For as much as appraisers have been blamed for inflating the value of housing during the boom times, today many in the housing industry are accusing appraisers of artificially driving down the value of homes in certain markets. Big Builder Online asked its readers recently to share what's going on in their markets.

More than half of the respondents--55.6%--said they very often are seeing appraisals come in below contract price, while 33.3% said they are seeing it on occasion. The remainder of respondents said it is rare or nonexistent to see appraisals below contract price.

Results were mixed on how much below contract price the appraisals were coming in, on average:

* 27.8% of respondents said they are seeing 5% to 10% below contract price;

* 16.7% said 20% to 25%; 16.7% said more than 25%; 13.9% said 10% to 15%;

* 11.1% said less than 5%; 8.3% said 15% to 20%; and 5.6% said they are not seeing appraisals come in below contract price.

Lack of appraiser accountability for valuations was listed as the biggest problem with the appraisal system today, garnering 27.8% of the response.Inconsistent comparative valuations and little appraiser knowledge of new products and building technologies also were listed as major problems, receiving 22.2% and 16.7% of the vote, respectively. However, 11.1% of respondents said the biggest problem is unqualified appraisers, and several other respondents said it was a combination of unqualified appraisers, inconsistent comparative valuations, and lack of appraiser accountability.Almost half of the respondents--44.4%--have appealed or ordered another appraisal when they have come in below contract price, while 16.7% said they have contributed some money toward the closing, 11.1% forced the buyer to bring more money to the closing table, and 8.3% canceled the contract. The remainder of respondents said they have tried several of the methods mentioned above as well as lowering the price.

The majority of respondents--72.2%--said the enactment of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which forces lenders to follow new rules to ensure greater appraiser independence if they want to be able to sell their conforming home loans to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, will have a negative effect on home builders. The remainder of the respondents said they were unsure of the outcome or expected a positive effect.