Hank Investigates: Home refinance requirements putting people at potential risk of COVID-19

NEWTON, MASS. (WHDH) - Many homeowners are racing to take advantage of low-interest rates and refinance their mortgages.

But investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan found the federal government’s re-fi requirements potentially put people’s health at risk.

Newton homeowner Can Erbil is trying to refinance his place to save $300 a month.
But he says his lender said virtual tours won’t work for the required appraisal.

Instead, an appraiser has to come inside–where Erbil’s family is trying to avoid COVID-19.

“They said that’s the absolutely step they had to take or they had to cancel our refi. It does really not make sense,” Erbil said.

We found federal lending requirements require in-person appraisals for most re-fi’s.

The Massachusetts Board of Real Estate Appraisers says that puts everyone at risk.

“I really think that’s problematic, it flies in the face of common sense,” Stephen E. Sousa, Executive Vice President of the Massachusetts Board of Real Estate Appraisers (MBREA) said.

Experts say refi deals are falling apart and the Mass Mortgage Bankers Association even fired off a letter to the feds, asking them to reconsider the in-home requirements.

“Until they relax the guidelines the lenders cant do anything, so really the responsibility rests on their shoulders for creating the situation,” Sousa said.

Though Erbil says he’s asked for an “exterior only” appraisal or one using computer data, the answer is always no. And he says his appraiser told him he’d been into many homes in the last week.

“If somebody hears this and they fix it, if it saves the life of one person, it’ll be important,” Erbil said.

We contacted the feds asking if they were planning any changes but they never responded.

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