The nepotism doesn’t add up.

Today’s Dayton Daily News has a story about Sheriff Phil Plummer asking his sister to step down because of the ethical question of her making almost $600 a day as an “appraiser”

Kimberly Solomon was being paid $85 per appraisal where she was supposed to do the following:

Appraisers must view the house, take pictures, get inside if they can and then independently come up with an appraised value, which is then averaged and becomes the price upon which the minimum bid at sheriff’s auction is set, said Chief Deputy Mike Nolan.

Miraculously, she was able to do almost 6.5 of these per day! None of these appraisers had the qualifications that a bank would require for you or I to get a loan. And she wasn’t even the top producer! Of course, this is all “legal” because of some odd law that makes these “independent contractors” who are “hired” by the Sheriff but paid for by the banks and mortgage companies in the case. Seems rather odd?

Of course, this being an election year, both Dan Foley and Karl Keith are asking questions. Both Democrats – who are challenging the policies of a Republican Sheriff, just before election time. Mr. Keith has the audacity to ask for a change in law to “take away any question of patronage or any favoritism”while he may hold the record for patronage jobs in his office including Sam Braun (Mr. Nan Whaley). Read more about nepotism in Montgomery County in my post about it from Oct 2009- “The Monarchy of Montgomery County.”

Of course, we get the “tough talk” from Dan Foley now that the election is around the corner:

“My reaction about the sister is elected officials can’t have relatives working directly for them because it erodes the public trust,” said Montgomery County Commission President Dan Foley, a Democrat. “In the case of the sister, I think that the public is going to question that. Period.”

How has it taken 3 years on the Commission and many more in County Government for Dan to figure this out?

From the Dayton Daily:

A decades-old state law gives county sheriffs near total freedom to hire whoever they want to appraise properties for sheriff’s sale.

The law requires that the sheriff appoint “three disinterested freeholders, residents of the county” where the property to be sold is located. Other than that there are no requirements for training, licensing or previous experience in appraisal….

the practice has been controversial in recent years, with allegations of political patronage and dismay over the amount of money the appraisers earn as foreclosures hit record levels. Sheriffs in Butler, Hamilton, Lucas, and Cuyahoga counties have all come under fire in recent years.

The cost of the appraisals is inflated by the state’s requirement that three people appraise each house. The minimum per property fee for each appraiser is set by the local county court of common pleas and varies widely from county to county. In Montgomery County it is $85, but payments can be higher….

Nolan said the appraisers do 17 to 75 appraisals a week.

Although it is not required, Plummer mandates that all appraisers take an appraisal course. Two of the 11 appraisers used in 2009 are licensed Realtors, Nolan said. The others have no appraisal certification.

Plummer said he replaced two appraisers hired by Vore with two others because he wanted to have more expertise and more women.

He is also concerned that retired county employees who work as appraisers are “double-dippers” getting pensions and the appraiser payments.

The paper has a nice table showing the appraisers pay and cases handled. We now see yet another group of privileged vultures benefiting from the slaughter of the middle class by Wall Street bankers- thanks to the laziness of lawmakers.

Dan Foley, and every other person in the County building has been asleep at the wheel allowing this nepotism to continue.

How can an appraiser do a proper job in about an hour? And how do they make what an average family of four is living on in a week in a day- and call it OK?

These “appraisers” are making more than the commissioners- and most of the employees in the County building. But of course, more than half donate to the campaign funds.

It’s time for a housecleaning- because this nepotism just doesn’t add up.

We decided to talk about this in the Dayton Grassroots Daily Show after the initial post was up.

Note, it’s been passed on to me that Sheriff Plummer also hired one of his high school buddies. Make sure you read the comments- a real appraiser weighs in.

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16 Responses

  1. Sarah January 9, 2010 / 2:46 pm
    This one really pi$$ed me off.
    I am a Certified Residential RE Appraiser.  It took 2 years of apprenticeship, over 2000 hours of experience, and I had to pass a National test.  I must adhere to National Standards and carry an Errors and Omissions policy.  It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
    To call these people “appraisers” maligns my profession.
    The Sheriff requires that his staff take “1 course in appraising”.  Whoopee!  The state requires that I take 14 hours of Continuing Education EVERY YEAR to keep my license.  He hired more women – I don’t care if a man or woman does the job – How about LICENSED?
    The shortest form that I use is approx. 8-10 pages.  I must examine the Subject property’s sales history, legal issues, ownership issues etc. and then attempt to offer 3 of the most comparable closed-sales in my report.  It takes 4-6 hours to competently complete the report (note I said competently – this is part of the National Standard of Ethics to which I must adhere).
    95% of the time I must enter the property.  I would be curious what this group considered “an attempt” at entry?  Pull up in the van?  Do they even get out?  I have been to many foreclosures where the insides (good) don’t match the outsides (bad).  That would obviously alter the end-result of my report.
    Banks have never said a word about this.  Many think once the property has gone into foreclosure that the bank has done enough…Well, to under-value a property is just as “bad” as to over value a property.  This means that the County is losing money every time the Sheriff’s staff says – $5K or $10K, when the value should probably be $25K or $45K or more.
    Especially in a time when housing prices and appraiser competence are directly related.  You as the consumer should be greatly alarmed.  This affects YOUR house value.  Where do you think I get my comparable sales from?  Your neighborhood!  If the sale is recent and deemed comparable, well too bad for you.  This has been especially difficult in markets where the predominant “sale” is a foreclosure action.  50 years of maintaining a home all for naught.
     “How does the Sheriff get away with this?”  Ohio is what we call in the biz a non-mandatory state.  A license is not required to be an appraiser in Ohio.  If I want to give value for any financial transaction that works with a Federal Agency – like a bank or credit union – I have to be licensed.  The sheriff’s staff is giving a value that is not related to a financial transaction.  Once the property is under contract and federal financing is needed – my rules apply.
    I really don’t give a flip what Keith or Foley think about it.  They have both known about this issue as well as the issues related to mass-property tax appraisals for years.  Never hear a peep until election time.  It is a STATE law not a County one.  Montgomery County is not alone in this one:
    http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/02/appraisers_appointed_by_cuyaho.html
     

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  2. David Esrati January 9, 2010 / 4:19 pm

    @Sarah thanks for defending your profession- we discussed this more in our Dayton Grassroots Daily Show – which I’ve added to the post.

    There is no reason that these “appraisers” should be allowed to do appraisals- and, why should the Sheriff get to pick who they are? It would seem it should be a bid contract if nothing else.

    I’m not even sure why the Sheriff is in charge of foreclosures- that’s our tax dollars doing the banks business. If the Sheriff would act as a collection agent for other businesses we’d be outraged. I have some people that didn’t pay me- but the Sheriff doesn’t pick up the money for me.

    This whole thing is embarrassing- and not just for the nepotism- that none of these elected idiots questioned the practice long ago.

    Thanks for the valuable information. Please tell all your peers about this post- and have them spread the word. It’s time your profession got the respect it deserves.

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  3. Sarah January 9, 2010 / 6:44 pm
    I think the sheriff collecting is part of a bye gone era of the “violent homeowner flip out” or having to drag someone out of their home.  Most homeowners in foreclosure are long gone (many gratefully so) by the time the sheriff comes around.  Don’t really see too much metal striping anymore either since the price of copper has plummetted.  BTW – the DDN has NEVER interviewed someone in my profession.  Not once.  Not on a story about appraisal fraud, not on a story on foreclosure(s), not once to even educate the general public.

    Great video – just next time DON’T call them appraisers!  They aren’t!

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  4. Sarah January 9, 2010 / 7:19 pm
    For those who do watch the video – when Greg states that “appraisers make the numbers for the banks/mortgage institutions” was very true for many years.  It is called “hitting the numbers”.  If an appraiser doesn’t hit the number – no more work from that bank.  Blacklists are common in my industry against “difficult” (i.e. honest) appraisers.  Let’s see – make the $ amount and pay my mortgage or keep my principals and starve. 

    I have been called every name in the book by Loan Officers “unhappy” with the report.  I have had homeowners call and curse me out on the phone.  I even had one come to my home.  All this glee for the low, low, low low price of $300/report. 

    Now we have something called Appraisal Management Companies (AMC) that were introduced to remove the Loan Officer and appraiser relationship.  This is a total real estate FAIL.  What the AMC’s do is pay me $200 and charge the homeowner $500.  Of course the homeowner is wholly unaware of this.  Furthermore, 99% of AMC are wholly owned by banks.  Quantrix is owned by Chase.  RELS is owned by Wells Fargo.  To date Ohio has no law regulating AMC’s, nor any law requiring that AMC fees be disclosed to the borrower. 

    When 2004 rolled around my industry started screaming that something was wrong.  5+Refinances on one home in 12 months.  Red flag.  Total closing costs rolled into the loan incrementally bumping up prices in neighborhoods and hence appraisers are thinking that they have to make the numbers.  Red Flag.  New buyers with 4 BK on their credit history buying a $100K home without a job.  Red Flag.
    Remove the commission-only salary basis for Loan Officers would be a good start.  Mandatory licensing for all appraisers.  Mandatory E&O insurance for every appraiser (I know of one that hasn’t carried it in over 20 years.  She is now embroiled in a Federal lawsuit.  Ya reap what you sow…).  How about a required course for every financial transaction – purchase or Refi – tell the homeowners the pro’s and con’s of what they are about to sign vs. keep them in the dark.  Let borrowers shop around for certain services – title insurance, appraiser, etc.  How about mandatory down payments like the good ol’ days?
    I still love what I do for a living – if I didn’t I would leave.  However people like me are becoming few and far between.  The banks are fast-tracking the idea of Automated Valuation Models to “appraise” homes.  So a computer will be able to tell them that your kitchen remodel is too-much/too little for the market.  God help us then!  God would probably be the only one left that can, as the banks hold the corner on lobbying at the state and federal level.
    Anything and everything to get rid of my profession – it’s a love hate kind of thing.

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  5. mcohio January 9, 2010 / 8:04 pm
    Perhaps Commissioner Foley will request that Greg Brush no longer employee his father in law.

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  6. David Esrati January 9, 2010 / 8:22 pm

    @Sarah- I learn so much from my readers- thank you for that insight. If I ever did get elected- I’d be taking what you wrote straight into legislation. There has to be some credibility in these “ratings agencies” be it home values or bond values.

    @Mcohio- is it that Greg employs his father in law- or Foley’s father in law? Thanks.

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  7. Civil Servants Are People, Too January 10, 2010 / 2:08 am
     
    I’m with you on this one, most so-called appraisals are scams.   My home was appraised last year and the first value was so low that I complained and got another one.
     
    The difference in value between the two appraisals was nearly $100,000 on my modest middle-class home.    How can two  so-called appraisers be so far off?
     
    Oh, maybe because they were paid by the bank and neither one was actually an appraiser.
     
    The whole real estate market is screwed up and taking this country with them.
     
     
     
     

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  8. mcohio January 10, 2010 / 8:07 am
    Greg employs his own father-in-law.

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  9. Steve Brack January 10, 2010 / 9:07 am

    A few things:
    It’s Plummer, not Plumber. Keep getting people’s names wrong & we’re liable to confuse you with the DDN. :)
    The legal requirement is that the property be valued by 3 disinterested freeholders, paid according to a schedule set by the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. The Sheriff imposes rules that go above the requirements of the law. If you don’t like the system as set by law, change the law.
    Unless you applied to appraise properties & got turned down in favor of the Sheriff’s sister, what is your complaint?  You’ve offered no evidence that she had any improper advantage over other candidates, nor that better applicants were denied this opportunity.  Innuendo isn’t evidence of impropriety.
    I dislike the way Phil Plummer got his job.  It was reminiscent of a king anointing his successor, rather than a (small d) democratic transfer of power. It’s like other political officials who step down shortly before the next election so their hand-picked successor can run as an incumbent. Virtually the only sign of this is on their campaign literature, which says “Keep So-and-So” because it would be a lie to say “Re-elect So-and-So.”
    My default response to any of your complaints that “There’s a problem with this” is to tell you “So fix it.” The governance of the state is the responsibility of the people. Our elected representatives are just that, our representatives. They are not some amorphous other upon whom to blame the purported inadequacies of government; If our government fails us, it’s because we’ve allowed it to.

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  10. David Esrati January 10, 2010 / 1:21 pm

    @Steve Brack- thanks for reminding me to double check spell check.

    As to his sister or anyone else doing this job- the problem is that I don’t believe they are really doing 6 appraisals a day- or that their appraisals are anywhere near correct.

    The part about fixing government- well, if Dan Foley and Karl Keith have a problem with this practice- shouldn’t they have caught it a long time ago- not just at election time?

    Since these positions aren’t paid with tax dollars- shouldn’t there be a competitive bid process?

    The whole thing is bizarre- but, it’s nice his sister makes more than he does.

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  11. Sarah January 10, 2010 / 1:42 pm
    @CSaPT
    What you experienced is pretty common.  Appraising is a “human science”.  What I may call GOOD in a report another appraiser may call AVG+.
    $100K though is pretty wide…raises a red flag to me.
    However, by federal law, you are entitled to a copy of that report – you can request it from your LO.  Make sure that you ask that it be without redactions.  Many will send you the report but remove the appraiser’s name.
    Here is another little dirty secret – AMC’s send appraisers all over the State.  An appraiser I investigated came to Dayton from Mentor, OH (on 7 different reports)!  That is 5 hours, one way for $300.  Sorry I am not that desperate.
    Keep in mind that since 2004-2005 the ENTIRE real estate market has declined.  Doesn’t really matter how pretty and shiny your home is – it has gone down in value.  The up side is that real estate is cyclical and it will go up.  Will we ever see number like the ones prior to 2004-2005 – nope.
    When an appraiser comes to your home:
    Have a sheet detailing what improvements have been done to the home plus $$ amounts.  Include the name of the builder/contractor.  I very well versed on who is good and who just screwed you.
    Ask the appraiser where are they located? How many counties do they cover?  Geographic competency is EVERYTHING in my job.  I know nothing about Darke County, but ask me anything about the 3 counties that I do cover. 
    Do they belong to the Multiple Listing Service?  Appraisers must offer 2 independently verifiable sources for data – County is one and MLS is the other.  Famous appraiser up north swore you didn’t need the MLS.  He, after appearing before the State Board more than any other appraiser I know, finally had his license REVOKED.  If they say YES – call the applicable board to verify.  I can’t tell you how many appraisers lie about this.  It $45/month – give me a break.
    Ask if they are working on behalf of an AMC.  Ask what they are getting paid.  Few will answer this one; the AMC’s have made it verboten.  Check this amount against your Good Faith Estimate and your HUD-1 statement at closing. If you see something different – make a stink.  It’s your money after all.
    To make things worse the Department of Commerce that oversees my industry is very petty.  They will nail you for failure to note minutia.  But turning someone in for flat out fraud (you must give your name) makes you the bad guy.  In turn the State starts an investigation against YOU. 
    It is no one else’s fault but our own.  Until recently appraisers never spoke to one another, we never shared fee amounts, we never fraternized in any way.  We killed our industry by being silent.

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  12. Sarah January 10, 2010 / 2:07 pm
    @SB – no one can technically apply for this job.  You have it (for obvious $$$ reasons) until you DIE.  Up north they had one on staff until he was in his 90’s. But what does that tell you about my earlier argument – Do they even get out of the van?
    My name is on The List.  I have a better chance of winning Lottery than becoming an approved County Appraiser.
    Again, why pick a non-licensed person with lack of knowledge and credentials?  I certainly would not claim to know how to sell a house, so why would a realtor claim to know how to appraise a property? Properly?
    You are incorrect that the sheriff has “imposes rules that go above the requirements of the law.”  If you are going to say that these people are appraising a property then either
    1.  Appoint APPRASIERS who are LICENSED or
    2. Call them out for what they are GUESSERS of value.
    And I would argue from a professional stance that they are GUESSING WRONG, to the detriment of the County, banks and finally the consumer.  The sheriff side stepped every local, state and federal rule that applies to my profession due to a weasel hole in the law.
    Would I love to see that money in my pocketbook – hell yes.  Will it ever happen – no.
    Appraisers are taking the State to task.  We have several items in the hopper.  Legislation takes time and sadly yes money.

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  13. Jerry Smith June 1, 2011 / 2:15 am
    Well no matter how much training a real estate appaiser has they are a thing of the past, I can get a computer generated AVM, thats that maybe its not as good but when its the standard, then who will need to pay an appraiser. I live in Indiana, and licensing of appraisers is tough but its all about nepotism.  

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