Make your appraisals (In)credible

As in sales, a confused buyer never buys. In commercial appraising, a confused reader might not believe your market value opinion. Every two years, we sit in a classroom taking USPAP continuing ed. But how often do we really take note of “credible assignment results.”

Here’s a quick test. Give one of your appraisals to an appraisal friend and ask for honest feedback. How’s the flow, structure, communication style, supportive data, analysis and conclusion? Ask them to rate it as a reader, not a reviewer. Use a five star system. Understandably, an appraisal will not be a Dean Koontz suspense thriller novel. His writing menu includes science fiction, mystery, satire, horror and fantasy. Still, you’re an author, so what’s in your writing menu?

Our reports are 100% USPAP compliant

Most appraisal firms have been using the same report format since they opened their doors. Report improvements are largely limited to USPAP dates, such as the current 2020-2021 edition. However, when’s the last time you’ve actually improved your format that speaks to credible assignment results?

Why we should pay attention

Appraisers are often pressed for time being “swamped.” Few appraisers get to the last page of the report, about to click save, then wonder if the report is “worthy of belief?” They just know that they put in all the stuff they’re supposed to. Today’s challenge is to have enough time to really work on the valuation. Avoid word-processing wrestling with your format trying make it work for a particular subject property type.

Having time for the valuation makes appraising fun again. If you’re confident that your format provides all the items to make a great report, you can then sit back and focus on the important stuff. Most appraisers open up an old report and start search replacing from the cover page and then plow their way through. As an internal reviewer, you can almost see where they ran out of energy, typically the Income Approach.

Low hanging fruit

If you’ve ever reviewed other appraisers work, you might notice a few things that you really like that your format lacks. You also might notice a few things that the appraiser did that you do and don’t like. You need to have all the USPAP “usual suspects” for developing and reporting. But look beyond the basic requirements.

The input side of your report writing software should offer consistency in your office. This is especially true for new appraisers that may not have a grasp on how to connect all the dots in a valuation. Having a solid format provides an outline that generates additional time for you to write a more compelling product.

Often times appraisers miss the obvious, typos. They can come from anywhere, your Dragon dictation, copy and pasting from other documents or changing your mind on how to handle a valuation issue while word processing.

Wall of words

In our office, if you send an email with more than five long paragraphs, you’ll get a phone call. We label this (in a negative context) a “wall of words.” If it takes tons of words to describe an issue, pick up the phone, it’s quicker. Using more words suggest that you don’t understand the issue. Same thing applies to commercial appraisals. The amount of words should match the complexity of the property. Why would a reader want to plow through 150 pages for a 3,000 square foot owner occupied warehouse?

5 Cannons of Persuasive Writing

  1. All hail the King
  2. What are you doing here?
  3. Tell me a story
  4. Flow like water my friend
  5. Appraisal by the pound

Tell the reader up front in the transmittal letter what to expect. Clarity. It’s king. Think of it as a detailed Yelp review, the highlights. Organize your format to make sense. Relevancy. Write your reports like a good Netflix story, good character development. Mentioning the subject’s deferred maintenance, but not deducting for it is like erroneously having a Tesla in the background of a show set in the 1950s. It stands out.

Flow. Do I really need to see three pages of definitions on Page 2? Why put your important comps in the Addenda? From a reader’s perspective, seems like you care more about definitions than comps. Don’t confuse the amount of pages with credible assignment results, less is more. Resist the urge to write in a self-contained format. It doesn’t exist anymore.

Pretend to spend $5 for every word regarding the subject. This game will force you to write more succinctly. Talk about relevant stuff. It’s great to visually assist the reader with pictures, charts and graphs, but only if it directly addresses the market position of the subject.

Show you care about the reader while checking all the USPAP boxes. Work to make your appraisals (in)credible.