Last time, we talked about tablets and which ones were best for appraisers. The other question that is frequently asked of me concerning Mobile Appraising is that of laser measuring devices. As you know, there are many of them on the market. You can go to Home Depot and pick up a laser for around $100, or you can buy something else for as much as $1,000. As my wife would say, “Now, that’s an expensive toy!”
Before we get into the right model, let’s first tackle the question of why an appraiser should even consider a laser for appraisal inspections. Most appraisers use either wind-up tape measurers or rollers to gather their calculations. Though these two methods work well in most situations, they are not so great in others. Sometimes vegetation or other obstacles get in the way of being able to use such tools. I used a 100’ tape for the first few years of my appraisal career and a roller for the next few. There came a time when I got tired of crawling under pine trees or getting stuck by thorn bushes.
Lasers allow you to do many things that the traditional measuring tools do not. Nine times out of ten, you can find a spot to shoot through the branches and get your measurements without crawling through the bushes. Are they accurate? Almost too accurate. I do not personally measure to the nearest millimeter so I have to ‘dumb it down’ a bit—because my Disto does.
Since there are many to choose from, which one does the Appraiser Coach prefer? Well, I am a huge advocate for the Leica Disto. Leica is a solid company who stands behind its products. They are well-built and last a lifetime. Their laser is (in my humble opinion) the brightest one on the market. That may not seem like a big deal, but on a sunny afternoon on a south-facing wall, it will. They also provide Pointfinder™ technology which allows you to see the laser dot on the opposite wall if you cannot do so with your naked eye. This is technology I use about 25%-30% of the time.
Now, you are going to pay more for a Disto. In some cases, you are going to pay a lot more. Can you get by with a Bosch from Lowes? Yes. But I cannot stress enough that you get what you pay for. On the other hand, what you pay for is also eventually free? How? Due to the ability for me to shave 5-7 minutes off each inspection, I was able to do more appraisal volume. My calculations showed that my first $650 Disto paid for itself in 2.5 months! What can my wife say against that?
Though I carry my 100’ tape in the car as a backup, I have had a Disto for about 13 years now and have used the backup less times than I have fingers on one hand. Each time I had to use the tape was when I had either forgotten my Disto or forgotten to put backup batteries in the vehicle. It has never been because the wall or house was too difficult to measure with a laser.
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 where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. His principles and methodologies are also taught in an online, Mastermind group. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.