It was in the early 90’s, my second born had made his grand entrance into the world, and as it turns out, I was working for one of my greatest mentors. Bank of America was employing one of the industry’s finest and as luck would have it, I happened to be his administrative assistant. As I am writing this I can peer above my glasses and see a book on the shelf called The Appraisal of Real Estate, 1987 edition and signed by Larry Holt to signify his past ownership. This book has been in my possession since 1992 and will always be prized. In addition to this book, vast amounts of advice, and opportunity, I also possess the greatest clip board I have ever seen. It is legal size, custom made from beautiful wood with a glossy finish and was presented to me by Larry upon my passing the appraisal exam. He used the clip board during his days in the field. To this day I have never completed an appraisal inspection without it. It reminds me of him, of his integrity and of our love of the profession.
Why do I love this embattled profession that appears to be diminishing over time? Being an appraiser meant setting my own schedule and controlling my own destiny. I could be a Mom, be a high quality producer and do my part in providing public trust for our mortgage lending process. My job was to protect people and still is. I also felt pride in being an appraiser because we were shielding borrowers and lenders from making poor decisions. The analysis was always the best part. Data tells amazing stories when we take the time to listen.
My husband is also an appraiser and loves the profession even more than I do. He takes an incredible amount of pride in what he does. He wears a tie to every inspection, researches every angle, does not cut corners, and produces what every borrower feels good about paying for. It can be disheartening these days when we come across some of our peers who were never trained the way we were or who don’t feel the inherent responsibility to produce a credible appraisal report. We are seemingly at a crossroads again with an aging population of appraisers, a lack of strong newcomers into the space, and another push towards progression and automation.
I say another crossroad because AVMs scared appraisers back in the day but they never took our place. They became a tool for escalation routing, decision making on very low credit risks, and evaluating pools of loans among other things. Appraisers did not go away and I don’t think they will go away today either. The advent of Collateral Underwriter from Fannie illustrates the immense amount of aggregated data and benefit of it for evaluating credibility, creating standardization and overall quality control and risk routing. Collateral Underwriter is also a tool. Tools are good especially when they are rich with data. We need to be open minded to tools so that we can allow our profession to continue, evolve and become stronger by virtue of the better stories we can tell. If our job is to provide information that protects the users and provides public trust we should absolutely be onboard with leveraging strong data tools.
As you can see I am nostalgic about my profession but that does not prevent me from having eyes wide open into the future. If nothing else in life, things change rapidly. We owe it to our profession to continue making our products more reliable and faster when possible. There will always be niche properties and complex or high dollar assignments that will take longer to complete but when we have data rich areas where the data is more discernable; why not produce a product that is more align with the risk? After all this is about protecting the consumer and the lender, not about us keeping a strangle hold on the past. I firmly believe appraisers can make equal if not more money completing hybrid appraisal products and can continue demonstrating the worth of the appraised value performed by an appraiser in the market place.
If it were the 90’s again and the kids were still small, hybrid products would not have changed my love for the profession. I could still control my own destiny, produce quality products, analyze data, and be a protector. I would still be out in the field just doing more exterior inspections. I have done the math plenty of times and money would not be an issue. I know for certain there have been plenty of 1004 or full appraisal reports I have written and didn’t make much because of the effort required to produce credible results. As appraisers we diversify with our client base so why wouldn’t we do the same with our product mix?
Is there really a shortage of appraisers or is there an inelasticity in the market in terms of the peak ordering of appraisals versus the appraisers available at that given time? My personal belief is that if the number of appraisals ordered was disbursed evenly over the year we would not have as big a problem, if any. It is traditionally those darn Spring and Summer markets with an occasional mad rush in December. We need to be smart and elevate our profession into the next generation of appraisal products. There will continue to be plenty of work and perhaps we will not be as challenged during the peak seasons. There are products today that will lessen the burden during the peaks without impacting the livelihood of the appraiser.
I challenge appraisers who love their jobs to be open minded about our future. Embrace the new without losing your love for the old. I have had more than one mentor along the way but kudos to all the appraisers out there that take pride in telling the stories of value. Larry Holt, you have given me more than you could ever know.