Cheers from Down Under!


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.


About Luke Tomaszewski

Luke Tomaszewski
Luke Tomaszewski is CEO and founder of ProxyPics, Inc a new tech company located in Chicago, IL and CEO of eValuation ZONE, Inc. An appraiser in his own right, Luke has years of real-world experience and knows exactly what is needed to make each transaction as efficient as possible. ProxyPics, is a new app designed to make region specific photography available to all, utilizing his second US patent. Luke aims to change the way homes are photographed for mortgage needs in the digital age. Luke started in the appraisal industry 15 years ago and has always been excited about developing new and exciting things that will change the industry for the better. His first hybrid appraisal form was developed over 4 years ago and one of the first companies to Beta test ACI Sky with a custom BPO form. Luke is always pushing the industry forward while presenting over the last two years as a guest speaker at the AARO Conference (Association of Appraiser Regulatory Officials) on the future education for appraisers and most recently on the technology with Virtual Reality Inspections.

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    There’s a couple of things that don’t fit many of us here in the USA. First, many of us are independent entities, a one or two person operation. You’d have to get us all on board with the concept of collectives to get the type/level of support that they get over there. Second, we can thank the over-reaction by the lending industry/government for the length of our forms and required/requested addendums. To get the forms simplified, you’d literally be looking for an act of Congress, since Fannie Mae approves many of the forms we now use.
    I think the last issue regarding the age issue isn’t as much about the complexity of the work as it’s about the understanding that in order to be somewhat successful in this industry, you now have to acquire a college degree (or equivalent) to even become an appraiser. And then you really need to consider moving right up to the certified level in order to secure a sustainable amount of work. As a licensed level appraiser in 2009, I completed over 350 appraisals. For me, given the time I take to complete an order, that was a seven day a week/14 hour a day burden. In 2010, after being removed from the FHA roster (and subsequently most of my AMC rosters because I couldn’t complete FHA orders), I complete just under 125 reports. I have remained between 125 and 200 most years since then, making what I consider a barely sustainable living. I know, I could have upgraded at any time. My point has to do with this; why would someone attain a college degree to make a mediocre living in an industry that’s possibly dying? If I’m going to spend my time getting my degree, you better believe it’s going to be in a field that pays much better than appraisal. Hard to reconcile the time and money needed to achieve the level of certified appraiser. This is just my opinion, and it’s no better than anyone else’s, but it’s what I believe. It’s difficult to justify becoming a trainee in today’s appraisal world.

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    I want to know how long it takes to complete a single order and what the fee is. If 75% of all transactions in the US now go through AMC’s and pay ($250 to $300), and take 10+ hours to complete, what is their industry like. Do they have severely declining appraisal numbers? What are the qualifications to entry? Thanks Luke.

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