Frequently Asked Questions Regarding The Appraisal Fee Reference (AFR)

Download the current Appraisal Fee Reference™ for free at www.MercuryVMP.com/Analytics.

Why are you publishing this?
It’s important for regulatory compliance and business planning to provide appraisers, lenders, AMCs, Realtors, and regulators with objective data on what constitutes a ‘customary’ fee charged by a local independent fee appraiser when engaged directly by a client.

We developed the national Appraisal Fee Reference™ to be the authoritative guide to average and median appraisal fees for a base URAR. It is just one of the monthly data sets published as part of our Appraisal Industry Analytics™ practice.

What is a “base URAR”?
A base URAR is a “plain Jane” URAR report completed for a lender client (specifically, non-AMC), with no indicated extra fees or assignment particulars. For example, we have done our best to exclude assignments where we know that the client has requested 1004MCs or other special addenda, or where the report is indicated to be for FHA specifically. Nor have we knowingly included extra fees for driving times, unless the appraiser incorporated those into the base fee.

A base URAR fee provides users on both sides of the transaction an accurate and useful starting point for discussing what customary URAR fees are, absent of other conditions. It allows an apples-to-apples unit of comparison to other areas and to past or future fees.

How do you compile the fees and statistics?
We analyze hundreds of thousands of verified, non-AMC, URAR-only, address-validated appraisal transactions which utilized our Mercury Network backbone over the past 12 months. Since we operate a highly structured network, we know the details of the transactions. This is real observed data; it is not the result of an “industry survey” asking about perceived fees.

Aren’t the fees lowered by AMC orders?
We separate the fees into AMC and non-AMC orders based on what we know about the ordering entity, and in this report we analyze only the non-AMC transactions.

Does this tell me how fees have changed due to the HVCC?
Many appraisers believe that AMCs and the HVCC have driven down even what independent fee appraisers receive when engaged directly, but this analysis can not address that issue since there is no historical pre-HVCC objective baseline against which to measure any changes.

Checking the impact of the HVCC on fees would require a track record of AFR reports spanning the pre- and post-HVCC days, which does not exist. However, from this point forward, it will be possible to determine where fees are headed over time by tracking changes in the AFR results.

Why use “median” fees? Why not average?
It is easy for an average, or “mean”, of any data set to be easily skewed by a few high or low data points. Median represents the middle of the range, and in our experience with this fee data, it more accurately represents what would be considered “customary” in a given county.

Average fees are reported for summaries, as they’re still useful, especially in conjunction with the standard deviation.

What is “Relative Standard Deviation (CV)”?
It’s a measurement of the variability in fees. Simply put, the fees in a market are clustered more tightly around the average, or “mean”, when the Relative Standard Deviation percentage is low. (Note that mean and median are not the same thing.)

Why should I care about Standard Deviation or Relative Standard Deviation?
Upon first seeing data like this, it’s easy to say “Everyone I know charges more than that” or, at the other end, “I haven’t seen a fee that high in years”. Looking at the standard deviation for your broader area helps you see what the ranges of commonplace fees are and how that reconciles with your own experience. (Note: Standard deviations are most useful across larger populations of data, so we don’t report them below the state level.)

So, if your area shows a median fee of $350, an average of $360, and a standard deviation of $90, that means it’s common for fees to be between $270 and $450 (take the average plus and minus one standard deviation to determine the common range). Anything within that range is most likely a “normal” fee.

Isn’t this illegal “price fixing”?
Not at all. Discussion and dissemination of analysis of observed fees is quite different from collusion to create a cartel. When you discuss and weigh these observed fees and use them to make planning decisions, it is no different than grocers observing competitive pricing on bread, or gas stations spot checking the market to see what others are doing. It’s just data, and you’re just using it to see where your business model fits into the broader matrix.

The fee for my area is wrong. How do you fix it?
We simply report what the data says; it’s neither right nor wrong, but may be different from what a given appraiser charges for a URAR, especially when there are special circumstances attached to the assignment (a large or complex property, long drive times, hypothetical conditions, short turn-around times, and so on).

The median and average fees that we report here should be taken as generalized observations of customary fees in a vigorous and diverse market with many variables in play, not as “the fee” for a URAR in a given area. Generally, your total fee will be higher.

How does this relate to FHA’s “customary and reasonable” guidelines?
The Appraisal Fee Reference™ provides objective data regarding what independent fee appraisers are “customarily” paid for a base URAR when engaged directly.

The AFR cannot address what is “reasonable,” due to the variations of real estate itself. The particular nature of a specific subject property and the associated assignment create conditions which allow only the appraiser to make the determination of reasonableness of the fee.

It therefore cannot address specific add-on fees that you might append to the base URAR, such as those for additional addenda (a 1004MC, for example), or particular categories of assignments (extra fees for an FHA assignment), as well as fees related to the physical attributes of the assignment (long distance drive times, or very large homes or acreages).

Is the AFR copyrighted information?
Yes. You can’t republish the AFR, in whole or in part, nor create a derivative work. But, we encourage you to discuss it publicly in a “fair use” context. Fair use in this case would certainly include forwarding it to clients or colleagues, commenting on it in forums, citing it in e-mails to lenders and clients, and so on.

If you want to use it more broadly than that, such as re-branding it for use in your own marketing efforts or republishing portions of it in the media, we can license it to you.  Contact us at MercuryAnalytics@MercuryVMP.com.  

Who do I contact with questions?
You can e-mail the Mercury Network Analytics team at MercuryAnalytics@MercuryVMP.com. For more information on Mercury Network, visit www.MercuryVMP.com.

Download your copy of the current Appraisal Fee Reference™ for free at www.MercuryVMP.com/Analytics