‘The Help’ for Appraisers

I love movies, but I did not enjoy going to ‘The Help’ this past year with my wife. It probably stems from the fact that I wanted to attend the other theater (which was playing Captain America), but it was her turn to pick. The movie did, however, remind me of a time in our history where certain individuals were treated less than others. Not cool, and it made me very uncomfortable.

There is another kind of ‘Help’ that many appraisers also find not so cool and makes them feel uncomfortable; that is… ANY HELP WHATSOEVER! For some odd reason, there is a prevailing thought, idea and conception within the appraisal i
ndustry that the appraiser must do everything from acceptance of the order to delivery of the report. It is my contention, however, that in order to survive in this new world of Dodd-Frank, AMCs, and increased liability, we need to become not only okay with asking for help, but very comfortable with it.

It is no secret that there have been some major changes within the finance (and thus appraisal) world over the past few years. The way we do appraisals now looks much different than the way we might have done them before. AMCs are pushing for faster turn times with fewer mistakes. While some would call this a dichotomy, others are changing the way they do business and are thriving in an otherwise difficult environment.

Though there are many principles and concepts I teach as an appraiser mentor, one of my main pillars is the ‘Law of Delegation.’ Simply put, this truth states that if you can pay another person less per hour to do the same work as you (and if it is legal, moral, and ethical) you should do so, and then do more of the work that you must personally do for a higher fee. Find out how much you make per hour, pay attention to what you do every day to make that kind of money, and then delegate what you can to someone making a fraction of what you do. If you set it up correctly, you will make more money doing more of what you enjoy.

And now to dispel a few myths:

Myth #1:  The Signing Appraiser Must Do All of the Work

Of course, this myth is completely untrue. Go back and re-read your USPAP (specifically, Standards Rule 2-2(a), (b), or (c)(vii) as applicable, and Advisory Opinion 31). The fact is, we get assistance (from county employees, Realtors®, etc.) on almost every report. Have you ever had an engineer certify that your subject was structurally sound and you quoted his expertise in the report? Significant Assistance. It is no different for other, appraisal-related, work. In fact, AO 31 points out that most work we do as appraisers does not even need to be disclosed in the report (clerical or receptionist work, for example). Think of the time that you could save each week by simply allowing someone else to answer your phones, gather assessor’s records for you, or accept and send reports on your behalf.

Myth #2:  Delegating Work to Others Lowers the Quality of Work

Would you believe that this myth is not only false, but the exact opposite is true? Though many of us have been burned at one time or another by incompetent employees, but if hired and trained properly, their assistance can actually increase your quality of work. When I was in grade school, a common comeback to the taunting of calling someone with glasses ‘four eyes’ was to say, “Well, four eyes are better than two.” Indeed, it is very true. No appraisal report ever leaves my office until at least two separate people (and sometimes more than that) look it over for mistakes. It is rare that errors are not found. Without that assistance, the quality of my product would be significantly lower.

Myth #3:  Hiring Help is More Costly and Complicated than Just Doing it on My Own

Though this is true for many, it is not something that most self-employed business owners—turned employers cannot overcome. Poor employee performance is a direct reflection of poor management. Being able to hire, train and manage well is an art. Like any other art, it must be continually practiced and improved upon.  Many appraisers do not have the patience for such activity. Thankfully, there are enough third-party companies providing assistance to appraisers (anything from virtual receptionists to typists, to entire back-office management) that you can get the help you need without personally hiring anyone.

Though the misconception and stigma in hiring help continues to thrive, it must be dispelled if you want to grow as an appraiser in this changing marketplace. Isn’t it interesting that of all service industries, we are one of the few that hold the stifling precept that delegating work to others is somehow bad, counterproductive or inherently evil?

Needless to say, the appraisal world has changed and continues to evolve. More is being streamlined and more is being expected of appraisers. Fortunately, there are tweaks and remodels that can be done to your business structure that will dramatically affect your ability to compete. If done correctly, your ‘help’ will allow you to be both more efficient and give you a higher quality report at the same time. Don’t you think it might be time to start looking at some ‘help’ for your appraisal practice?

Now, go create some value! 

Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner and 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. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers. He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up ime. His principles and methodologies are also taught in an online, Mastermind group. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.

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