As the moderator of a Mobile and Paperless Appraisal technology Facebook group and a purveyor of all things efficient in the real estate appraisal industry, I am often asked, “What makes you so efficient?” or “How are you able to consistently produce high volumes of appraisal reports?”
Many appraisers will tell you it’s impossible to produce two appraisals a day, or more. However, with the technology and efficiency systems, I have in place; I am able to produce ten to fifteen appraisals per week. I’m not cutting corners, my work files are solid and my analysis in each appraisal is extensive.
The key to this is not just Mobile and Paperless technology; it’s a myriad of systems and processes I have put in place over the past 5 years. If you want to become more efficient and produce volumes of appraisal work you never thought possible, you must take the time and spend the money to put in place most, if not all of these systems. Some are more expensive than others; some are just minor tweaks that cost little to nothing but the dedication to make it happen. So without future ado, welcome to Appraisal Efficiency 101!
This is probably the cheapest and most “bang for your buck” tweak that I can offer, although, it may not work for rural appraisers, if you are in a very homogenous real estate market, sticking within 15-20 miles of your central office, or home will not only cost nothing, it will save you ridiculous amounts of time and fuel costs. But more over it keeps you concentrated in an area where over time you will have done so many in the area that you can easily reuse market data, neighborhood data, paired sales for adjustments from recent, previous appraisals. This is done by simple importing the neighborhood, site, additional comments, and cost approach and PUD sections of a previous appraisal. If you use a general addenda (which I do) import this as well. You will spend way less time going through and making minor changes than re writing the entire neighborhood and your reports will be more uniform and will develop and change over time.
Building templates for different clients will save you a small amount of time per report, but it adds up. Each client has specific verbiage, or requirements and it takes time to put that all in over and over again and even if you have them saved in drop downs, or quick lists, you can forget them and that costs time in revisions and makes for an unhappy client.
If your market has a robust MLS system like mine and the data is generally pretty reliable, you can opt to use a comp data import system like Datamaster, Spark, Appraisal Genie among others. Most of these systems cost between $40 and $100 per month, however I find that I save between 30 to 45 minutes per report using them. Personally, I use Datamaster which also assists in filling in the 1004 MC data and provides very useful and customizable graphs that can be imported directly into your software.
I’m lucky enough to have my wife as an assistant, but if I were to have a paid assistant, I would expect to pay $12-$15 an hour. The assistant should be importing subject data with use of one of the importers, inputting assignment information i.e., client, borrower, AMC, etc. He/she should also be maintaining a database for you that you can access to maintain your schedule. You may also have them do your scheduling (I do). We use a cloud based appraisal office management software called Anow which allows the entire office to operate efficiently, the Admin can access your schedule and see your workload and know what they can assign you, but that’s only applicable in a multi appraiser shop like ours, but I used Anow for 2 years prior for order tracking and scheduling and it is absolutely key to maintaining a high volume appraisal schedule. (Cost is about $40-$45/m for a single user) My wife will look at my schedule to see if any incoming orders will fit and she will know where to quote for TAT if requested. She will usually have a short conversation with me about where I want to book the inspections and at what times. She contacts the borrower or agent and gives them the time we are looking for and about 75% of the time, that’s what we get. If they request a different time/day she will consult with me as to what works for them and I see if it fits in my schedule.
As mentioned previously we use Anow and it will allow you to keep a tight schedule and manage a high volume of work much more efficiently than writing appointments on your file jacket (you know you do it) Even if you chose not to hire an assistant and have them do your scheduling, I highly recommend Anow, or some other schedule management software that allows you to block time.
Using mobile appraisal technology to its full extent, once you become proficient, will save you about 15 to 20 minutes per report. Having the sketch at your hands in the field and having it automatically calculate the GLA can save you additional time in the fact that if the GLA is off from tax, or MLS, you are alerted immediately and can either check your measurements again to see if you were wrong, or give you the opportunity to re run some comps before wasting your time taking photos of comps that do not work and then coming back out to shoot new comp photos. This does require the use of a laptop and being able to tether your mobile phone as a hot spot for your laptop. Mobile appraisal also takes the photos for the subject and allows you to label and take notes on them in the field. You can also take comp photos with ease by using the voice recognition. I drive up to the property, stick my phone out the window, say “capture” and my comp photo is snapped instantly and I am able to drive off all within a few seconds… this is a one handed operation. Once you are done with your inspection and comp photos, you will upload the report to the cloud and when you are ready to write it up, you download it into your appraisal software and all you photos and sketch are right there with labels and everything. You will spend a small amount of time formatting the sketch, but this literally eliminates having to download, place and label all of your inspection and comp photos.
Honestly, this may save a bit of time, but it’s more about saving money for having to purchase paper, ink and storage. I Run 7 monitors in my office and 6 at home. What this allows me to do is spread my electronic work file out on my “desk” just like I could spread out my paper work file. I’m able to analyze multiple PDFs like statistical data, comparables, contracts, etc on my computer… and we’ve all had 60-80 page builder contracts. To do this, I use Adobe Acrobat… it’s expensive, but it’s the best. I can easily clip from PDFs and paste into my reports, it’s virtually seamless. As of work file storage, I use Dropbox which is $100 per year for 1TB and I have a 4 TB back up drive on site. I also use Alamode Vault.
PDF Max Pro is the best viewer for PDFs, Pay for the pro version it’s only $10
Genius Scan I believe was also $10 and allows me to snapshot any document into a PDF and share it in any way possible.
Google Translate works to help me communicate with Spanish speaking folks… I haven’t tried it for other languages.
Anow has a web based version for Android and an App for iPhone. Allows me to access and make changes to my schedule in the field.
Google Maps is integrated with both Total for Mobile and Anow. It has live traffic updates and it’s free.
Please feel free to share your experiences and ask any questions I may be able to answer for you. If you want to join the Mobile Appraisers group on Facebook please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/1065936943439395/?ref=bookmarks and request to join. I may message you and ask you if you are an appraiser if it’s not plainly obvious. I hope you have enjoyed this blog and that it will be a valuable tool for you to become more efficient appraisers!
Thank you, we'll be in touch!