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Home Appraisals: Who Owns the Report and Why You Might Not Get a Copy

Home Appraisals: Who Owns the Report and Why You Might Not Get a Copy

Date Posted: September 28, 2023

Although prospective homeowners are typically responsible for the cost of their home appraisal, many are unaware that they usually won't receive a copy of the appraisal report. The reason behind this lies in the fact that the professional appraiser hired to assess a home's value doesn't actually work for the prospective homeowner.

In the world of mortgage lending, the saying "he or she who holds the gold, makes the rules" holds true. In other words, the party responsible for commissioning the substantial loan for mortgage financing has the authority to determine who pays for the appraisal.

This can be confusing for homeowners, especially when compared to other financial processes. For instance, financial institutions are obligated to provide clients with copies of their credit score assessments, even if a third party requests it. This transparency ensures that everyone involved understands a person's creditworthiness.

So, who owns the appraisal report? According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC), which represents most appraisers, the appraisal report belongs to the entity that commissioned it. In the context of financing, this means it belongs to the lender.

Keith Lancastle, interim CEO at the AIC, explains that even though homeowners foot the bill for the appraisal, they are not the appraiser's client. The appraiser's primary obligation is to their client, which is the entity that contracted them for the appraisal, typically the lender.

The Canadian National Association of Real Estate Appraisers (CNAREA) shares a similar stance on appraisal ownership. They follow the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), where the report is considered the property of the client, which may not always be the party that pays for the appraisal. However, the client has the authority to share the report with other parties as long as confidential or licensed data is not compromised.

These strict guidelines on appraisal report ownership are in place to ensure that lenders receive the specific information they require. Different lenders may have distinct lending criteria, so an appraisal tailored for one lender may not be suitable for another.

Christopher Bisson, founder of appraisal tech company Value Connect, notes that appraisers prefer to know who the report is intended for to align it with the criteria that specific lenders typically request. This avoids unexpected discrepancies when switching from one lender to another.

While it's possible for appraisers to release the results of an appraisal with their client's permission, this doesn't happen frequently. However, clients may access appraisal reports in their early stages. Some mortgage representatives receive draft copies and make them available to borrowers.

Bisson recommends this approach when it's unclear which lender will handle a mortgage application. By informing the appraiser about the likely lender type, the report can be prepared according to that lender's criteria, reducing surprises.

Lancastle suggests that lenders may be hesitant to release appraisal reports to maintain a competitive advantage. This practice of homeowners paying for the appraisal has become a standard in the mortgage industry, forming part of the business model established by the lending community.