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Can a Mortgage Lender Waive Appraisal?

mortgage appraisal is an assessment of the current market value of a property. It is conducted by a licensed real estate appraiser on behalf of the mortgage lender when a buyer is seeking a mortgage loan to purchase a home. 

The appraiser will physically inspect the interior and exterior of the property. They will take into account the home’s size, age, condition, upgrades, neighborhood, comparable recent sales, and other factors to determine the property’s fair market value. 

The appraised value of the home is a key data point used by the lender during the mortgage underwriting process. It helps ensure the buyer is not overpaying for the property and that the home serves as sufficient collateralfor the loan.

A mortgage lender can waive an appraisal under certain conditions. Appraisal waivers are often granted for refinances or mortgage renewals, especially if a recent appraisal has been conducted. Factors such as the loan type, borrower’s financial profile, and the amount of equity in the home can influence a lender’s decision to offer an appraisal waiver.

A lender signing an assessment waiver

Why Do Lenders Require an Appraisal?

There are a few key reasons why mortgage lenders require an appraisal to be completed before approving a home loan:

  • To verify the value of the property and ensure the loan amountaccurately reflects the home’s worth. This protects the lender by confirming the property can be sold to recoup the loan funds if the borrower defaults.
  • To make sure the borrower is not overpaying for the home compared to its fair market value. This reduces risk for both lender and buyer.
  • As part of responsible lending practices required by secondary mortgage market agencies like Fannie Mae. Appraisals help ensure loans meet collateral standards.
  • For mortgage insurance and loan guarantee requirements stipulating a maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratio based on the appraised value.

So in short, the appraisal protects the interests of both lender and borrower when making a major financial decision like a home purchase. It provides an independent, unbiased estimate of the property’s market value.

Can a Mortgage Lender Waive an Appraisal?

In certain scenarios, yes – a mortgage lender can waive the appraisal requirement on a home loan. 

Appraisal waivers are most common on refinances or mortgage renewals, especially when there has been a recent appraisal done on the property. 

For home purchases, lenders may still require an appraisal but provide more flexibility on the type, such as a more affordable drive-by or automated valuation instead of a full interior inspection.

Lenders can use discretion to offer an appraisal waiver based on the perceived risk of the transaction, typically determined by:

  • The loan program and type
  • The borrower’s financial profile 
  • The amount of equity in the home

So under the right circumstances, borrowers may be able to avoid an appraisal and the associated cost and time.

When Can a Mortgage Lender Waive an Appraisal?

Mortgage lenders have the option to waive appraisals on certain loans and for certain borrowers. Here are some common scenarios:

1. For Certain Types of Loans

Different loan programs have varying appraisal requirements. For example:

So depending on the specific loan program, an appraisal may not be universally required.

2. Based on Loan-to-Value Ratio

A lower LTV ratio means less risk for the lender, as there is more equity cushion in the home. Many lenders allow appraisal waivers for refinances with LTVs around 70% or less.

For purchases, lenders may offer waivers for substantial down payments of 20% or more, indicating borrowers have “skin in the game”.

3. Based on Borrower’s Credit Score

Credit scores above a certain threshold are generally seen as lower risk by lenders. For Fannie Mae loans, borrowers with scores of 720+ may qualify for appraisal waivers on some refinances. 

Strong credit and financial profiles imply borrowers are less likely to default on the mortgage.

4. In Case of Refinancing

For refinances or mortgage renewals, lenders often allow appraisal waivers since there is an existing relationship with the borrower. Especially if they recently assessed the home’s value.

This saves time and cost compared to ordering a new appraisal on a property the lender is already familiar with. 

What Are the Benefits of Having an Appraisal Waived?

Getting an appraisal waiver approved comes with a few potential advantages for borrowers:

1. Saves Time in the Loan Process

Without an appraisal, the loan can close more quickly since there is one less step. Appraisers often have busy schedules, so appraisal waivers avoid timing delays.

2. Saves Money for the Borrower

Borrowers pay for appraisal fees out of pocket, typically $400-$700. Waiving it saves on these upfront costs.

3. Reduces Risk of Deal Falling Through Due to Low Appraisal

If an appraisal values the property below the contract price, it puts the entire deal at risk. An appraisal waiver provides certainty.

What Are the Risks of Having an Appraisal Waived?

While appraisal waivers have benefits, there are also potential risks borrowers take on:

1. Overpaying for the Property

Without a third-party appraisal, there is risk of overestimating the property’s market value and overpaying as the buyer.

2. Difficulty in Selling or Refinancing Later On

If an appraisal waiver inflates the purchase price, it becomes an issue later when trying to sell or refinance without adequate equity.

So in certain situations, accepting an appraisal waiver could actually end up costing borrowers more in the long run. It pays to be cautious.

How to Request for an Appraisal Waiver from Your Lender?

If you are interested in requesting an appraisal waiver, here are some tips:

  • Ask your loan officer if you may be eligible based on your loan details and financial profile. 
  • Highlight factors that reduce risk, like your substantial down payment or excellent credit.
  • Be ready to provide all requested documents quickly to speed the process. Promptness signals you are a low-risk borrower.
  • Accept that the lender ultimately decides based on their assessment of the loan’s risk. Not all will agree to waive.
  • Get any waiver approval in writing from the lender before proceeding without an appraisal.

Are There Any Tricks For Getting an Appraisal Waiver?

There are no guaranteed tricks, but steps that may improve your chances include:

  • Putting down a larger down payment of at least 20% to reduce the LTV.
  • Maintaining a credit score over 740 and limiting new credit applications.
  • Minimizing liabilities and stabilizing income sources ahead of time.
  • Asking your trusted real estate agent to provide comps supporting the purchase price. 
  • Refinancing with your existing lender where possible to leverage the relationship.

The keys are reducing risk factors and making a compelling case to the lender that a waiver is justified.

What Are Some Alternatives to Traditional Appraisals?

If an outright waiver is not approved, lenders may offer streamlined alternatives:

  • Drive-by appraisals: A quick visual inspection from the street instead of going inside.
  • Desktop appraisals: An appraiser estimates value based on public records, MLS data, and comparable sales. 
  • Broker price opinions (BPOs): A real estate agent provides a market analysis.
  • Automated valuation models (AVMs): Computer programs estimate the home’s value. 
  • Hybrid appraisals: Combines an on-site inspection with AVMs for a discounted fee.

These options provide cheaper and quicker valuations compared to full interior appraisals. Discuss options with your lender.

In summary, mortgage lenders have discretion to waive appraisals for qualifying borrowers and loan types. While appraisal waivers can save time and money, understand the risks before foregoing this important valuation step in the home buying process. Carefully evaluate if an appraisal waiver or alternative makes sense for your unique scenario.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Can a loan be approved without an appraisal?

Yes, it is possible to approve a loan without an appraisal. This is known as a no-appraisal mortgage, and it is typically offered to borrowers who have a good credit history and a reliable source of income. No-appraisal mortgages are usually offered with higher interest rates than traditional mortgages, as lenders are taking on more risk without the appraisal.

Why would an underwriter waive an appraisal?

An underwriter may waive an appraisal when the loan amount is below a certain threshold, when the loan is for a refinance, or when the lender has sufficient collateral for the loan. This decision is made by the underwriter based on their assessment of the risk associated with the loan. Waiving an appraisal can help to expedite the loan process, reducing the time it takes to close the loan.

For which property would a lender be most likely to offer an appraisal waiver?

A lender is most likely to offer an appraisal waiver for a property that is already well-known and has a reliable market value. For example, a lender might offer an appraisal waiver for a property listed on Rocket Homes, an online real estate marketplace, since Rocket Homes provides accurate and up-to-date market value estimates. An appraisal waiver can also be offered for properties that have been recently appraised, allowing the lender to rely on the existing appraisal rather than needing to order a new one.

What are the risks of waiving an appraisal?

Waiving an appraisal can be a risky decision when buying a home, as it eliminates the lender’s ability to assess the home’s value and protect their investment. Without an appraisal, the buyer may be unaware of any potential issues or costly repairs that could affect the home’s value. Additionally, if the home’s value is lower than the purchase price, the lender may not be able to finance the entire amount.