Do You Have A Tech-Savvy Appraiser?

Consumers Can Benefit From A Tech-Savvy Appraiser

Technology is advancing at ever-increasing rates. This shows up in the devices we use as well as the data we collect.

Do You Have A Tech Savvy Appraiser

First, it was personal computers that became mainstream in people’s homes. What was once too expensive for most people to purchase became more affordable.

The clunky and slow desktop computers then became more streamlined and faster, making it possible for both consumers and business owners to interact more easily. Rather than relying only on traditional ground mail service, businesses embraced email to communicate with their customers more efficiently.

Not only was communications greatly improved but the ability of business owners to leverage this technology to improve their businesses at a reasonable cost. Over the years even more hardware and software options have been developed to help us perform everyday chores more quickly and accurately.

The appraisal profession is one area that has benefited from advances in technology. It has helped us to perform our jobs more skillfully as individuals. We have been able to leverage this technology which is important because most appraisal companies consist of only 1-2 people.

While being fully immersed in technology does not guarantee that the final work product will be flawless it does help those already producing accurate and reliable services the benefit of technology to help them be more efficient and effective in collecting, analyzing, and delivering their final work product.

Today I will share with you the types of technology tech-savvy appraisers are utilizing and how this may benefit the consumer.

Hardware Being Used by Appraisers

Tablets – In the past appraisers used clipboards and graph paper to sketch out the houses they looked at and collect data on our observations. This has been replaced withfloorplan sketching tablets that help us to do the same thing but in a more streamlined and efficient manner.

Many real estate appraisal software packages now have mobile apps that appraisers can use to collect data. This software can be used on tablets or cell phones.

In addition to written data collection, you can also take pictures of the properties that are inspected. When completed, this field inspection data is then transferred to the desktop appraisal program which saves the appraiser the time and effort that would normally be required to re-enter this information into the appraisal software if you were using a pencil and paper.

Cell Phones – The software used on tablets can typically be used on cell phones. The phone becomes a data collection device in addition to communications.

The cell phone takes the place of the tablet which is helpful if you don’t like having a lot of devices. The only negative factor about using cell phones versus a tablet is the screen size.

Of course, in addition to data collection, the phone can be used for scheduling appointments and collecting payments. Another feature of cell phones is the ability to use them to collect information on the floor plan of the home, which I’ll discuss below.

Laser Measuring Tools – Laser measuring tools have replaced the tape measure as the preferred way to measure a house. There are many different brands andBosch Laser Measurer GLM 80 proponents of each but they all work the same way.

The laser measuring device bounces a laser off of a distant wall to provide you with an accurate wall length. I was hesitant at first when I started using mine, however, after double-checking the measurement with the regular tape I was satisfied that it was giving me an accurate reading.

Some of these devices can be fancier than others and may have more advanced features but this usually costs more. Some models have camera zoom features that help you locate the little red dot which can be handy in bright sunlight.

Whichever brand you use you can be assured that a laser measuring tool can help to reduce the time and effort it takes to measure a house during an appraisal inspection.

Software and Apps Being Used by Appraisers

Appraisal Software – There are various appraisal software companies that provide programs to aid in filling out the appraisal form. Most are very similar in what they do, however, some have different features.

The applications that simplify and speed up the process of data collection to filling out the form are the ones that will help the appraiser the most. This means that it’s important for the software to have a mobile app or make it possible to utilize the software in a browser so that the data, once collected, can be transferred to the desktop application.

Digital Floor Plan App – Something new that recently became available is a floor plan measuring app. This should probably be included under cell phones but since it is an app I am including it here.

With the development of more sophisticated phones and tablets, these types of apps are becoming more common. The use of LiDar makes it possible to accurately create floor plans by scanning them with your phone or tablet.

LiDar stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is a remote sensing method that uses light to accurately measure distance. The jury is still out for this new technology as I have heard both good and bad reviews, however, it will no doubt get more accurate as time goes by and may actually end up being the default way appraisers obtain floor plans and square foot measurements.

My fellow appraiser Jamie Owen recently wrote about his experience with Cubi Casa which utilizes this technology. I encourage others to read his article as he provides some helpful information.

Mobile Inspection Software – Tech-savvy appraisers utilize the latest products available to save both time and money. In my opinion, the starting point is having reliable mobile inspection software.

Most companies that sell appraisal software also have a mobile inspection product as well. If they don’t they risk losing their customers to more forward-thinking developers.

A good mobile inspection app will allow you to collect all the information you need to fill out the 1004 appraisal form. This includes floor plan sketches, pictures, and detailed notes on the physical characteristics of the property.

After all of the data is collected it is then transferred to the desktop form-filling software which reduces the overall time it takes to fill out the form. It is not necessary to enter re-enter photos and resketch the floor plan because it has already been done.

This can reduce potential errors in data input and increase the accuracy of the report which provides a better product to the appraiser’s customer.

Conclusion

This is just a sampling of the hardware and software being used by current practicing appraisers. In the future, I will include other tools they use to perform their job. I have been utilizing the latest technology and testing new products as they become available so that I can provide the best product to my clients.

Are you a tech-savvy appraiser and have anything to add? I’d love to hear what other appraisers have to say or even what users of appraisal services think about the new technology. Please leave a comment below and as always thanks for reading.

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Comments

  1. I wonder what tool will be invented next and where the biggest need is in the appraisal space. I suppose help with value is the big factor in terms of supporting adjustments and justifying a reconciliation of value.

    • That is a very good question, Ryan. I think one of the biggest revelations (something most people already knew) is that Automated Valuation Models, such as the Zillow Zestimate, leave a lot to be desired in accuracy. With many iBuyer programs being shut down due to the companies losing money, you have to ask yourself what went wrong? It seems reasonable to assume that the AVM’s used by the companies to assist them in making buying and selling decisions did not provide good information. I think that at best the AVM needs to be used along with a knowledgeable real estate analyst (appraiser) to provide the best estimate of a properties value. Learning how to balance the AVM tool with the appraiser analyst may provide the best situation in estimating values in 2023 and beyond.

  2. Great article, Tom! Thanks for mentioning my article! I do enjoy fully utilizing new technologies. They can definitely save us time, which is good for us and our clients! My best to you in 2023!

    • You’re welcome, Jamie. The article was very educational and I think it can be helpful to others to help them understand what new technology is available. Good luck to you in 2023 as well!

  3. Great information. We too are using Cubi for our floor plans. We are in NC and home measurements are a big deal here – real estate commission requires them. We are not comfortable with the square footage, so we still measure and produce that and then whip out our phone to complete the floorplan. The team loves it. Big time saver on the floor plans

    • Great to hear how you are using Cubicasa, David. I’ve never thought about using a combo of the app as well as measuring but I can understand where you’re coming from.

  4. Lawrence Fenimore says

    I am one that can not do 2 things well at the same time, meaning I am totally consumed in performing my full inspection of the house and I use all my skills to experience the houses condition. Asking questions of a homeowner is also crucial and I need to concentrate on that.

    • Hey, Lawrence, I can understand where you are coming from. I too sometimes suffer from multi-tasking. I like to do my inspection first and then talk to the homeowner. This helps me to give 100% attention to each task. Whenever the homeowner follows me around and gives me information it is easy for me to miss things so I ask them to wait until the end and then we can discuss what they have done. So far that works best for me.

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