Here's the surest sign that housing, in recovery here for three years, is really starting to recover nationally: People everywhere are griping at appraisers.
Oklahoma City has been there, done that.
Don't get me wrong. Builders and Realtors and homebuyers aren't sending gifts and flowers and candygrams to property appraisers — but they aren't calling for their heads anymore, either. Times were touchier in 2009 and 2010 and well into 2011, as recovery here took hold. That means the rest of the country has only just begun to grumble.
Why takes some explaining.
The worst of the housing bust here was in 2009. Softest prices. Slow sales stabilized by federal housing tax credits. It was the post-bust bottom for construction.
Homebuilders have been climbing back ever since, but not without difficulty.
In every transaction, at the most crucial point, was an appraiser whose word, as usual, could make or break the deal, or at least cause it to be rewritten to the detriment of the buyer. Buyer makes offer; bank approves loan; appraiser appraises house, and lo and behold the appraisal comes in less than the loan amount, and the buyer either coughs up more dough or walks.
What was not usual was the frequency with which deals went down in flames, or the reasons for it: In May 2009, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which had bought so many bad loans in the normal course of business during the bubble that it almost ruined them, adopted the Home Valuation Code of Conduct as a way to tamp down some of the excesses.