A Mile in His Moccasins

Judging is so fun. We do it behind people’s back. We do it on Facebook. We even do it in person.

Sometimes, I think we just can’t help ourselves. It is just in our nature. The problem is, most of the time

we have no idea what we are talking about. Kind of like this blog post. I am going to rant a while, but it

is only my opinion. If the truth were known, I have no idea what I am talking about on this issue. I guess

it is worth what you paid for it.

 

I showed up at a house to do a final inspection recently and was blindsided by an angry home owner.

As you can imagine, he was “quite surprised” at how low my appraisal was. For the next 20 minutes, I

mostly listened while he told me how to do my job. That’s right, he obviously knew much more about

how to do an appraisal than the appraiser. Oh well. At least he had the decency to tell me to my face.

The next day, I posted on a private Facebook group the fact that we had done about 35% more volume

in March than we have previously done in years past. My point in writing was to point out how

interesting the current re-fi boom is. The amount of volume increase was not due to my own efforts.

It is just busy. Several appraisers in the group decided I was bragging about myself and proceeded to

tell me so. As typically happens in discussions of this nature, I was told (more than once) that “no one

can do that kind of volume and not cut corners,” (an accusation I get thrown at me so often that I have

started to refer to it as the ‘9 children argument’ – “no one can have 9 children and not neglect a few of

them’). Thankfully, there were a few of my clients in the FB audience who vouched for my methods.

Later that afternoon, I got to thinking about human nature. Why do we love gossip so much? Why domoccasins appraiser

we find it necessary to feel that we know more or better than someone we have never met? Why?

 

Don’t misunderstand; I am not carving out an exemption for me here. I do it along with the best of

them. I simply wonder why. Why does the man in Wyoming think he knows more about how to value

his house than I do? Why do the naysayers on social media know that anyone who does more appraisal

volume than they do must be schmucks? I don’t claim to know the answer, but I wonder if it would do

us some good to step back for just a minute and consider the consequences of our big mouths.

What good did it do the home owner to take me to the woodshed over his appraisal? None. What

possible positive impact does publicly shaming another on Facebook do to create friends and influence

people? Very little. Sure, one might feel superior in the short term and one’s ego might be stroked for a

few minutes, but I doubt it would have any real, lasting change.

 

Now, I could stop here and let this all hang in the ether. Hopefully, I have given us all something to think

about, but I have done any more than complain about complainers? Where is the solution?

Obviously, if I could answer that question, I would be retired and living on a beach full-time. It has

plagued the world from the beginning of time and The ‘mighty’ Appraiser Coach is not going to make

it all better in his piddly blog post. I do have three suggestions for us all, however; stop, think, and

proceed with caution.

 

Stop

 

Ever said something you regret? Yeah, me too. Ever open your lips, utter the first thing that came to

your mind and later regret it? Mmmm hmmm. How do we avoid such faux pas? Many can be avoided

before they even begin by simply taking a few seconds to stop before you act. Look before you leap.

Ask yourself, “Will what I am about to say actually help me or the person I am saying it to?” If the

answer is negative, STOP!

 

Think

 

“If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” It was good advice for Thumper and it is good

advice for you and I. If the home owner cited above really wanted to get something done, there was

probably a better way to do it. There is a little thing called a ‘dispute of value’ and it does not include

offending the appraiser. If advancement and solution are the goals, gossip or complaining is rarely part

of the solution. Think through the process and a better road to travel will usually present itself.

 

Proceed with Caution

 

Even if discussion is part of the solution, the way we do it matters. Avoid language when emotions are

running high. I once received some advice that I have tried to live by; don’t ever say anything online

that you would not say to someone in person. That advice has served me well (though I have not been

100% with it). Creating friends is always better than creating enemies, so be careful in your language.

What does all of this have to do with appraising? Very little. It is more of a reminder to just be nice.

Avoid judgments and backtalk. Do not think you understand someone until you have walked a mile in

their moccasins.

 

However, since this is an appraiser’s blog, let me bring it full circle. All of the above advice (again, worth

what you paid for it) can be applied to your dealings with AMCs, lenders, clients, and borrowers. Do

unto others as you would have others do unto you. I see a lot of complaints thrown out by appraisers

about the very people who send them a paycheck each week. We are one of the only professions who

loathe our customers. Perhaps there is a better way.

15 thoughts on “A Mile in His Moccasins”

  1. Pingback: A Mile in His Moccasins | Appraisal Buzz

  2. Edd Gillespie

    Dustin,

    Glad you at least noticed to the appraisers ‘opinions with respect to the inverse relationship between volume appraisal and thoroughness. You have worked at being able to do what most of us do not and that may be laudable. However, there may be room for improvement. Not long ago ACI advertised that if you use their software it is possible to complete an appraisal from acceptance of the assignment to delivery 74 minutes. And then once there was Zao with the goal of instant turnaround and lower fees. And then there are those who outsource as much of the appraisal work as possible.

    There is no doubt that secondary mortgage market appraisers compete almost entirely with “fast and cheap.”

    As for professions that loathe the “client” who pays them, consider the dysfunctional relationships between physicians and insurance companies.

    In your defense sir, I will say neither the profession nor its clients have clearly defined what quality in appraising is, which makes an almost impossible task of competing on any basis other cost and turn time. The fundamental issue plaguing our trade is that most mortgage lenders really don’t want appraisals, they are required to have them. Makes sense that they and appraisers who work for them focus on “cheap and fast.”

  3. Well said! We can tame all manner of birds and beasts, but the lowly tongue cannot be tamed. How much damage it has done. Too much!

  4. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
    A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

    One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

    The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
    Which wolf will win?

    The old Cherokee simply replied, The one you feed.

    -American Indian Proverb

    1. Michael Morris

      That was a silly analogy that makes no sense.

      Since when do wolves depend on Indians or any other man or woman to feed them?

      1. The Wolf analogy made me laugh appreciatively as one who is constantly working on myself to be a better human being to myself and all around me. Taken to heart (forgetting about making sense) is what this wolf story is meant to do, go to the heart of the matter.

  5. Dustin
    I think one of the issues is that we all work very different areas and structure out time very differently. Many appraisers have never worked in an office or bank environment with many other appraisers and have not had the opportunity to see other options of processing work. It seems a lot is if I have never seen it done, it must not be so. There are efficiencies in volume if you take advantage of them, just like in manufacturing. If you get 3 or 5 jobs in at once do you do them one at a time? pull all tax, public records, zoning etc and set up prelim reports? How good are your templates you work from? Have templates set up for different neighborhoods with many areas filled out and update it quarterly or when necessary? Have really good common response subsets ready? There are many ways to cut down the time without compromising quality. I am not a proponent of “good, fast and cheap” don’t get me wrong here, just saying that there are efficiencies that can be used to do more than some folks realize they can do. Once you have done it you realize it is the ol “one minute mile”.

  6. Interesting post. The appraisal profession has a high # of judgmental people – hardly surprising when you think of what we do. Appraisers render an opinion that cannot be proven absolutely as the market participants are human.

    Your report can be well thought out and well supported. Or you can go old school and rely on the “25 years of experience” like the old days and good luck with that. The majority of appraisers, though, are human and do just enough to get paid and move on. And these appraisers resent anyone questioning their few moments of applied expertise. Key words being “few moments”.

    That attitude seems odd from the client perspective. This is a major financial decision. And that is why the appraisal profession must be heavily regulated. We can all wish the regulations were more reasonable and we can all wish the regulations focused more on AMC’s and lenders who screw up more than one file at a time. Most of the appraisal profession will be a buggy whip in 20 years.

  7. “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.”
    -Ernest Hemingway

    Dustin,
    You have worked to advance both the profession and the individual appraiser. That is a commitment to be respected. If it is noble to be superior to your former self, then how much more so to help your fellow man be superior to their former selves. Thank you for your thoughtful and thought provoking work.

  8. Scott Williams

    Dustin, I think it is just the times we live in. 15 or 20 years ago there was a lot of 6 sigma thinking – how to eliminate errors. Maybe that still applies in manufacturing, but in a lot of customer service there seems to currently be a search for “good enough”. In our own profession, the word “appraisal” has, I believe, been significantly redefined in mortgage loan appraising to mean acceptably filling out forms rather than a thorough search for an accurate value. Nearly all of the call backs we get on appraisals today have nothing to do with value accuracy and everything to do with the busy work aspect of filling out the forms.
    There is a lot of what used to be called really bad appraisal work out there today, but the form is acceptably filled in so the work was accepted by the lender. Recently, a professional house flipper was very angry when an appraisal came in $2,000 over what he had paid for a house, but after he had spent $40,000 fixing it up. Can you blame him? Consumers have to deal with this type of situation in many different aspects of their lives. They are increasingly frustrated and tend to boil over.

    So what do lenders do when a consumer confronts them with shoddy work by an appraiser? In our area, too often they take it in stride and suggest another appraisal be made by a different appraiser. In other words, it is OK to provide shoddy appraisals because we will fix it if anyone complains. No wonder people get mad. And it just spills over into many other aspects of the consumer’s life – even when the complaint may not be deserved.

  9. Thanks, Dustin. As the founder and one of the moderators of the Real Estate Appraisers Association Forum, my fellow moderators and I have to deal with negativity and a small amount of bullying on a rare but often enough basis, especially the former, the latter much less.

    We often remind people to leave the religion, politics and conspiracy theories to other more appropriate forums as that is often when the conversations take a turn for the worse. Mostly if we stick to appraisal topics, there is less controversy, although there is still a fair amount of negativity, maybe unavoidable in the current climate in which we work.

    So, we promote positivity and sticking to the facts rather than spreading rumors and innuendo. And always, we stick up for those who some may pick on with a gentle reminder that we were all there once and you can’t know what you don’t know.

    I hope you don’t mind that we put a link to this post on our Forum for others to read and reflect. Thanks for the insightful post.

  10. It is nice to step back and take a moment to let all of the negative things we hear just pass. I ask myself if what someone is saying is going to matter in a year from now. If not, then I can let the stress go. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.

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