A year ago, I was helping a number of you review appraisals: rates were very attractive, but because of the new appraisal rules and the declining market, appraisals were coming in very low. I saw appraisers working here who were from Discovery Bay; I saw appraisals that included the data from very high-end fixers in Wildwood Gardens, but had the photo from a (truly comparable) house on Wildwood Avenue; I saw appraisals that used as comps Oakland properties that had closed recently; I saw homes that should have appraised for x appraise for much less. Together with the higher equity requirements the lenders had imposed, some of us were stuck with paying high rates!
It's a different world now. The appraisal practices have adjusted (and at least for a new home, realtors can refuse an appraiser assignment if the appraiser is not experienced in the area), there are many more sales so no one is comparing Piedmont to Montclair, and prices have definitely stabilized.
Particularly if you bought your home or refinanced between January and November of 2008, you may want to contact a lender about refinancing into a 30-year loan--rates are under 5% in many cases. And especially if you "gave up" in the last year or so, take a few minutes to make a phone call. Email me for a list of five local mortgage brokers and in-bank lenders who do excellent work. (And be prepared for a long slog if you're thinking about using Bank of America.)