Appraisals are supposed to shield home buyers from paying too much and lenders from overestimating the value of collateral. If appraisals come in too high, buyers may overpay, making defaults more likely. If they are too low, it becomes hard to sell or refinance homes. Many real-estate agents and builders say that the pendulum has swung too far toward caution, and that lowball appraisals threaten to snuff out any recovery in the housing market.
By James R. Hagerty, August 17, 2009, WSJ

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See the new  May 1, 2009 Appraisal Code and  Home Valuation Code of Conduct FAQ’s (July 2009 update)

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (the Code) is the result of a joint agreement between Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and the New York State Attorney General to enhance the independence and accuracy of the appraisal process, and provide added protections for homebuyers, mortgage investors and the housing market.