WASHINGTON - Difficulty in obtaining prompt appraisals has been a big obstacle to speeding up the process of getting a home loan. It has generally taken several days to get an appraisal that confirms the value of the house.
Now, Freddie Mac says it is beefing up the collateral assessment features of its automated underwriting system. Instead of relying on a detailed physical inspection by an appraiser, the user can access statistical models and data bases of property values and employ streamlined inspections to determine the value of a home.
The agency has statistical models to determine property values in 100 counties around the nation. Next year, it will be able to extend this service to 350 counties.
Freddie Mac will also use services provided by Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. Al Cwik, real estate valuation manager at MGIC, said the insurer's network of real estate brokers can provide information on the neighborhood, the property, and the value of comparable listings to arrive at a price range for a home.
Freddie will also use TRW Redi Property Data's data base as an alternative to the usual appraisal.
One lender who is using Freddie Mac's collateral assessment service said it was cheaper and left lenders holding less risk.
"In most situations where we sell loans to the investor, we are responsible for the appraised value of the property. If it turns out the appraiser made a mistake, it's up to our underwriters to catch it," said Maurice Wilhelm, executive vice president of MortgageAmerica Inc. in Birmingham, Ala.
"Well, that's a laborious task on our part, and it leaves us with risk," Mr. Wilhelm said.
When Freddie Mac assesses the property's value, the lender is absolved of all responsibility on that score, he added.
Such considerations have made Freddie Mac the agency of choice for MortgageAmerica, which sells about 80% of its conventional loans to Freddie Mac.
Separately, the federal housing commissioner, Nicholas P. Retsinas, announced last Friday that the FHA 1996 loan limits would increase 1.9%, in line with Freddie Mac's limits.
The FHA mortgage limit in most areas of the country will be $78,660 for single-family homes. In high-cost areas, the new limit will be $155,250.