The biggest issue for many commercial appraisal firms is the lack of effectively implemented technology. It’s like your appraisers are hot air balloons, randomly flying around. Each doing their own thing. The wind taking them wherever. Very limited control. Where are they going? Do they even know? As the firm owner, do you?
If you talk to any commercial appraiser, you hear pretty much the same words. “I’m swamped.” They’re not saying, “I’m pretty busy” or “I have a pretty heavy workload.” Their metaphoric description of their workload tells a deeper story. The story might include limited or no documented processes or the absence of a collaborative work environment.
If you own an appraisal firm, establish expectations with a well communicated direction. Your appraisers are hungry for productivity tools. Hungry for a comp database and report writing that works the way they do. Don’t just stop there, add additional tools such as an appraisal workflow app. Don’t let your office success be governed by the “winds.” Take control of your office.
Why the overwhelmed feeling?
The first question to ask is why are so many commercial appraisers overwhelmed? It’s not like they don’t put in the hours. Plus, those working remotely save lots of commute time. They try to be productive with the tools that were given to them.
In additional to their day-to-day appraisal work, there are lots of time vortexes. Old neighborhood descriptions that need work. Comps incorrectly or partially written up in the database that need to be fixed. Subject contracts or rents that don’t make their way into the comp database. Market overview for highest and best use needs updating. Eight-year-old expense comps. The list goes on and on.
The problem is bottlenecks. Work in progress at various stages bump up against walls. The appraisal process being halted due to things beyond your control. Waiting on information from the client. The borrower is not returning your call so you can’t inspect the property. You’ve got three appraisals to get done ASAP, but a lengthy review just came in. Ugh. That’s going to take some time.
Technology sounds like a complicated process to get implemented at your firm. But it’s really not that hard. As the firm owner, create an on-boarding process that will not affect your ongoing appraisal volume. Nothing’s more frustrating than implementing new software that bogs down your entire office. The solution? Train the trainer. Pick somebody in your office to be the “go-to” expert for the comp database and report writing.
Create a timeline of implementation. Meet with your entire staff to get buy-in. Clearly communicate your expectations. Don’t set a too aggressive timeline. It will only create discouragement and lack of adoption. On the other hand, it shouldn’t take six months. We recommend taking one appraiser (your “go to” expert) and start using a typical appraisal report format within 30 days. Too busy to keyword your own template? Then pay somebody to do it for you. The business of business is business.
Perfect = a very bad plan
Avoid perfectionitis. DON’T overly complicate the process. Don’t pick an uber complicated property type and valuation scenario with a huge scope of work. Best practice is to pick a “meat and potatoes” every day appraisal – retail, office or industrial. You get the idea. Keep it simple and then tweak along the way.
What good is technology if you can’t leverage it? How can you turn “I’m swamped” to “I’m in control.” Many of your appraisers are tired. You can almost see in the appraisal where they ran out of gas due to the lack of automation. Typically it’s the Income Approach. The level of detail and especially how the subject fits in the market literally stops.
“What you were taught 10-20 years ago is fast becoming obsolete. Upskill yourself and recreate your world.”
How’s your current relationship with your appraisal comp database and report writing software? Are you getting EVERYTHING you want? If not, reach out to your provider and ask for help. Like any business, nothing of value is free. You don’t send your appraisals out for free. Re-training yourself as the owner of the firm and your appraisers is the “new normal” for success. Giving your appraisers a job folder and effectively telling them “good luck” in their balloon ride to completion is obsolete.
Report writing software needs to integrate with your staff. Commercial appraisers effectively create the same product, but how they go about it varies significantly. Firms don’t all operate the exact same way. It can be especially awkward because of the current distributed workforce. But as your employees make their way back to the office, it might be a great time to reintroduce new processes and software.
What’s in it for me?
An ability to automate your appraisals with the end game in mind, significantly increase your appraisal quality and volume with the added bonus of a reduction of errors. The first person to see the rewards of your work will be your internal reviewers. They will see the appraisals created the “old way” versus the “new way.” If implemented consistently throughout your company, your appraisal product and processes will attract (and retain) younger talent.
Buy back your time
Creating an appraisal template that looks exactly what you produce today is what you need. If you don’t have it, go get it. You deserve it. If you’re juggling a lot of reports at once, trying to manage it properly with Excel and Outlook is another aimless balloon.
Software specifically designed for commercial appraisers can buy back your time. Provide it for your office. Effectively communicate your expectations to full implementation. Ask and LISTEN to feedback from your people…work through problems. Get 100% buy-in.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat of a Gulfstream G650 jet, not a hot air balloon. No longer have the success of your appraisal firm determined by the wind. Look beyond the limitations of only controlling going up and down. Take control of the direction of your flight to success. You’ve reached your destination when you no longer hear, “I’m swamped.” That will be a great day. Wheels up!