Embracing New Technology and Efficiency

I recently met with another appraiser who admitted to me he was still using a clipboard and pen. There are very few people out there still using these; most appraisers have moved on to using a tablet or smartphone, which I definitely recommend if you are still using a pen and clipboard.

A tablet is a more efficient tool than a pen and paper. It can do a lot for your business. What I tend to hear from appraisers who still haven’t switched to a tablet is that their pen and clipboard method works for them, it has worked fine for decades, and they don’t want to change it.

I disagree. It might not seem like it would save you much time, but the slivers of time it shaves off each inspection adds up, and that’s time you could be spending doing other things. If it’s a slow day, you could be using that time for extra marketing. If it’s a busy day, you could be getting your work done that much faster.

Some may argue, “Well it will take me the same amount of time on site (or more) whether I use a tablet or a pen and paper.” That might be true, but the time you save isn’t out in the field. It’s in the office.

When you come back, you have to redraw the lines, go through every room, label each picture, and other menial tasks you could have accomplished at the job site with the use of a tablet using an app. This information can be stored in your work file and report, and be ready to go as soon as you upload it to the cloud. You can have your office working on the appraisals before you even leave the property.

Just give it a try for a little while and see if it helps you improve your efficiency. It certainly has for me and my business.

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode:

13 Comments on “Embracing New Technology and Efficiency”

  1. Pingback: Embracing New Technology and Efficiency - Appraisal Buzz

  2. Great timing for this conversation. I did one clinic this Monday, showing 3 trainees and 1 senior appraiser how to use Total for Mobile. I had a few other folks email asking me to show them how to use mobile appraising but they have ACI. I called the ACI sales office, after several clicks through endless voicemail options, I finally got a person. He asked for my customer number and name. I said, I’m calling on the behalf of other appraisers who would like to learn about your mobile appraising options. Again, he says I need your customer number. I said, I’m not a customer I’m looking for guidance, could you forward me to someone who could answer a few questions. I’m an appraiser trying to help other appraisers. This went on for a few more minutes and I finally gave him my telephone number so he could have documentation of our conversation. He said there is an option for ACI users called Ski Inspect. I asked if there were some training videos that I could watch so I could help these ACI users be more efficient. He said no. I asked if the software had the option to sketch and he said yes but it doesn’t work well. Hmmm. I was getting stumped and decided this guy was not going to be much help, helping me teach his customers how to better use their inspection time. I downloaded the app last night and played around with it. I learned, the sketching option is rough and very its easy to accidentally delete everything. I had a hard time labeling the photos as well. The expansion fields for the rest of the report seemed to work fine. Does anyone have anything they can share about how to use the ACI, Ski Inspect that I could pass along?

    1. The best way to go mobile with ACI is to switch to Total. I tried everything for 10 of the 20 years I had it. I tried using a Toughbook first, then a Microsoft surface. Both use a full version of the software which is impossible to use in the field. Total is just superior in every way.

  3. After all that investigation trying to find answers, the pen and paper works better for me. One man band with no employees.

  4. I’m with Scott. One horse shop and semi-retired. Don’t do enough appraisals to worry about saving minutes. Although, having to go back to a property because you forgot a measurement and can’t make the sketch close is a royal PITA ;).

  5. The thing about tablets is they will eventually have tech issues like all gadgets and tend not to work well in glaring summer sun while being subjected to heat, humidity and perspiration. Clipboards don’t break down and don’t leave you in a lurch in the field and are infinitely cheaper. Same with tape measures.

  6. I am an ACI user as well and don’t have the support to move forward with onsite tablet sketches. If there was a simple way to do it I would embrace it but I haven’t been shown an easy way.

  7. I’m with Paul and the others above. My main complaint is having to look at a screen constantly which we definitely have to do in overdrive mode as it is. I find that writing things by hand is the way my brain is trained and I remember them better in the long run. Kudos to those who can go the tablet route.

  8. Dustin,
    Thank you. Because of your podcasts, I switched to a laser about 7 years ago and to Total of about 6 years ago. I was trying to go mobile with other software and it was not working out. Thanks to you I am faster at the appointment, no more wasted time downloading and labeling photos, no more errors in measurements, because if there is an error you find it on-site not when you get back to the office. No more drawing the house again on the computer when you get back to the office. I wish I would have switched earlier but glad I finally did. I was also worried about some of the concerns other appraisers have voiced. The laser is more accurate and has never failed. I use my phone and have never had an issue with losing my data or my file, etc. As far as expense, I no longer have to replace tape measures- I was going through about 3 good $30-$50 tapes a year. The $500 laser was expensive but has more than recovered its cost. I no longer have to buy or print paper, my laser is waterproof and my phone has a waterproof case(a ziplock bag also works). Getting the correct laser with a viewfinder and an angle function makes a huge difference. Anyhow, I just wanted to Thank you again. Some are hard to reach but keep trying.

  9. Going to a tablet computer in the field ten years ago changed my business in ways I never imagined. I got so good at measuring with a tablet that I started selling measurement services to real estate agents and that has grown into a staff of measurers and over 10,000 homes measured. We never could have done that without embracing technology.

  10. Scott and the others are correct. I would rather drop my clip board than drop a tablet. Tablets are awkward and difficult to read in bright sun. Perhaps someone will a way to hang the tablets around the neck.

  11. I have been using a tablet for years. It has a case with a strap attached. (like a camera strap) It goes around my neck so I can’t drop it. It sinks with my disto to draw my sketches. I take all my pictures with it. With my appraisal software the pictures I take are put in the appraisal where I want them. Once you get used to it , it takes less time in the field. When I get back to the office I just sink it up to my appraisal software and the form is filled out with the information I entered in the field, the sketch (from the field) is downloaded and the pictures are downloaded into the forms where I want them. No transcribing field notes, redrawing a sketch and moving pictures from a memory card, camera or cell phone. Saves me at least 30 to 60 minutes on every appraisal. A bonus is my field notes are my work-file, no paper. I will never go back to the old “slow” way.

  12. I like how the author said “I recently met with another appraiser who admitted to me he was still using a clipboard and pen. There are very few people out there still using these; most appraisers have moved on to using a tablet or smartphone…”, yet just like the commenters here, most people still use a clipboard and pen.

    As it relates to gathering property information, are appraisers seeking the truth in advance of going to the property? Are you conducting 20 – 30 minute interviews (not emails but phone calls) with the homeowner to gather data, and documents? Are you giving out homework assignments for follow up phone interviews prior to the inspection ? Is so, very little time will be spent in the field gathering new information.

    As someone who was using PDA’s in the field in the late 90’s and early 2000’s for sketch’s, technology has a purpose, but as others have said it comes with its own set of challenges.

    Although perhaps extremely market specific, for those who want to really save time doing sketches, its a marathon not a sprint. Do you have all of YOUR old sketches on a stand alone system, I do (forget Titan, its flawed related to showing GLA)? Do you have all of your old employees sketches on the same system, I do? Have you collaborated with dozens of other appraisers over the past decades to scrub and combine resources (share sketch’s), I have? Do you thus have over 200,000 unique sketch’s to look through and perhaps have in advance prior to the phone interview and in person inspection, I do.

    I look forward to no one reading this post, and the author from the Philippines offering no follow up reply.

    No VHS tapes for sale hear, just solid advice.

    Seek the truth.

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