Though we live in a world where information moves quickly, processes and institutions do not. In some ways, the cautious and careful approach may be the smart one. In other ways, we are behind the times. Interestingly, when asked why we still do things the old way (despite new and helpful inventions), our answer is a lame, “because that is the way we have always done it.”
For as many years as I can remember, most full appraisals have always been done the same way. The appraiser physically inspects the home and then heads back to the office for the analysis and write-up. Though this process may work, is it the most efficient way? In an area like mine (Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming), there is a lot of time spent in a vehicle staring at the old, white line. Though this is necessary in order to travel to and from my appraisal inspection appointments, is there a better way where I could be spending more time using my knowledge and expertise doing what I was trained to do… appraise?
Just yesterday, I took my 13 year-old son with me to the furthest area that I cover. It is a little, isolated town in Wyoming that has no local appraisers. About once or twice a month, I get paid handsomely to jump in the carand spend several hours behind the wheel to get to and from this area. As we were traveling, my son and I talked about technology (a subject he is extremely interested in). The subject of Google Glass came up. For those of you who do not know, Google Glass is simply a computer in the shape of eye-glasses. You wear it like you would a pair of sunglasses, but it allows you to search the Internet, navigate with GPS, take photos, and even video everything you are seeing. My thoughts then turned to appraising (a subject I am extremely interested in). Could this invention (or something similar) assist appraisers to be better at what they do?
Though the inspection is certainly an important part of the appraisal process, it certainly is not the most important part. At least, it is not the part that requires the highest level of expertise. Back when the lenders allowed such things, many appraisers hired and trained other skilled people to do the inspections so they could concentrate on the more analytical sections such as choosing comps, market trends, making accurate adjustments, and the reconciliation. Though there is something to be said about physically being in the property, is it an absolute necessity in order to get a good idea of the quality and condition? Furthermore, what about using the technology that is currently available (not to mention what is still to come) to assist us in focusing our attention where it is needed most—on the write up?
Picture this: an appraisal business owner hires and trains a qualified employee or trainee. That person is individually and intensely trained by the appraiser to inspect homes. He or she is taught how to measure, sketch, take photos, take scrupulous notes, and pay close attention to detail. Once that individual is trained and trustworthy, he or she is given a Google Glass device and sent out on inspections as well as driving the comps and neighborhood. Not only does the appraiser back at the office get the sketch, photos, and notes that the inspector took, but can also watch the entire video of the inspection. It is as if they were there… almost, and without the arduous drive time.
What implications can this have for appraisers with disabilities? My father retired from appraising a few years ago because he could not physically do the inspections anymore. Since most lenders and clients require the appraiser to physically inspect the property, he could no longer continue working in the industry he gained an expertise in over 40 years. I wonder if he (and others like him) could claim privilege under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to have someone else do the inspections with a video camera.
Regardless of whether we choose to trust another with our inspections (I respect that some do not), are we considering everything that is available to us? If nothing else, should we consider recording our personal inspections and making it a part of our workfile? It might just save our backsides in a court or before the state board one day.
Now, go create some value!
Dustin Harris is a super-successful, 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 also 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.