The charge: Inflated appraisals put home buyers in immediate jeopardy.
The appraiser's job is pretty straightforward: Put an objective dollar value on a home. But according to Thomas Inserra, CEO of Zaio, an Internet-based appraisal service, inaccurate appraisals have become one of the substantial contributing factors to subprime's problems.
When a property is valued much higher than its actual worth, a borrower could owe more of the home than it would fetch on the open market. Inaccurately high appraisals also fed the rising home prices, which, by making homes less affordable, ensured that more borrowers would default on loans.
In a stagnant housing market or if prices are actually declining, owing more on a home than its value removes one of the safety nets. It makes it impossible for owners in trouble to tap home equity; there isn't any.
Bottom line: Appraisers don't bear the primary responsibility for all the bad loans, but more accurate appraisals could have lessened the severity of the problem.