"I don't think that anyone can assume that the appraised value of their home is based on reality. Appraisal fraud is so common that homeowners need to assume the opposite," says research director David Callahan of Demos, a public policy center. Demos released a report about appraisal fraud in March, sparking intense discussion in the real estate press.
No one knows exactly how often appraisers tinker with reality. But reports suggest that they face enormous pressure to tweak their numbers. Some observers predict they'll face even more if the real estate market cools.