How to Turn Your Office into a Paperless Office

The Appraisal Buzz staff met up with Ernie Durbin and Bill Waltenbaugh to discuss the release of their webinar, The Paperless Office. Find out what they had to say in this in depth interview.

Buzz: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us about the release of your on demand webinar on The Paperless Office. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your history in the industry?

Ernie: My parents were both designated appraisers and I joined their business when I came out of college in 1982. I purchased our family business in the mid-80s and the firm grew into a large regional residential appraisal company. We developed software to assist us in determining market velocity and direction in the Greater Cincinnati market. The software attracted the attention of others at the national level during the market downturn that began in 2007. In 2009, I closed my appraisal firm and began to work on a national level. Although I no longer have appraisers working for me, I still have a small appraisal practice that specializes in complex residential valuation and relocation appraisals in Cincinnati.

Bill: I got started in the business when Ernie visited his alma mater, Anderson University, looking to recruit appraisers for his appraisal practice in Southwest Ohio. I recently gradated and was working as a zoning administrator at the City of Anderson, IN. Appraisers often visited the office to obtain zoning information and I always found what they were doing interesting. It was like they were putting a puzzle together by gathering all of the pieces and assembling them into something recognizable that made sense. I also liked how they split there time between being in the office and out in the field. Although I now spend most of my time behind a desk as Axis Appraisal Management’s Chief Appraiser, I still find the business of valuation just as interesting as I did 25 years ago.

Buzz: Why is this topic important to appraisers?

Bill: To be competitive businesses need to be open to change. In this regard, the appraisal business isn’t different than any other. I can’t think of a single thriving business that still does things the same way they did 20 years ago. When I started in the business appraisers were gluing photos and copying maps to addendums. Both took a tremendous amount of time, money, and resources. Although it may not seem like it, printing and maintaining paper files involves a tremendous amount of time, money, and resources. Being green is a benefit of going paperless. Green is also the color of money and being paperless saves a lot of green.

Buzz: What will appraisers learn from you during this webinar that will assist them with their appraisal business?

Ernie: We will of course discuss the benefits of being paperless but the biggest portion of this webinar will be practical. We will discuss how to produce an appraisal without paper from start to finish. This webinar will focus on praxis not theory. Appraisers will learn that becoming paperless is relatively inexpensive and can be started immediately.

Buzz: If you could encourage appraisers to do one simple thing that would enhance their life or business in going paperless, what would it be?

Ernie: Invest in large monitors and have at least two. Instead of printing online sources such as MLS and public records, display them and save their output to your desktop; either as a screenshot or a PDF.

Bill: Maintaining electronic files not only saves space but allows you to access your files from anywhere. This in turn enables you to provide better customer service by equipping you with the ability to open, review, answer questions, and change reports from any location. You’re no longer tied to your office or a physical location to run your business.

Buzz: Do you see the industry ever becoming completely paperless?

Ernie: Actually, I do. When you think about what has happened over the last two decades in our business we have already started the process. Gone are the days whenever we have to overnight paper appraisals. Today, almost every mortgage assignment you complete is uploaded as XML or as a PDF. Shortly, XML will be all that is required. Many alternative appraisal products are now completed entirely on the web. The product of appraisers is predominantly communicated without paper, why would we save it in our office?

Buzz: What do you say to the appraiser who prefers to avoid new technology and wants to continue to do things as they always have?

Ernie: Goodbye. Remember to keep your errors and omissions insurance active for a few years after leaving the business.

Bill: C’ya. Don’t forget to take your pager with you.

Buzz: Did you encounter any resistance with clients or your office staff when moving towards a paperless office?

Ernie: I certainly never encountered resistance from clients. Some internal office staff had a hard time being “paperless trained.” They relied on paper for the production of their appraisal report but we scanned that information for storage and shredded the file. Eventually, these appraisers saw the efficiencies and higher volume of their forward thinking workmates and adopted a completely paperless approach. Every journey starts with the first step. These were good appraisers and we accommodated their paper addiction, eventually they self-weaned.

Bill: As early adopters there were minor issues with clients in the past in regards to creating electronic reports. However, there isn’t any concern in today’s standards and expectations. I suspect all your clients already communicate with you electronically through email and order management systems (OMS’s). Printing and storing paper from these media actually adds an additional layer to your own process. While this additional layer takes up your own time and money, it doesn’t negatively affect your client’s process as long as you transmit the electronic report in a timely manner.

Buzz: What was one of the hardest obstacles you faced when transitioning to a paperless office and how did you overcome it?

Ernie: The hardest obstacle is already a necessity for appraisers today… good backup and security. All appraisers in the market space use software to generate their valuations today. Hopefully they have a good backup routine. When going paperless, backup is obviously essential. We have some suggestions in the webinar for backup technology and routines in a paperless office. Proper backup and security is quintessential to the modern appraisal office whether you are paperless or not.

Bill: Doing something new or different typically involves a learning curve and, by nature, most people tend to resist change. To be honest, some of these changes took a little time for me to become efficient and get comfortable performing. However, in the end, perseverance paid off. I can’t imagine ever going back to doing things the way I did in the “good old days”.

We’d like to thank Ernie and Bill for taking the time to speak with us. If you are interested in watching the webinar, the Appraisal Buzz will be offering this on demand webinar at a discounted price today! Click here for more details.

Have any comments or would you like to submit content of your own. Email comments@appraisalbuzz.com.

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