Pros and Cons of Online Price Estimators; Best Ways to Regulate

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Evaluating Online Price Estimators: Resident Risk Doctor Cliff Rossi kicked off our most heated debate of the week when he suggested online home price estimators distort the housing market. "[Automated valuation models] … remain a black box to homebuyers and most market participants, susceptible to a host of data weaknesses despite their technical sophistication," he wrote. "This should be one area of focus by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." A few readers agreed with this assessment. "AVMs are not only worthless for reliable valuation, but they are a large factor in deceptive valuation, and could be detrimental to the country's economy," one commented. Others thought the estimators, while imperfect, did offer some value. "They … are a good starting point and in aggregate can be considered reliable," a reader commented. American Banker community banking reporter Andy Peter, who recently purchased a home, added: "I double-checked the inaccurate data with online county tax records and found that the county tax records were also wrong. So it's not like using county tax records, instead of an AVM, would give you better information." And online estimator Zillow’s chief economist Stan Humphries put forth that AVMs were only meant to be one part of a prospective homeowner’s research. "We often say [our estimate] is a starting point in determining a home's value," he wrote.   

How Best to Regulate? American Banker Editor at Large Barb Rehm presented the counterargument to her opinion that Dodd-Frank’s implementation is taking too long. "First, federal rules, once written, are rarely changed," she writes. "Second, no rule is better than a lousy one … And finally, even without the formal rules in place, Dodd-Frank's mandates are being applied, especially to the largest banks." One reader championed the notion that regulators should slow down their rule-writing. "It is clear the regulators do not know what the impact of the rules they are writing will be on the industry and even if it will result in a sounder and safer industry," this person wrote. "The one thing is clear is that it will be more overburdened industry for those that want to comply." Another commenter complimented Rehm for outlining the arguments against her point of view. "It takes a brave and thoughtful person to do op-eds on their own columns. Thank you." Richard Hunt of the Consumer Bankers Association and Camden Fine of the Independent Community Bankers of America argued regulators should tread lightly when it comes to policing overdraft services and Susan Palm of MetricStream urged bankers and regulators to treat each other as allies, not enemies. "Only then, will they be able to build a safe and sound financial system," she wrote.

Our Monthly Columnists Check In: Promontory Financial CEO Eugene Ludwig weighed in on the ongoing debit card swipe fee battle by suggesting the recent court ruling to impose lower caps should be used as an opportunity to properly test Durbin. Dave Martin of Financial Supermarkets Inc. urged bankers to share their star performers’ strategies with the rest of their staff. "Giving the rest of our teams regular snapshots of factors that brought about star performances is far more useful to them than simply reporting who those star performers are," he wrote.      

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Law and regulation