Borrower’s Commonly Asked Questions and How an Appraiser Should Answer Them

One of the aspects I love most about appraising is that every day is different.  I inspect an average of 3.25 houses per day.  Since every house is different, every day is unique.  Despite the variety we enjoy, I have also recognized that, though the setting varies each time, there is some repetition.  Specifically, the questions we get from borrowers seem to be similar over and over again.

One of the best lessons I have learned as a businessman is that, if there are any processes which are often repeated, developing a system for handling them will allow you to increase efficiency.   This is true with answering questions that come up regularly.  The following is a list of some questions (and my answers) I get most often from borrowers about appraisals and appraisal inspections:

“Do you need any help?”  

Though by asking this question they are just trying to be nice, I am an introvert by nature and I really do not like the borrower peering over my shoulder through the entire inspection.  Therefore, I can usually circumvent the question through my greeting.  After introducing myself and telling them how the inspection will proceed, I always add “Now, I’ll try to stay out of your hair as much as possible, but will have a few questions for you before I leave.”  That normally gives them the correct hint to just leave me alone and let me do my thing.

“Why are appraisals so expensive?”

Since this question usually stems from the fact that they paid for the AMC fee as well and the loan officer just called it all an “appraisal fee,” I tell them the truth.  “I wish I was getting paid all that!  Frankly, I get only a portion of that fee due to the middle man that your bank hired.”  When they ask how much I get, I inform them that my contract does not allow me to reveal that, but that they ought to ask their banker.

 

“Does your iPad do all the calculations for you?”  or “Well, that was sure fast (speaking of the inspection time).” 

I put these two together because my answer is the same either way.  Both comments stem from the fact that they cannot believe I am getting paid so much for doing so little, so my answer reflects what they are really asking. “I wish it were that easy.  I still have several hours worth of research, crunching numbers, and reporting before I will be done on this.  The inspection is the easy part.”

 

Does this [fill in the blank with the feature here] add value?

A person’s home is their castle.  Homeowners hate to be told that something they spent their hard-earned money on does not add dollar for dollar value to their home.  If they went to Home Depot and spent $97.95 on a ceiling fan, they expect their $100,000 home to now be worth $100,097.95.  Since I don’t like to upset them, I would never say something terrible like “Well, if that is what you were going for, you wasted your money.”  Instead, I try to be more diplomatic when  I tell them the truth.  “I look at every feature in your home and it all goes into my calculations.  Though you will not see a line item adjustment on the report for your ceiling fans, I can assure you they all are considered and help determine the overall quality and condition of the home.”  That usually is sufficient.

 

So, what do you think?  We need [$$$ fill in the blanks] to make this work.

Probably the most common question asked of appraisers.  I still get this one about 40% of the time.  Thankfully, there is an easy and lighthearted way to answer it. “I wish I was that good. Boy, if I could calculate value right here at the inspection, I would make a lot more money than I currently do.”  If they follow up with the inevitable “Do you think you will be able to hit the magic number?,” I am completely honest with them. “At this point, I would have no idea.  If I tried to guess, you would probably just be upset with me later.  If I guessed too low, you would think I was incompetent.  If I gave a number that turned out to be too high, you would wonder why the value dropped between the inspection and report.  The nice thing is, appraisers do not determine value—the market does.  In a very short time, I will know what the market says about your home.  I hope it has been good to you.”

Though this is not an exhaustive list, I seem to get these questions on a fairly regular basis.  I find that answering a borrower honestly, but in a positive way will go a long way in building a relationship of trust and educating them at the same time.  What questions do you get at inspections?  What is the strangest question you have ever received?  Comment below.

Though not a frequently asked question, I got a funny one once.  I did an appraisal inspection for a family who had recently immigrated to the United States.  They spoke no English.  They had been cooking tamales all day and asked me if I wanted any.  Now, I make it a rule to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER accept gifts (no matter how small) from the homeowners.  I just do not want there to be any incorrect perception or cause them to feel like I owe them something.  In this case, my refusal was not accepted.  Either they did not understand the gestures of holding up both hands in protest or shaking the head vigorously, or they did not care.  They set the table and nearly shoved me into the seat.  I ate a tamale (and drank a Fresca).  It was very, very good.  I got ready to rise and another tamale was on my plate.  The entire family was surrounding my plate and cheering me on.  This happened over and over again till I literally could not eat anymore.  After the inspection, I headed to my vehicle (which happened to be a Honda Shadow that day).  They follow me with two grocery bags full of tamales to take home.  After filling my saddle bags, I still had to hang a bag on the handlebars for the drive home.  My family was grateful I did.  Like I said, every day is different as an appraiser.

Now, go create some value!

Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success 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 consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.   He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.

37 thoughts on “Borrower’s Commonly Asked Questions and How an Appraiser Should Answer Them”

  1. Any appraiser inspecting 3.25 houses per day, cannot possibly be doing a reliable appraisal. That is absurd, there is no way to do 3.25 appraisals a day and do any kind of decent report. You call yourself the “appraisal coach”, what are you teaching? I hope that is a typo. it is literally impossible to meet all of the criteria necessary to provide a credible report in that time frame. If you average 3.25 inspections per day, then your implying that you complete that many per day. I would really love to hear how you can do that.

    1. What defines “reliability”? If related to time, what quantity of time is the “proper” amount required to produce reliability? 845 reports per year is a big number, but do-able in certain markets, like Idaho Falls for example (there may be lots of subdivisions with lots of sales, even “matched pairs” woohoo!). Dustin states he has been at this game for 20 years and he feels competent enough to teach others, so, yes, I can see a well organized office pumping out 3.25 per day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Rather than doubting his “number”, I am going to see if there is any tips I can pick up to get my own “through-put” faster. The most houses I have done in a day was 7 spread over 5 very rural KY counties, logging 130 miles, but of course the reports did not get out in a day either. Kevin’s comment was the trigger that prompted me to sign up for the newsletter.

    2. Kevin, I thought the same exact thing. This guy is not taking comp photos, writing his own reports, or doing a credible job. With al the BS we go through with different AMC’s and lenders, I am lucky to do 10 reports a week, and that’s usually working 50 hours a week.

  2. I think with all the available resources in the market, it can be done, however I do feel the statement is misleading. Assuming market resources are utilized, the appraisers personal time is probably spent on the inspection and the final valuation opinion. This could be two hours for each appraisal. Its sorta like a NASA engineer saying he built the rocket that is on a launch pad, when in fact it was a TEAM effort that he may have lead to the building of the rocket. While I do not subscribe to that method of business, I am sure it follows USPAP guidelines.

  3. I have been appraising 15 years and there is no way you can research and inspect 3.5 houses a day. Is this a type error? I could possibly do it if I had help but no way all alone.

  4. To those that think the volume Dustin does is impossible, while still producing a USPAP complient and credible report, I strongly disagree. Granted I do not appraise in your area and obviously some areas take a lot of extra time. However I have appraised in very easy markets like Phoenix to very rural areas- in three different states including in some of Dustin’s market. Dustin is a master at maximizing his time and being very very efficient, but most importantly he uses others to help him achieve this. Yes he does his own inspections, yes he takes all of his own comp photos, and yes he complies with USPAP in disclosing who helped him do what. My point is, please don’t sell him down the river just because you may not be able to do that kind of volume. Keep your mind open and listen to how he does that- maybe you will benefit too and learn some things so that you too can do more volume in less time.

    Before I met Dustin, I was frustrated and somewhat mentally limited in believing I could not do more. I have personally learned what Dustin does and have experienced the same thing- more appraisals in less time, while the quality of the report went up! My purpose is not to give a commercial, but to try and gently ask that instead of us appraisers being so negative and critical, lets open our minds and band together. We will be stronger and happier.

  5. One of the appraisers in our office went to Mr. Harris’ workshop in Salt Lake recently to see if he could pick up any tips for efficiency, since we also work in in-town and rural areas, and Efficiency has always been my middle name. He came back, reporting that some things we’re already doing like mobile devices, using a common framework or checklist to be sure certain items are always covered, assistance for data entry, but there were other activities that we’re looking at in terms of running our office, procedural activities and consistency, as well as additional data entry assistance. Each portion of the process that effects our report needs to be carefully thought out in terms of consideration and implementation, for quality and compliance purposes. All of us will do things differently, and it’s hard to really “judge” without shadowing an appraiser through his/her process. My question to Mr. Harris… did you report the tamales as a thing of value offered to you? 😉

  6. I agree with most of the comments posted: that is almost all picked up on the volume of average daily inspections. ‘appraiser inspecting 3.25 houses per day, cannot possibly be doing a reliable appraisal.’ This is exactly implying that there are that many completed reports – maybe after inspecting that many properties in one day everyone else in this ‘streamlined’ office is doing the appraisal work while Dustin does another inspection. Data is just data, but having an office full of form fillers is not appraising properties – try putting 3.25 appraisals a day out the door – It is not about how fast and how many, it is about the caliber of your work

  7. Don’t get TOO upset. Just because he states he inspects 3.25 homes per day, it’s not unusual. I sometimes can to 6 inspections in a day. JUST THE INSPECTIONS, if they are in close proximity. It’s still going to take me several DAYS to write up all of those reports.

  8. I did not see any comments about the actual content of the article. . . only about the mention of the workload volume. So let me say thank you for your good advice about answering the homeowners questions. While I have developed similar answers to diffuse potential problems, I do appreciate the feedback. Now, about the 3.25 inspections per day… could this mean you work 100 hours per week? Careful – such a busy practice could make you loose your hair.

  9. I understand where each comment is coming from. I myself have been appraising for 12+ years and I will only accept 10 appraisals a week because I like to be thorough. I take pride in my appraisals being complete to where the clients don’t send them back. However, I believe it can be done if there is a system and more than one person. If there is one appraiser who actually completes the appraisal, visits the home etc, but you have someone specifically pulling comps with the information you provided, and you send it to a typist; 3.25 per day can be possible. I personally wouldn’t take that many in one day because there would be room for error, but anything is possible.

  10. Seems to me the topic relates to answering questions in the field, not the number of inspections, number of completed reports, USPAP compliance or newest technology. Try to stay on point.

  11. Come on guys. Read. He says he does 3.25 “inspections” a day. He did not say he completed that many reports in a day. I “inspected” 3 this past Monday, but yesterday only completed two appraisal reports of properties I inspected a few days before. Good article. Always good to hear what other appraisers are telling people when asked “the questions”!

  12. Thanks Dustin for your content on what to say to customer questions. It was very informative.
    My goal is to do 3 inspections a day and 2-3 reports a day..with increased quality and efficiency…by the use of office staff to do data entry, research, and even comp picking and write-up….with my supervision of course. It’s called business…and it works.

  13. Why is it not possible to put out 3 reports a day? Sure, it depends on your market, but I am in Nashville and this is very possible. My inspections are usually with 20 minutes of each other, and there are a lot of neighborhoods with a large number of comps available. I also work more than 8 hours a day as well. The Appraiser Coach has a staff, and has various methods to help increase productivity. Obviously you want to do more or you would not be visiting his website. You do as much work as you want to!

  14. I use Data Master……love it. If I believe my comps are tight, then in the morning BEFORE inspecting the property I will start the report, add plat map ect. and inter the comps thru Data Master and when I return home all I need to do is add the sketch, photos and final adjustments and comments. I love doing just one a day but I can inspect 3 to 5 in a day if needed and type up the next day or two. Starting the report before inspection brakes up the time spent sitting at the computer.
    Cindy-Certified in Santa Cruz, CA

  15. Most appraisers regularly report that they do 2 per day. Why is an extra 1.25 impossible? I added a part time assistant that starts doing data entry immediately after I do an inspection. I pull comps on site, take the photos and by the time I get back to the office all of the information is in the report. Just reconcile the information and double check the report. With the cloud, tablets and most information being available 24/7….I think most appraisers could easily be doing 3 appraisals per day.

  16. I am guessing most respondents are not employing any assistants. I can and regularly average those numbers, but I have 3 p/t assistants that are paid between $13-$18 per hour that work throughout the day. Dustin preaches that you are losing money doing tasks that can be performed by an underling – and lets face it there are plenty of those – ie – opening a file, logging the incoming request, making the appointment, looking up zoning, looking up map reference, verify sales, typing the appraisal data etc etc – I can inspect 3 houses, take all my comp pics, and hit the assessors office within 4 – 5 hours. Back to the office – review what they have typed in – put final touches in – call any that need further clarification – and get those out the door.

  17. Appraisers (like Bob Jones) that let “assistants” or secretaries or trainees verify things like zoning, comps and writing reports are being pennny wise and pound foolish. To write a credible appraiser requires either copious and time consuming notes or even filling in a form while at the property for your assistant to “copy” or writtng the report yourself soon after inspection with inspection notes and your recent memory, which is preferable. Bottom line is the appraiser inspected the property and anyone else writing the report did not.

    I’m curious at to what “Bob Jones” would say in front of an Appraisal Review Board when it was pointed out to him that the subject property was not zoned “Residential” but something else like “Commercial” where the Highest and Best use was NOT residential or that Residential wasan allegal use? Uhhhh, my “underling” scrwed up. Guess what, Bob? Its your license that is the one going down the drain….

  18. In my opinion, it was a mistake to publish how many appraisals he inspects or completes per day. Look at the backlash of comments, judgement, and possible future complaints filed from a homeowner or lender that now knows his production. It’s like having money and telling people you have money, then wondering why everyone is calling you wanting money. Careless

  19. “…an average of 3.25 inspections per day…”

    Any way you slice it, an AVERAGE of 3.25 inspections every day would not leave adequate time to do the research, visit the comps, write the reports, etc., unless someone else is doing most of the work. Sounds like some exaggeration for dramatic effect, or unfortunately, the author must be spending no more than 2 hours on each appraisal. I don’t know where he operates, but it would be unlikely that anyone could do that where I live and be considered competent by me or my peers.

  20. Wow, I am really surprised at the number of negative comments regarding this article. To those of you who wrote positive comments thank you. I have met Dustin and heard him speak at the Appraisal Summit and just recently attended his workshop in Las Vegas and I can tell you both from that workshop and our own appraisal business that what he says about completing inspections is accurate. If you are the only appraiser and employ no virtual or real assistants in your office then that number of inspections may be out of your reach. If however, like us, you have more than 1 appraiser and a couple of office assistants to do your busy work, research and data entry it is entirely doable and the quality of the report does not have to suffer. Part of the process is hiring competent people you have trained thoroughly that you trust. Nowhere does Dustin imply that he does not have a final “lookover” of the report before it goes out the door and as long as you disclose the extent of the help in the report USPAP has not been violated. Dustin is a fabulous teacher, appraiser and all around good guy who truly enjoys helping other appraisers. Don’t be too quick to condemn him or be negative if you know nothing about him or what he does.

  21. Last I heard, part of an appraiser’s job is that they have to have support for their conclusions. Did any of you making negative comments check in with the Idaho board to see if Dustin has any marks against him? Have you reviewed any of his reports to determine if they were substandard? Have you met Dustin? Do you have any idea of his processes?

    News Flash: I cannot dunk a basketball, but that doesn’t mean LeBron is cheating because he can.

    Are you the same appraiser that puts “70 years” for every TEL and supports it by saying “because I say so”?

    BTW-If this blog entry upsets you, you really need to check out his YouTube Video “How the Appraiser Coach Inspects a Vacant House”…I wish I could be there to watch the vein pop out of your forehead!!!

  22. Doing 3.25 inspections per day is absolutely possible with Dustin’s systems and processes. I have a driver, so I’m in the back seat of my SUV being an appraiser on my laptop, and let someone else watch out for moose and deer on the rural roads of Alberta Canada. My territory has me doing 60,000+ miles per year. Average road trip is 600 – 700 miles round trip every second day.

    My data entry work and the cost approach is done by the time I pull back onto my driveway at night, and the real business of appraising happens the following day at my home office. Because of Dustin’s Salt Lake City workshop, I will be starting to hire some part time admin assistance in the new year to get even more efficient (and get my life back).

    Anyone that says this kind of volume cannot be done, and the work is not credible, then how come those that do that kind of volume are still in business? Versus being sued into the ground, or disciplined by the regulator, or in jail? End of day, regardless of the assistance an appraiser surrounds themself with, the appraiser is ultimately responsible, and Dustin’s systems promote check and re-check x3 on everything before it goes out the door.

    I was offered some farm fresh eggs, because they had a very productive brood, but of course I gracefully declined.

  23. Correction to my last post on my daily mileage…was thinking in metric versus imperial. My average daily road trip is 250 – 300 miles round trip every second day, but have had many that stretch to 400.

  24. You does the research the same day you inspect the property? Pretty inefficient. The day I have an inspection(s) the file(s) is/are ready to go, likely prepared the day before. It is totally feasible to inspect 5 homes a day. We are appraisers, not full home inspectors. He obviously was not talking about the research and completion of the report, but only the inspection. The comments I read here are surprising.

  25. 3.5 per day PLUS teaches seminars and mentors and coaches others.
    Hard to believe. He may sign the report but it is surely not his opinions and conclusions! At best it may be his opinion of other people’s opinions and conclusions, if he even see’s the report, which I doubt. Probably sent out 15 reports while he was teaching the seminar and two more while he was on the phone coaching you. Promoting this guy is an insult to those who take this profession seriously. Didn’t recent federal regs limit a certified appraiser to 3 trainees? What a loophole. Hire 100 people to do your work, just don’t call them trainees. Would like to know if those “assistants” are claiming hours toward an appraiser license.

  26. It never ceases to amaze me how negative and critical people can be. That being said, appraisers are professional critics. So I bet it is possible that appraisers are even more critical than most. However being that we are supposed to be unbiased, gather data, then analyze and report I think it is a bit strange that so many appraisers are commenting so passionately without first having all of the data necessary to make a valid & proper conclusion prior to reporting their opinion to everyone reading this blog. This sounds like poor appraisal practice if you ask me. I am sure Dustin is doing what he should in his business and all these comments are a waist of time, emotion and energy. I don’t think he deserves to be wrongly accused and put on trial by the very peers he aims to help with these news letters. I think Americans in general should try to focus on the quality of what they are doing and a little less on what everyone else is doing! What ever happens to encouraging and helping one another anyway. I guess it is one of those lost values Americans used to believe in but no longer practice.
    Hey Dustin, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! KEEP IT UP!

  27. I have read all the comments and find most just lip surface. I have completed as many as 6 inspections in one day. Now I only mean house viewing. As appraiser’s we do not do inspections. I normally use an IPAD preloading with all general information before I go into the field. After the viewing of the property with all photos I then load this infomation into the “Cloud”. Then when I get back to my office I can then download each file onto my office system. All information in it’s proper place and photos where they need to be. A major time saver. Do not tell me one can not do 4-5-6 property viewing in one day. Technology can save you a great amount of time. For the appraiser who puts information on a peice of paper then has to type the information into a form later, has missed the boat of technology. I can also research all my sale using the IPAD, while in the field, thus saving several trips to gather my sales photos.

  28. I hardly leave a response, but i did a few searching
    and wound up here Borrower’s Commonly Asked Questions and How an Appraiser Should Answer Them |
    The Appraiser Coach. And I actually do have a few questions for you if you usually do not mind.
    Could it be simply me or does it appear like a few of the comments appear like written by
    brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting at other places, I’d
    like to keep up with anything new you have to post.
    Could you make a list of every one of all your shared pages like your twitter
    feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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