Taking Self-Portraits in the Bathroom Mirror

Okay, get your mind out of the gutter.  I am not sure which search engine terms brought you to this post, but this is NOT one of THOSE websites!  Though I am going to give you detailed instructions on how (and why) to take self-shots in the mirror, this is not MySpace and these will all be fully clothed….thank goodness.

First, the WHY: 

Several years ago, I was called by an underwriter who also moonlighted as an expert witness for the State Governing Board.  He called because I had been accused by a borrower of not being at the inspection of their home.  They, for whatever reason, thought I had sent another person who claimed to be me.  This, of course, had not happened.  I tried desperately to convince him that I had indeed been at the home by recalling everything I could remember about the inspection.  Because I cannot remember what I have for breakfast most days, I am not sure whether he went away convinced.  Believe it or not, I can recall at least three other occasions where this particular accusation has also been made.

The suggestion made by this particular underwriter was that I take a picture of myself in the house during each inspection.  That way, if an accusation ever surfaces, I can produce irrefutable proof of my presence.   At the time, I thought his suggestion was a bit on the goofy side and laughed it off.  Since then, my shallow judgement of his encouragement has done a 180.  I now take a photo of myself in every inspection.

There is nothing worse than being accused of something that you did not do (or, as in this case, be accused of not doing something that you did do).  Sometimes, it is better to cover the bases…even if it is a bit sophomoric.

Now, the How:

There may be only one thing more embarrassing than taking a picture of yourself in the mirror and that is being caught taking a picture of yourself in the mirror!  Therefore, my first suggestion is…Don’t get caught!  Though that is not always possible with a home owner breathing over your neck as you inspect his home, it can be accomplished a good majority of the time.  When they do notice (which happens on occasion), simply explain that some underwriters like proof that you were the one doing the inspection so you are documenting your presence in the home.  I have never had a home owner question that explanation.

Though you can turn the camera around and take a photo of yourself at arm’s length, I have found that using a bathroom mirror typically works the best.  There are a few things you want to keep in mind, however.  First, remember to turn off the flash just prior to taking the picture. (and turning it back on when you are done).  Nothing says, “Now, who is that?” better than a flash reflected off the mirror.  Second, move the camera down to chest level rather than looking through the viewfinder.  Otherwise, you are likely to document only half your face.  Finally, the photo can be taken quickly and discretely.  Most of the time (probably 98%), the home owner has no idea I just took a self-portrait.  I like it that way.

Now, I of course do not put the photo in the appraisal report.  That  would be weird.   Rather, because I  tend to keep every picture I ever take in the inspections I do, it is easy to just store it with the other photos that never make their way into the report.  You can store it in a workfile or in a special computer folder, but make sure it can be retrieved easily when an accusation comes your way.  You may thank me someday for this tip.  Share some of your own stories of unwarranted accusations below.

Now, go create some value!


Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he made his fortune as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and mentor. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach (www.theappraisercoach.com) where he personally consults and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.  He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office (www.yourappraisaloffice.com) which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up time for real estate business owners.   He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children. This article may be reproduced and distributed only in its entirety without permission from the author.

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