Commercial Grade is a weekly post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with specific focus on commercial valuation. Today John talks gets annoyed with footing the bill for someone else’s cost.

Disclosure: John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, on Mondays on Thursdays, one of the smartest guys I know. …Jonathan Miller

Several weeks ago I received an email from Citizens Bank saying that in order for them to comply with the privacy act (the Gramm-Leach-Blilely Financial Services Modernization Act) they have contracted with an outside service for the secure online transmission of appraisal and environmental reports.

While they note that the cost of maintaining a web-based service to securely transmit customer and prospect information related to environmental and appraisal due diligence should ultimately be incurred by such customer or prospect, they are passing this cost to their “vendors” (i.e., us!). Since we are being asked to pay for their secure service, I am puzzled as to how this cost will be passed on to the customer.

The amount that I am being asked to pay is a function of the volume of work that I did for the bank last year. They note again that this cost will ultimately be absorbed by customers and prospects. Still not clear howwill they simply tack on the charge ($50) for the secure service to each agreed upon fee?

I need to return an executed form to the Bank with my payment, or I can refuse to make payment, and consequently acknowledge my future inability to continue to provide environmental/appraisal services directly to Citizens.

In other words, if I refuse to subsidize the cost of my client’s privacy act compliance, I am off the approved list. Something doesn’t sit right with this maybe I am over-reacting. Though none of my other clients have asked for such a subsidy, perhaps this is just the beginning, and I will soon be cutting dozens of checks to other banks, as well.

I would appreciate any feedback that Soapbox readers could give me because I am truly at a loss as to whether I should comply, or simply take them off my “approved client list.”

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4 Responses to “[Commercial Grade] Being a Good Citizen”

  1. Michael Tabor says:

    Some of my clients use Appraisal Port, and I add Appraisal Port’s fee to my bill to the client, who passes it on to the borrower, I expect.

    There are a number of ways to address security issues without raising costs, as most of us already have web servers and FTP points.

    The whole thing reminds me of another scenario where opportunists lobbied lawmakers in order to jam themselves between people doing business for the purpose of siphoning away fees, and in the process degrading the value of the end product. Yeah. I’m thinking of HMOs.

  2. Rich Paddock says:

    If the bank is requesting a $50.00 fee upfront, doesn’t this violate FIRREIA? You have to pay them to receive work?

    We too use Appraisal Port and are pleased with its simplicity and low cost. We sometimes add the fee to our invoice, sometimes we don’t. It is a business decision.

    This does sound like an appraisal HMO. They’re healthy, I’m sick!

  3. TheHomeAppraiser says:

    You are ok under FIRREIA if you disclose the fee paid directly to the lender in your report. I pay $199 a year to my software vendor to send reports to CountryWides LandSafe AMC. I consider that a communications expense like long distance or internet service. How does Appraisal Port work? On a percentage or a set fee per order? What lenders use them?

  4. I remember telling one of my associates a while back that one day the institutional clients would expect us (i.e. appraisers) to pay just for the privilege of doing business with them. I guess that day has dawned.