Using a laser measuring device and a tablet or smartphone in the appraisal field can be a daunting undertaking for someone who has never done it before. However, being willing to buy and try these tools may very-well change the way you appraise forever.
In my role as an appraisal business consultant, I have opportunities to teach and mentor appraisers across the nation. I find there is a common theme with most of them; they are struggling to make ends meet with all of the new (and not so improved) regulations and changes in the industry. These are good, educated, highly experienced and honest appraisers who are barely scraping by. Now, there is something wrong with that picture. I contend that it does not have to be that way. However, the answer is probably not found in figuratively clenching our fists, jumping up and down, and screaming about how unfair life is. Though I highly encourage each of us to be involved in helping to change and improve the industry, your fastest improvement will come through your own, individual changes.
Imagine for a moment a three-legged stool. Each of those legs are important to the stability of the platform (and the person sitting atop the seat). When I show appraisal business owners how to increase efficiency and thus profit in their offices, I teach about three, important legs. Those pillars of success are the utilization of technology, delegation to others, and the proper use of systems. Each are vital, but I want to focus in this article on one small aspect of the technology leg–mobile tools.
Specifically, I am talking about using a laser measurer and computer in the field to assist you in gathering data during your appraisal inspection. I have found that my clients typically use three, favorite excuses for not utilizing these important tools. 1. They did not know they even existed. 2. They are too expensive, and 3. The learning curve is just too steep. Your reading of this article has already satisfied the first excuse. Allow me to help you with the other two.
I want you to stop thinking about business tools as an expense and begin thinking about them as what they truly are; an investment. My first Disto laser measuring device cost me $650. That was no minor decision for me. However, I quickly found that the device saved me about 5 minutes per inspection. Due to the volume of work I was doing at the time, I paid for that tool in a manner of about 2.5 months. I still own that device, and it has paid for itself over and over and over again.
When I first got my Disto in the mail, I was as excited as a 5 year old on Christmas morning. By the next day, I was on the phone with the company I had purchased it from asking for instructions on how to return it. The customer service department was wise and gave me a challenge. He said that I could definitely return it, but that I would need to pay the return shipping. And then he gave me this incentive; “If you will keep and use the device for 2 weeks,” he said, “and you still do not like it after that time period, I will pay for your return shipping charges.” He then went on to give me a few helpful instructions on how to properly use the laser measuring tool. As I mentioned above, I still have that device.
I have been using the Alamode field software since the 1990’s. Most of that time was spent on a small screened “pocket PC” or later a smartphone. A little over a year ago, I finally broke down and switched to a tablet (the iPad II). Even though I was about as well-versed in using a computer in the field as anyone, I was extremely frustrated during the first few inspections using the iPad. It was enough different that it really threw me for a loop. However, it did not take long, and I was as comfortable as I ever was with the smaller devices I had used for so many years.
I was recently asked to test drive the new PhoenixMobile software. Though similar to Alamode, I found it to be just enough different so as to also frustrate me in the beginning. It took me more than just a few inspections before I was comfortable with the software. I am now teaching webinars on how to use PhoenixMobile. Are you starting to recognize a pattern?
I advise my students to buy and use these powerful tools in their own appraisal practices, but I always do so with a challenge. I call it the Ten House Challenge. Many, like me, get frustrated when they first try to use these new tools. Admittedly, there is a learning curve. It takes a few times to get used to the hardware and software before it actually becomes beneficial to them. Do not give up. Commit yourself to using these tools, but give it at least ten houses (both simple and complex) before you make up your mind. It is in the use of these tools that you can change your situation and income faster than trying to change the industry as a whole. I predict that after ten houses, you will never go back to a tape measure and a paper and pencil again.
Now, go create some value!
Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a 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 owns and operates The Appraiser Coach (www.theappraisercoach.com) where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office (www.yourappraisaloffice.com) which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up time for real estate business owners. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.