Mobile Appraising and Workfiles

When it comes to the use of technology in real estate appraisal, we’re at a kind of crossroads.

On the one hand ,you have the advocates who like to try out all the latest and greatest apps and gadget. Those of you who have listened to my podcasts, read my blogs or seen my workshops know that I’m firmly in that camp.

On the other side you have the real estate appraisers who are wary of using new technology and prefer to do things in the appraisal-workfilessame old way. With the average age of real estate appraisers around 62, maybe you can see why there are still a lot of people who think this way.

One of the best examples of where these two camps differ is over workfiles. The older trainers still like to do their sketches, their notes and so on using a pen and paper. I, as you can probably guess, do not. I use a mobile app, on my tablet, to carry out my appraisals in the field.

A huge reason that people don’t like to use mobile apps for their appraisals is because they think it will render their workfile void. Lots of real estate appraisers think you need handwritten notes to refer back to. Let me clear this up right now: that is completely wrong.

The USPAP guidelines say absolutely nothing about notes being handwritten. They simply say that you need to have a workfile, and that you need to be able to reconstruct the route you took in your appraisal. Mobile apps and other online storage solutions are a perfectly viable way of doing this.

Not only are they a viable way of making workfiles, I would also argue that they’re a safer way. Where do most paper workfiles usually get stored? In the office. So, what happens if there’s a fire in the office? All of the workfiles go up in flames, literally! If the state comes knocking three years down the line, and they want you to explain one of your appraisals, you’re in big trouble.

By contrast, when your workfiles are all digital there’s almost no risk of losing them, as long as you’re smart about backing up. I personally store my business’s workfiles on two servers in the office, on two other cloud-based services, and on an external hard drive as well. If the entire networking infrastructure of the USA suddenly collapses then I’m in trouble, but until then I’d say that I’m probably good!

Combine the peace of mind you get from all those backups, with how easy these mobile apps are to use (when you’ve spent a little time with them), and the amount of time they save you (for myself, that’s an amazing 25 minutes per appraisal), and it’s a no-brainer. Mobile is a far more efficient, smarter way to create your workfiles. Once again, I want to emphasize that digital workfiles are just as legitimate as pen-and-paper workfiles.

This is yet another example of how using technology can make your real estate appraisal business more efficient and more effective, increasing the quality of your work in the long run and, of course, generating more revenue.

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 010 – Is There A Workfile When You Appraise With Mobile? 

10 Comments on “Mobile Appraising and Workfiles”

  1. Pingback: Mobile Appraising and Workfiles - Appraisal Buzz

  2. Dustin,
    Great article this morning. Thank you! My question is this. I have started to move more of my inspections to mobile. I have found that the cameras ability on my iPad 4 is just good enough. It is does not have a wide enough lens to capture the bedrooms and bathrooms. Often I have photos scattered all over,… some on the app because it is much more convenient, and other with my camera because it has a wider lens. FHA, Attic and crawl space photos just don’t work well. Do you have a suggestion for lens attachments? What device are you using when it comes to taking photos?
    I really want to only carry my iPad and Ditto.
    Any thoughts?
    Jared Preisler SRA
    DataMaster USA

  3. Dustin, Jared,
    I’m very interested in going mobile too! Thanks for the article. Frankly, I don’t think most appraisers who have survived the changes of the last 10-20 years are intimidated by this mobile thing. I do think they are making some shrewd judgments about the tools they use in their business.

    I use a Nikon L820 for most of my photos with a Nikon D200 if the photos are going to be posted on the MLS. Nikon also has excellent software if you need to crop, brighten, etc. I don’t think today’s cell phones have equivalent features. So, you get to a business decision: do I want to dumb down my appraisal product, or is it worth the extra time & money for superior photos?

    I do expect cell phone cameras to continue to advance in features. I use an older Motorola cell phone now and expect advanced features in newer models. Two models are especially interesting: the Moto Z has a 13 megapixel camera and lets you add on a zoom lens; the Moto X has a 21 megapixel camera but without the add-on capability. While the future looks promising, right now, these cell phones are more expensive and give inferior photos relative to my Nikons.

    One more topic before I close – I would love to save 30 minutes per inspection or even just 5 minutes saved taking photos. I’ve timed inspections using a mobile approach versus pen and paper and I don’t see obvious benefits. I would like to see some real data – side by side comparisons – including the equipment used and the complexity of the inspection.

  4. hdhat.com will make you a backing with handle that you can put different lens in to get that wide angle photo. They have made me 2 in the past, one for my IPAD air and then again for my IPAD PRO 12 inch. look them up and give them a call. They are from WV

  5. Many houses that I measure have wierd angles and/or curves. With a sketch pad I can write dwn the measurements and then complete the sketch back in the office. However, if I use a mobile, electronic sketch pad, then I can see where this might take up a considerable amount of time in te field.

  6. Thomas, there is a rise and run feature on the sketch software… it’s actually very easy to use… you can also
    Make notes and change sketch at the office if you like… but angles are easy with the software….
    I use an iPad mini… the lack of flash does suck but the photos come out good enouph… I use my phone light for attic photos. The photos don’t need to be any better…
    The time saved is back at the office not in the field(even though you can get the field work done really fast)…

  7. I went mobile and paperless in Aug ’13. I use Samsung’s Note 5 phone and Note Pro (12 inch screen). Both have excellent cameras with built auto flash. They work well in blacked out garages and attics. Both have built in panorama if needed. The mobile software will allow for multiple shots of a room and puts all photos in the right location automatically. No separate camera is needed. The photos are high quality and limited only what the computer software will permit.

    My Virtual Asst. puts all of the data in the report, including a draft sketch from the Assessor’s office, which I take to the inspection. My work file is in Dropbox. In mobile appraising, the time saved is back at the office not in the field. But mobile allows for more consistency and few missed photos and property details which increases productivity. As you can probably tell, I am on mobile appraising bandwagon. It has taken my operation to another level of productivity and profitability. Additionally, the quality and consistency have risen, also.

  8. Pingback: Mobile Appraising and Workfiles - Appraisal Buzz

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