Have we reached a tipping point in social media for real estate appraisers?

Have we reached a tipping point in social media for real estate appraisers?

Social media is amplfying appraisers voices Almost every other “cause” has embraced and used social media to strengthen it’s position and rally its members to action, so why not real estate appraisers? In his book “The Tipping Point” Malcolm Gladwell describes a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. I’ve started wondering if we have reached a tipping point in social media for real estate appraisers that has made it easier for our voices to be heard. A story recently occurred in the appraisal world that involved LenderVend, an Appraisal Management Company (AMC), and the ridiculous request they made of appraisers. Could this request, and many others by users and regulators of appraisal services, have created the boiling point at which appraisers couldn’t take it anymore?

LenderVend wanted what?

LenderVend, an Appraisal Management Company, notified its panel of real estate appraisers that they were going to make it a requirement for them to submit their entire work file along with the appraisal report. For those not familiar with what the work file consists of let me briefly describe what it includes. The work file includes field notes about the property, floor plan sketches, comparable sales data, property tax information, sales contract information, as well as other potentially confidential information from the homeowner.

This type of information has never been asked for before and could possibly increase liability to the appraiser. Appraisers realized the foolishness of such a request and began to take to social media to voice their anger and concerns. Over the last several years the burden to appraisers has significantly increased because of the extra requirements being asked of them. In addition to the increased requirements, many AMC’s fees have not kept up with the amount of work asked of them or the risk that they take on. LenderVend heard these complaints and realized that most appraisers would not do this so they changed their mind and did not make it a requirement but rather voluntary to do this.

Appraisers voices were heard

Could this incident be the historical point at which appraisers realize that they do have a voice? If so will they seize the opportunity and continue to make their voices heard? At the current time there are numerous associations of professional appraisers nationwide that many appraisers belong to, however over the last several years as appraisers jobs have become tougher and the fees paid lower, many of these groups have been silent or at least their actions to change what is going on have been at a turtle’s pace.

Appraisers are starting to realize that they cannot rely on these organizations to take care of them and that they must speak up for themselves. State coalitions that are run by appraisers have taken off and are growing in popularity. Many believe that attacking the problem at the state level is the place to start, and this has occurred in some states, however only time will tell if these successes will continue.

Is social media the answer?

As I asked previously, “have we reached a tipping point in social media for real estate appraisers?” Is the use of social media the next step to take so that appraisers voices will continue to be heard? LenderVend definitely changed their mind after they heard how appraisers felt about the work file requirements, but appraisers must stay aware of similar changes in the future and take to social media so their voices continue to be heard.

Most companies currently have a social media presence and it has never been easier to communicate with those in charge, including executives in the mortgage and AMC field. I have heard examples of people who have had problems with products or services and tweeted the company only to have their issue quickly resolved. Will this work with appraisers who have problems with irrational lender or management company requests like LenderVend, or with increased appraisal legislation? Who knows. What we do know is that not speaking up won’t work either, so we must at least attempt to make our voices heard. By taking advantage of all of the social media channels available to us, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or personal blogs, we can make sure that someone will hear our concerns.

What about appraisal podcasts?

On a personal level we can use utilize the social media channels I mentioned above and on a larger scale we can support actions being taken by others on a slightly larger stage. If you would have asked me a year ago what I thought about the idea of an appraisal podcast I would have probably not given it much consideration, however since then two such podcasts have been created.  Phil Crawford is the creator of “Voice of Appraisal” and Dustin Harris  hosts “The Appraiser Coach”. Both of these programs focus on appraising, with Phil’s podcast leaning more towards the overall profession and legislation while Dustin’s focuses on appraiser productivity.

Phil covered the story about LenderVend and I’m sure it played a large part in the company’s choice to reverse their decision. I believe we will see the most success in being heard when we utilize our own social media channels, as well as support guys like Phil and Dustin who may be heard by a larger audience. By supporting them we are making it possible for our stories to be heard and potential change to be made.

Question

Appraisers are extremely independent and in the past we have not been the best about working together with common goals to better our profession, however we are at a point in time where the power of social media can be used to amplify our voices and to be heard by more people in higher places than at any other time. I personally feel that we have reached a tipping point in social media where we can use it to our advantage and for our voice to be heard by those that matter. The LenderVend story is proof that when we speak up our voices will be heard. Do you know of others that are fighting on our behalf through the use of social media? If so leave a comment, I’d like for others to be able to support them as well, or if you want to leave another comment do that as well. Thanks for reading.

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***UPDATE-06/17/2015***– Since publishing this post an exciting announcement for appraisers was made. While it was not technically a result of appraisers taking to social media to bring about change, it was brought about by appraisers speaking up and making their voices heard through the use of a state appraiser coalition. On June 4th, 2015, the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board ruled in favor of appraisers being paid customary and reasonable fees. This is the first time such a ruling has been made. The ruling alleges that Coester VMS was not using customary and reasonable fees established by a neutral third party nor by guidelines established by Louisiana law. You can read more about the ruling by following this link. I wanted to amend my blog post to include this because it is further proof that in numbers there is strength. Whether it be state appraiser coalitions or social media appraisers need to begin taking a stand and making their voices heard.

Comments

  1. Appraisers do tend to be “lone rangers”, so I appreciate social media being a vehicle to connect appraisers and help them flex their muscles too. There is so much room in the industry for appraisers to build relationships, trust each other more often, and help each other grow. In the Sacramento area I am a part of the REAA (Real Estate Appraisers Association of Sacramento), and I also serve as a board member. There are surely national groups worthy of joining, but being in touch with local appraisers is critical too. Life and business often feel too busy to attend a meeting with appraisers, but joining a group is actually a helpful thing because it forces us to connect no matter how much we have going on. There is something powerful about having time blocked out on the calender each month, and without that, connections just might not happen as much. With all that being said, I look forward in coming time to seeing the industry grow online with social media, but in person also.

    • Social media certainly does make our world a lot smaller and easier to communicate with each other, which is a good thing. One good thing about the area I work in is that appraisers have a good attitude about helping each other. Years ago an appraiser group was started where they share comparable sales data. I think it is a good idea for appraisers to see each other as an ally rather than enemy and I think that will take us further when rallying together for our industry.

  2. Thanks for the post and all you do for appraisers Tom. I think social media is powerful and it is exciting to see what can happen when appraisers have a voice. I personally no longer do lender work because I feel that the focus has moved away from sound analysis toward having the right caned comments and silly things like photos of smoke alarms or bedrooms. Lenders and AMCs, for the most part (but not all) seem more concerned with fee and turn time. With that said, I have no problem showing my work file to a client who is willing to pay for it. I agree with Peter Christensen providing the file could reduce liability. http://www.appraiserlawblog.com/2015/04/lendervend-requirement-for-appraisers.html This is just my personal thoughts and I know I’m in the minority. I feel it is just a business decision for each appraiser to make. I’m cool with appraisers making a stand because it goes along with scope creep without fee creep.

    • Gary, I think you are at a point with non lender work that many appraisers wish they were at. I read the article by Peter Christensen, however I feel that while the appraiser could reduce their liability in one way they could open themselves up for problems in other areas. As Phil Crawford pointed out there are also confidentiality issues that could surface. I feel that appraisers are already underpaid for the work they currently do so to ask them for even more is too much, but I respect your opinion.

      • I agree Tom, they probably wanted the file for free. I’m only willing to provide it for money. On the last lender job I did, I practically provided my entire work file and was not paid extra for it. I was putting in my comparable sale searches, the MLS sheets for comparable sales, and notes from agent interviews. At that point, I’m not sure what is left in my file other than my cost print out, my statistics Excel download, my land sales, and the engagement that my client already has. Nothing private unless I have a contract from a comparable sale. Scope creep has turned a summary into a self-contained.

        • The way I see it is that they are requiring appraisers to have more education and more requirements (scope creep) but they are not compensating us appropriately. This was proven recently when Louisiana fined Coester VMS, an Appraisal Management Company, for not paying customary and reasonable fees. What’s sad is that Coester is an appraiser and should have empathy for what they go through and be willing to pay us for our efforts.

  3. Great post, Tom.

    When I first saw the LenderVend requirement come over I couldn’t believe it. My mind immediately went to “why do they need this information and where will they be sharing it?” I know that we’ve received orders from AMC’s with a PDF of the Agreement of Sale attached along with all the financial documents for the loan applicant. Deposit check, SNN’s, addresses, salaries, statements, etc. I can only imagine where LenderVend might send our work-files. Hey, if we don’t collectively stand up for ourselves as Appraisers, no one else will. Thanks for the great work Tom!

    • Agreed Michael. We have to all work together either by joining state coalitions or using personal social media or supporting the guys with a greater reach. Thanks for all the work you do on your blog too.

  4. Thank you for another great post Tom.

    Yes – social media can be a great tool for appraisers to organize around issues that impact our livelihoods. I like your optimism. My view is a bit more jaded.

    The lender-based appraisal business is stacked against the individual appraiser. Lenders and AMCs control appraisers by sending assignments to those who will play the game. I have been pretty vocal about this in LinkedIn posts at the risk of alienating myself from lender work. That said, I have not sought out AMC work for years. The few AMCs that I do work with pay reasonable fees (by today’s standards).

    AMCs and lenders understand one thing and one thing only – padding their profits at the expense of the appraiser. In the case of Lendervend I believe that it was not appraisers speaking out on social media as much as a significant percentage of their contact appraisers told them where to stick their work file requirement and refused to take new assignments from them. When they could not fulfill their client orders because appraisers refused to take their assignments, things changed. When a significant number of appraisers simply refuse to work for the fees being offered, the unreasonable turn times, and the other ridiculous conditions placed upon them, things will start to change – not because they respect the professionalism and hard work of the appraiser but because their bottom line is negatively impacted.

    Sorry for the long rant. I’ve been at this for 30 years and the last few have been the absolute worst. Thanks again for your optimistic post Tom and I hope that your insights into the tipping point being at hand are correct.

    • Thanks for your perspective Tom, I always enjoy hearing your viewpoint. Whether it was social media or direct contact by the appraiser the end result was the same, they dropped the requirement. I think we do need to speak up either directly or through social media. Social media has given everybody a way of collectively working together for the same cause and helps us to feel less like we’re on an island by ourselves. Appraisers owe it to themselves to diversify their client list so they’re not just doing work for AMC’s or lenders. When they are able to be more independent they will be able to turn down the low paying high maintenance clients. I’m not there yet but there are residential appraisers I know who only to private work, which is my goal. Thanks again.

  5. Joe Mier says:

    Tom and Bill you both have valid points. I really down deep believe that NOW is the time for appraisers to stand up together so that no single person can be singled out to silence to message. It has to start at the grass roots level and grow. Appraisers have allow our industry to get to this point because we have not stood up for what is plain and simply the right thing to do. I think there is a ground swell happening right now and no one person can take on the burden to help the whole group. This effort will take groups of people from each state to have a clear voice and a clear message.

    • I agree Joe. We cannot just complain to each other about what is going on. We must all take to social media and state coalitions in a concerted effort and make our concerns known, all in a respectful way.

  6. Tom, thanks so much for taking the time to express what thounsands of us are feeling and experiencing! Thankfully and collectively, we’re making progress and these State Coalitions are like the nitrous oxide in a muscle car. I too use Twitter get the attention of Hostgator if my site is down and needs immediate attention and tweeting gets immediate attention. There’s also a fairly large presence of AMCs on social, especially on Google Plus. Another though I have is: I wonder if sounding off on social in a public manner could lead to blacklisting of that Appraiser by an AMC and/or that AMC’s Lender… Tom, both myself and our industry sincerely Thank You for ALL you do to help make us better and more supported along the way!

    • Thanks for the kind words Bill. You have done an awesome job with social media and I agree that these state coalitions do show a lot of promise. I think the blacklisting of appraisers is a valid and serious issue, however I feel that if we sound off as a group then maybe we cannot be singled out. I do think we need to go at this like the professionals we are supposed to be and not on rants where we are disrespectful. Thanks for leading the way Bill.

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