With the housing crisis well under way, both lenders and home sellers are trying to squeeze as much value out of homes as they can. This has driven some lenders to pressure appraisers to inflate their assessments.

Now it’s not just an industry issue — it’s become a legal issue as well. New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced today that his office has filed suit against First American Corporation and its eAppraiseIT unit for allegedly working with Washington Mutual to use a list of preferred appraisers, reported Dow Jones Newswires.

The preferred appraisers consistently provided assessments that were too high, allowing the lender to finance larger mortgages.

Apparently, First American hired former Washington Mutual employees to work in its appraisal unit and when Washington Mutual asked for revised appraisal values First American buckled.

If you’re looking for an appraiser, check out the Web site of the Appraisal Institute (www.appraisalinstitute.org), which certifies appraisers. You can give them a call if you have questions about the process.

Nov. 1, 2007.