Addressing Bias in Appraisal Standards

The meticulous work of drafting a new ethics rule will pay off in clarity for our profession and the public.
Appraiser evaluating home

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Nothing matters more to a service profession than public trust. REALTORS®, whether specializing in sales, appraisals, property management or other disciplines, need to be trusted by members of the public in order for our services to be valued and considered beneficial to society.  

In recent times, no topic has tested the public trust more than the issue of appraisal bias, and specifically appraisal bias against people of color.  

It is deeply troubling to me, and to appraisers in general, to hear stories in which families are affected in such a way that they feel they must hide who they are in order to obtain a fair valuation. No one should ever have to go to such lengths.  

The Appraisal Standards Board takes the issue of appraisal bias very seriously. An independent board of the Appraisal Foundation, ASB is tasked with writing and updating the professional appraisal standards used in every state and territory of the United States. The Appraisal Foundation is a nonprofit entity that was granted the authority by Congress to be the keeper of these standards, known as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.  

Over the last several years, the ASB has been working on clarifying standards regarding discrimination that go beyond the existing requirement of simply not performing an assignment with bias. The ASB is getting closer to adopting these enhanced ethical obligations, with the goal of maintaining public trust in the profession.  

As a third-generation member of the National Association of REALTORS®, I understand the need for strong ethical standards to govern our profession, as well as the need for REALTORS® to understand and uphold them. Furthermore, in order to maintain the public’s trust, we must allow the public to see our standards and understand them as well. The work the ASB is doing will result in clear and enforceable standards that everyone, both within our profession and outside of our profession, will be able to understand.  

When making changes to USPAP, the ASB releases a document known as an exposure draft to the public. The draft shows what the ASB proposes to change within USPAP, as well as ASB’s rationale for proposing the change. The ASB solicits feedback on exposure drafts from various stakeholders including appraisers, regulators, federal agencies, lenders, educators, professional organizations and consumers. Based on that feedback, the ASB may decide to adopt the changes or may make additional revisions and issue a subsequent exposure draft. No change to USPAP may be made without exposure and public comment.  

At our public meeting last month, the ASB announced that, in response to feedback from the public, we are continuing to work on the proposed edits to the USPAP ethics rule. This rule specifies the personal obligations and responsibility of the individual appraiser. The ASB will continue this engagement so that the revised rule and accompanying guidance will clearly convey the prohibition against illegal discrimination.  

Four exposure drafts have been released to date, and a fifth one will be released soon, most likely within the next few weeks. (Watch The Appraisal Foundation’s website for updates.) Making revisions to USPAP is an intense and exacting process, because it is imperative that the ethical and performance standards for the valuation profession be clear and enforceable. This process demonstrates the ASB’s commitment to drafting precise, clear and direct language.  

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. When our work is finished, USPAP will include language in the ethical standards that will enhance public trust and allow for those both within the profession and outside the profession to understand the obligation for equal treatment under the law.