I recently had the pleasure of visiting our fellow appraisers “Down Under” late last year. My trip was mostly pleasure but as I always have appraisals on my mind, I had to throw some business into it.
Brendon Hulcome, an Australian Valuer (appraiser) of Herron Todd White, took to the main stage at Valuation Expo in 2014. Brendon also spoke to the Collateral Risk Network and gave an in-depth presentation. Hearing him explain the differences between appraisals completed in the states as opposed to how they are completed in Australia was very eye opening and interesting to me. Since I flew 9,200 miles, I reached out to Brendon to see if he would be kind enough show me how it’s done in his neck of the woods.
In true Australian spirit, Brendon gave me an open invite, for which I was honored and excited. I had the pleasure of meeting the company’s legal team, human resource department, as well as marketing team. They were able to give me a great overview of how their company functions, the company structure, and how new employees are hired.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Kylie McKiernan who is in charge of the technology side of the business. I was very impressed with how technologically advanced they are in comparison to us. All of the valuers have a tablet they utilize to sketch, take photos, and pull data from in the field. Data is taken from multiple sources such as, a local Multiple Listing Service, a real estate agent website, and public records. The firm captures all of this data and adds it into their custom database where it is scrubbed. The data is then utilized by internal valuers and easily imports into their appraisal. Manual data entry by the valuer is almost nonexistent which is most impressive.
Darren Oliver, the National Director, explained the playing field of firms, Appraisal Management Companies, Valuers, and so on. In Australia there are four major mortgage lenders and four appraisal firms, one of them being Herron Todd White. The lenders have two portals they send appraisal orders from and the firms are then on rotation. There are very few independent valuers in Australia. It appears that most valuers work for one of the four firms. Corelogic is in control of both portals that are utilized to place orders and a technology fee is always applied. During lunch with Brendon and Kylie I shared my thoughts and observations. After a few sips of iced tea and a few very quick bites, I ran off with David Notley, who I already made late to his first appointment.
Being midwinter in the states, it was time for me to get out into the field and enjoy some sunshine. It was a balmy 90 to 100 degree day in the field but I found myself eager to see how things are done. We first arrived at a single family residence. Photos were taken of the home’s exterior and the home’s view of downtown Brisbane. The inspection went faster than expected since photos of every room aren’t needed. We only took three interior photos plus the exteriors. All measurements were taken with a laser. Afterwards, we had time to chat before sending the appraisal to the office.
While I was sitting in the car with David, I wondered to myself, why we aren’t doing this in the United States? A number of issues came to mind. Scrubbing accurate data that can be directly exported into an appraiser’s grid. Then there is the form itself. The form that is used in Australia is far less cumbersome, and less than a quarter the length of our standard 1004. As far as lender and AMC guidelines in Australia, there is only one to follow. All lenders and firms agree to one set of guidelines or instructions. It alleviates the problem, for example, of figuring out if this particular client or AMC needs this one line comment or not.
The hot topic lately, at conferences I’ve attended, seems to be the lack of appraisers coming into the valuation field and the aging appraisal population. I think a streamlined appraisal process and revamped set of forms has potential to attract new appraisers and speed up turn times in the United States. It’s been well over a decade since our forms have been updated. If we work together we can make our lives simpler like our mates in Australia. It just takes a little teamwork.