long will they be?" "Well, after the meeting is over they are leaving.""Everyone?""Everyone.""When is the meeting over?""Probably in about 20-30 minutes.""So everyone is leaving your office at 3:45 for the rest of the day?""Yes.""So there is no one there that would be able to answer a quick question about how Fannie requires an appraisal to be done?""Oh, if you have a question about appraisals you need to call the Dallas office, that is where all the real estate people are."
So that didn't go too well, and I was a little confused about what the regional offices do all day of no one knows anything about appraisals. But at least I got some confirmation that Dallas was the right place to go to. So the next morning I call Dallas.
"I need to ask someone a question about how Fannie prefers that an appraisal be done. Can you direct me to the right person?""What is your account number?""I don't have an account number. I'm an appraiser, and trying to get a question answered about Fannies requirements for appraisals.""You'll need to call your lender and have them ask us.""Why?""Because they have an account number." (I loved that one!)"Can I get an account number so I can ask a question?""Are you a lender?""No ma'am, I'm an appraiser.""We can only assign account numbers to lenders.""So just so that I am understanding this correctly, in order for me to get a question answered about how Fannie Mae requires appraisals to be done, I should not ask Fannie Mae directly, I should ask the loan officer, who will ask you, you get back to them, and they get back to me - as opposed to spending 60 seconds on the phone with me now?""Let me transfer you." (she had had enough of me, obviously)
Anyway, the upshot of it all was that despite talking to 4 different people within Fannie Mae and looking through their website, I could never get anyone to even tell me who to talk to (besides my lender), let alone actually answer the question. I know this question is relevant (and unanswerable) when discussing any government agency, but how do you manage to operate on a daily basis when you can't get a simple question like that answered, or even find a person that is responsible for answering that question? I don't know how they managed to buy so many loans; I can just picture the lenders calling.
"Hello, is this Fannie Mae?""Who did you call?""Fannie Mae, is this Fannie Mae?""No one is here to answer that question right now. You should try our Dallas office.""Dallas office of what? Do you mean the Dallas office of Fannie Mae?""You will have to ask them their name when you call. I can't answer that question.""Listen, I just want to sell a loan I have to Fannie Mae. Can you direct me to the correct person?""They are all out to lunch. And they won't be back today."
By the way, I asked my lender to check, and that was three days ago. I wonder if he is having the same conversation...