Let us begin with the obvious—the Veteran’s Administration (VA) is not an Appraisal Management Company (AMC). They are a non-profit, government entity that works under different rules, so making a direct comparison between the two is not entirely fair. However, there are some things I think every AMC should learn from the way VA treats their appraisers.
Personally, I have been trying to get on the VA’s appraisal panel for over 6 years. They are a tough nut to crack. After much persistence, however, I was finally able to break through the Fort Knox of their approval process and win my Golden Ticket! I have been on the VA panel now for about 6 months and I have been truly impressed.
Here are a few things every AMC can learn from the VA:
1. Orientation Training
When I was first hired by VA, I was asked to attend a mandatory training. Rather than being upset by this, I welcomed the opportunity. Let’s face it, I had wanted to do work for VA for a long time and, now that I had the chance, I sought to do a great job. How could I do that without a little information? A short training helping me understand VA inspections and reports was a welcomed education. It is common with other AMCs to be upset at appraisers for not doing things “the right way”, when what they really are upset about is that it wasn’t done “their way.” Problem is; they never told us what “their way” was to begin with.
2. Ongoing Education and Client Services
Unlike my experience with some AMCs, I have never felt berated by the VA. When you make a mistake, their attitude is to educate, not belittle. On many occasions, I have picked up the phone or fired off a quick email to the VA help desk. My questions are always answered promptly and in a professional manner. It makes me want to ask more questions—rather than just doing it the way I think they may want it to avoid being talked-down to.
3. They Leave me Alone
Ask any appraiser who deals with AMCs and they will tell you a good portion of their day is spent taking phone calls or emails from them wanting status updates. Sometimes you get calls from three different people at the same AMC, all within the same hour, looking for the same update! And half the time you already updated it on their website! Not so with the VA. They send me the order via email. The next time I hear from them is when I turn in the final report. Nice! I guess they figure they can trust me to get the order done on time. If I didn’t deliver on a regular basis, I would expect they would stop sending me orders—as they should. AMC’s: I will get your report in a lot sooner if I do not have to stop working on it to take your phone call.
4. Easy to Navigate Web Portal
It sometimes takes me more time to upload a report through certain AMC website portals than it did to write up the report to begin with! At the VA, you convert the report to pdf and upload it. Easy as pie.
5. Customary and Reasonable Fees
Bottom line; the VA pays me well for my services. This does many things for the relationship between them and me. First, I feel like I am appreciated. This causes me to want to keep doing business with them. When there is a revision request (this is rare with the VA), I welcome the opportunity to comply. Finally, I spread the word that the VA is a great place to work and they have no shortage of good, quality appraisers knocking at their door.
6. Appraisers are Friends, not Food
Finally (and I saved the best for last), the VA treats their appraisers like professionals. They see us as equals and there is generally a good feeling on both sides whenever I have a conversation with them. In my orientation with VA, I asked a question about whether the cost approach was always necessary in a VA report. I was told that I should only include it if I felt it was necessary to producing a credible report. What a breath of fresh air! Another newbie asked if we should at least include the land value. We were told “No,” but that if we did provide a land value, we also better include an addendum with land comps gridded out and adjusted to support the land value reported. Finally, someone who understands appraisal!
We appraisers get tired of being talked down to. The condescending, “I’m right and you must do what I say” attitude that comes from some AMCs is tiresome. Being told I must do this or must do that “because my screen has a checkbox that must be checked before we can submit this report” is old. I understand that there are certain things that must be done a certain way. In many cases, we are dealing with financial transactions here, but the inability to listen to reason from the ‘boots on the ground’ appraiser is causing feelings of disdain toward AMCs. I was recently told by an AMC (which will remain unnamed) to take a photo of the subject’s street going both directions. In the report, I explained that the subject sat at the end of a cul-de-sac and there was no alternative street view available. After much back and forth with the representative from the AMC, I finally copied the front photo, pasted to a photo addendum, and labeled it “Alternative Street Scene.” There, check your box!
AMC’s, take note; the Veteran’s Administration gets it when it comes to appraiser relations. You would do well to take a few pages from their book. Please take a few pages from their book! Please? We don’t want to hate you. You just make it so easy!
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. His principles and methodologies are also taught in an online, Mastermind group. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.