Appraisers have their patience tested As answers vanish, many must retake four-hour exam

January 14, 1993|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Staff Writer

How could 128 exams be lost?

That's what real estate appraisers throughout Maryland are wondering.

On Dec. 19, they sat for a four-hour make-or-break licensing exam at the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus. What they didn't realize, until recent days -- when they received Western Union Mailgrams -- was that the answer sheets for their exams had been lost.

"At first, I thought it was a cruel joke by my wife," said 37-year-old Dart Alsmeyer of Rockville, who spent two months preparing to take the multiple-choice test and is one of the appraisers who will have to go through the exam marathon again Saturday.

"The whole thing is real frustrating now -- the way it's being handled," said a miffed Neil Mengel, an appraiser from Lutherville.

"The moral of the story is that the best-laid plans can go astray," said William Hogan, a vice president with the Psychological Corp., the San Antonio company hired by the Maryland Real Estate Appraisers Commission to give the exams under new licensing requirements mandated by the federal government.

"It was just a freak accident," said Charles Kazlo, the commission's executive director.

Officials said that apparently, answer sheets for the appraisers' exams were in a cardboard box that was being flown on Airborne Express from Baltimore to San Antonio, and the box broke open and some of its contents were lost.

Answer sheets for 102 of the appraisers who took the test Dec. 19 made it to San Antonio in new packages, but the rest are still being sought.

The exams stem from congressional hearings on the nation's savings-and-loan-industry debacle. The hearings targeted real estate appraisers, who set values on the price of land and buildings, for a share of the blame. As part of the 1989 Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act, the government mandated appraiser licensing and certification through state laws.

Because they will have to retake the test after the federal deadline has passed, appraisers whose answer sheets were lost have been given letters from Maryland's appraisers' commission allowing them to continue working as they had been, until new test results replace those that were lost.

"It's not our fault," Mr. Kazlo said. "We just hate to see that it occurred. It's an inconvenience for everyone."

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