Do You Need an Appraiser Driver?

Anyone who’s followed me for a while knows that I have three main aims. I want to help real estate appraisers make their business more efficient, more effective, and generate more money.

People almost always assume that making more money relies only on cutting costs. This is completely inaccurate. If you become more efficient and more effective, and work smarter instead of working harder, then you’ll start boosting your income. In the past, one of the ways in which I’ve made my work more efficient, and in effect spent money to make more money, is by hiring a driver.

A lot of real estate appraisers are probably reeling backwards from their screen right about now. There’s a general view of appraisers as being very individualistic; of being go-getters who get the job done on their own. I’ll be honest; it took me a while to come around to the idea too.

Two main realizations helped me come around, and reach the point that I’m at now. Firstly, I realized just how much time we – and I mean all people – spend doing nothing productive. I’ll use myself as an example. I average over 100 miles per day on my inspections (I live/work a very rural area). Think about how much time that is: I don’t even want to try counting up how many hours I sat in my car doing absolutely nothing productive, before I started hiring drivers.

The second realization was that one of the keys to prosperity is allowing other people to do what they’re good at, or hiring them to do things you don’t want to do yourself. I was wasting hours each day driving and doing nothing productive, and I knew there would be plenty of people out there who’d be willing to drive me around for a respectable wage.

I made the decision to start hiring drivers to take me to my inspections. It’s absolutely true that time is money in the real appraiser-driverestate appraisal business. I make over $150/hour when I’m working. When I was driving myself around for an hour I was doing no work, and therefore making no money. Now, if I pay a driver $10/hour and I can work on my journey, I’m still making $140. Seems like a smart choice, when you look at it that way.

Can I be just as efficient working in my car as I would be in an office? Of course not, but even if I work at half-efficiency, I’m still getting a heck of a lot more done than I would be if I had to drive.

I admit that this approach can’t work for every real estate appraiser. If you suffer severely from motion sickness, for example, which would make you unable to work, it’s probably a non-starter. Frankly, I do not do it as much as I used to either. My business model has changed from when I was using it regularly.

If you’re only holding off on hiring a driver because you have a certain view of how real estate appraisers ‘should’ operate, and that it wouldn’t be ‘right’ to have a driver, then I think you’re making a big mistake. Making more money and growing your business is all about working more efficiently and more effectively. Hiring a driver is a quick, easy, and cost-effective way of doing exactly this. Take this step like I did and try something new.

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 006 – Using a Driver for Appraisal Inspections. 

19 Comments on “Do You Need an Appraiser Driver?”

  1. What about USPAP violations. Do we not certify that we drove by the comparable (take pictures)? Should the 2055 form now on be referred to as a Passenger-by? I’m joking (am I), but the typical appraiser, doing the typical job, with average volume (Above ground pool – Mitch?), will have limited benefit. With the impact of AMCs, higher business costs, increased scope of work/engagement letters, expanded forms, etc., the one appraisal a day guy will be lucky to net $20 per hour based on that 10 hour report. With many cities and soon to be states at $15 per hour (minimum wage), the numbers don’t work for most.

    Seek the truth.

  2. Capitalism works. Bet the driver was thankful for the job too, unless you subjected them to the rural polka station all day.

  3. I had a driver when I was doing a ton of REO work. I would get dropped off at my inspection, he would then get the comp photos while I did the inspection. The sad part was the subject was almost always in an urban setting and comps were within a 1/2 mile proximity but I could still inspect the subject faster than he could drive the comps. Driving comps is the biggest waste of time for an appraiser. It takes 0 expertise and you can almost always get better views of the comparable from MLS data and mapping views. You can also use the drive time to fully complete page 1 of the 1004 and make all of your notes. We can all make a nice living doing this job and free up time to spend with our family and hobbies which is why I got into this field of work.

  4. Living in a rural area, I spend as much time traveling for comp photos as I do traveling to my subject property. Finding comps and taking photos is also my most dangerous part of my business. Yesterday I drove down a dirt road that ended in a pasture. There was one house. The mailbox indicated a different address but it was the only house. There was no photo to know for sure. I had to back out and turn around in the driveway. A car was there but I saw no one. I met a car and they had to wait until I got by to even travel down the road. Thank goodness it was the mail lady and she confirmed that there were new occupants. I deal with this all the time. To take mobile home comps, I’ve seen signs that said leave or I shoot. I’ve been in urban areas where signs say you are being watched – leave now. People don’t like you stopping in front of their house and taking a photo. I do VA foreclosures in a military town. Soldiers do not like you stopping in front of their house taking photos. I’ve actually looked in my rearview mirror and saw a guy running behind my car wanting to know what I’m doing. Cul-de-sacs and deadend streets, I will more than likely have somebody waiting outside on my return up the road.

  5. Wow. The last commenter had the “comps” before he inspected the subject AND he didn’t personally view them from the street. Sure, there are ways of explaining around both those things, but why are we always resisting what they ask us to do?

    TIP: Just do everything you are asked if it doesn’t interfere with credible results, and do it personally if you are asked to do it personally, BUT CHARGE FOR IT.

  6. I can see myself talking to the driver all day and getting no work done. Your right it is not for everyone.

  7. I actually enjoy getting out of the office and taking a drive to photo the comps and seeing the neighborhood, like the time a found out that my “best comp” actually had a huge factory across the street from it. No mention of this appeared on the MLS page! Here’s something else to ponder: Why are we not paid an hourly wage for the dwelling inspection of the property? A set wage per hour, the larger and more complex the dwelling and exterior amenities, the more the borrower pays. The appraisal report fee will be separate. Does the plumber not get paid by the hour? Does the attorney not get paid by the hour? Does the cleaning lady not get paid by the hour (big house versus small house)?

  8. I have considered this recently as I am driving well over 100 miles a day. I take my office with me everywhere I go and would be much more efficient with a driver and I have also thought about a rider to do the data entry. There is limitless possibilties, but all appraisers most be efficient to meet turn around time expections and provide quality reports.

  9. A comment to JOE. I have been in this industry for over 30 years and since the inception of the required comp photos my comps are always done prior to going into the field. I drive the comps prior to the home inspection. I could do it after but it really doesn’t matter. I hope you are not making 2 trips.

    1. I agree Lynn when ever possible. Its up to the appraiser to take the risk of completing as much work as possible prior to the physical inspection as they see fit. Give me a tract home purchase (lots of pictures) in a familiar neighborhood where I have the original brochure, a measured model match sketch on file, have conducted a listing agent pre-interview, and perhaps have already used in other reports 90% of all available sales over the past 6 months, then perhaps 90% of the report can be completed prior to the inspection. The risk we run is that errors were not caught and disclosed (the subject has the 5th bedroom in lieu of the tandem garage, which also mandates the 4th bathroom, etc…) and that most of our work will need to be redone (at out expense). The lack of understanding by lenders, agents, borrowers, etc. as to how and WHEN our work gets completed, is mind boggling. Fortunately for appraisers, the VA gets it and allows the appraiser to bill for work COMPLETED PRIOR TO THE INSPECTION. If I’ve completed 75% of the work, and the lender cancels the appraisal, then the lender gets a bill for 75% of the fee. There’s a 100% percent chance (e-mail / phone call) that I will get the opportunity to explain just how and when our work is completed. After this explanation, there’s a 50% chance that I will get paid within the VA mandated 30 day period, thus the other 50% of the time the lender will be assessed late fees on top of there already charged appraisal cancelation fees.

      Seek the truth.

  10. I am not always busy enough on inspections as on computer a lot more it seems. If I do get really busy and can view many in one day I have hired in the past. It actually works out pretty well. It saved me enough time that day to complete an additional assignment, due to turn times could not have completed. Only cost me about 20% total of the extra assignment, which could not have been done without a driver.

  11. I use drive time as a personal investment time. I listen to a lot of books on tape (audible) on development (self, professional, business, spiritual, family, etc) I enjoy the time to think and ponder life. Kind of my own little mini vacation from the world. Maybe it is a throwback to my youth. Riding on the tractor for hours on end working the fields. Just thinking (and solving) all the world’s problems. Ahhhh….window time is good for the soul. I know this is not for everyone…and neither is the city. BTW… I work a pretty rural area.

  12. Amen Lynn! Comps first, inspection next and on to the next appraisal. I do everything electronically, no paper. I inspect my property and complete 95% of the appraisal on site including 95% of URAR, 100% of the sketch and all subject and comp photos. I then upload my appraisal to my QC person and she goes over it with a fine tooth comb for data accuracy and lender compliance. When I get back to my office I make my adjustments, explain them in the addendum and complete the reconciliation of the my final value, which usually takes me 15-30 min (depending on complexity). I turn in my appraisal either the same day or the following morning. I average 80-100 appraisals a month with complete accuracy. Since I’ve implemented technology and well trained personnel, I’ve tripled my production and have very few condition requests and almost no errors or correction requests. The key to being the most productive is using technology at its fullest and completing the majority of your appraisal on site! If I were to hire a driver, I’d probably take a nap or catch up on Netflix. 🙂

  13. Wow, it’s fun to work in the suburbs, cookie cutters. Work in the rural areas. You pulled all your comps, do the inspection, and the house is
    20% larger, has 3 car garage, instead of 2, and solar panels. Whoops, I need new comps. This is why Dustin’s idea of a driver would pay off.
    You drive to an area that has cell service (most areas don’t), and you pull new comps. The driver is doing most of the work at this stage.
    Sounds pretty good.. Yes you do need to drive comps, access to highways, gravel roads, views, the site topography, and the local neighbor
    who has now turned the front of there house into a junk yard full of broken down cars Yes, drive those comps… On some days, it just feels
    right to being driving down those windy roads, looking at the fall foliage. .

    1. Jerry, I work in the 3rd most populated county in the US, and don’t think for one second its FULL of cookie cutters. Try doing a Pacific Ocean fronting property one day (over 2 million / its a fixer), a desert property the next, a rural manufactured acreage property in the mountains after that, an international border influenced later, and finally a 30th floor penthouse high-rise last. All of this within one county and within 30 miles. Those cookie cutters you speak of are often in newer PUDs where 70% of the total value (say 1 million / $700,000), is in the land. Good luck reconciling that lot size adjustment where several hundred thousand dollars is the difference between a 5,000 sf lot, and a 7,000 sf lot. Forget the fact that various sources of public data may at random be off by a thousand sf as it relates to the subjects lot size.

      Seek the truth.

  14. I think the point to the article is just to give appraiser’s ideas on how to be more efficient and increase productivity while still being in compliance – physically visiting the property – with our required guidelines. Unfortunately, like most outcomes when it includes appraiser’s the result is just a bunch of opinions with no real solutions. Whether we, i.e. appraiser’s, want to admit it or not, we are a bunch of opinionated people who don’t like to come together for the greater good. Instead of taking the ‘low road’ maybe we could consider constructive feedback from the article? I hired a person to go with me to the property visits who helps me. However, I do the driving and he does the preliminary form filling information. It works great and does increase my productivity. If you want to drive, then drive. If you like to get out of the office to take the photos, then do it. Each to their own, but if you want to make Money doing appraisals, then it is inevitable that you will have to increase productivity. After, 20+years of appraisal work, I’m still searching for the perfect fit. Good Luck to All 🙂

  15. All interesting comments and ideas. I do like having someone drive me- usually it is my son or daughter – who are also appraisers – and sometimes we combine our work schedules so one can drive and the other can navigate so we get thru the comp photo process quicker. (Also allows me to spend some time with my grown children -especially nice if we have time to stop for lunch- but that’s just a Mom, not an Appraiser talking!) I know some can work in the field but I need to be at my desk to do that. However, DataMaster has helped me a lot in getting the form partially filled in. It allows me to put more comps in and then “weed” them out before I go to my inspection. Once the info is in the grid I can see more clearly which ones do not fit my needs. (Yes- you Doubters- you do have to check the info against the listing but once you get used to what you need to check for- it goes quickly) The cost breaks down to about $3 per appraisal (30 appraisals/$90 per month). I sound like a commercial for DataMaster !! Not my intention, just my observation in what helps me get work done more quickly. I also love the MC Form feature- their comments are spot on and that saves me a lot of time in trying to explain market trends, etc. I also drive about 100 miles per day and it may come to a time when I will really want to hire someone to drive me- not a bad idea.

  16. Very interesting comments! I see no matter where we are, we have a lot of things in common as appraisers.
    And as moms, with grown kids in our family business. Diana, thank you for that one. And yes, I’ve had a driver sometimes.
    When we have Trainees, which a lot of don’t anymore, this is good training for them, and it helps to re-frame and re-focus on how all will benefit.
    It is what it is, with all the nitpicking and have to take the photos personally tripe.
    And it is just that. We can all figure out where that sewer plant is if we’ve been paying attention. Getting to the Subject and the 3 In-subdivision comps shows us enough of the area, and large things don’t appear overnight.
    Thank you all,

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