Luke Tomaszewski started in the appraisal industry 15 years ago and like many, saw what was needed to help make the appraisal process easier. Luke recently launched a new app called ProxyPics, which allows anyone to request real-time photos from everyday people.
The platform is an online marketplace for people to submit a request for the location of the photo or video they need, the user then can accept the request and snap the photo or video for submission. In return, they will be paid for each submission. It is affordable for all and saves the appraiser countless hours of commuting from location to location.
Appraisal Buzz was able to take some time to chat with Luke to learn more about ProxyPics and where the idea came from.
Buzz: Luke, can you tell us a little bit about your history in the appraisal industry?
Luke: Well, I got into the industry 15 years ago and I’m one of the few appraisers that does not have any family or friends in the industry, to add to that, no one even in real estate which would have helped. When I was a junior in High School my parents were refinancing their house and the appraiser was there measuring, I asked what he was doing. He explained he’s an appraiser, his responsibilities and how enjoys his profession. At the time I was doing construction in the Summer season, I had an interest in real estate and really held on to what he said for a few years. One day I heard that the Chicago Association of Realtors was offering classes to become a licensed appraiser and I remembered that very moment when this appraiser said he really liked being an appraiser.
After getting my appraisal license, finding a certified appraiser to work for was not easy. Remember zero family in real estate. So, what did I do? I picked up those big heavy yellow pages (which we no longer have) and I called every appraiser in Illinois and asked if I could work for them. To my surprise, everyone told me no. The next day I called every appraiser in the yellow pages back but this time I thought, “what do appraisers need”? And I realized they needed mortgage brokers. On this round of calls, almost everyone said yes because I told them I knew a lot of mortgage brokers. After being hired I drove up and down Cicero Ave, Harlem Ave, and Belmont stopping at every mortgage office trying to break into the industry, the rest is history.
Buzz: Can you tell us a bit about your new app ProxyPics? And how Appraisers have found success from it?
Luke: Every year I feel that an appraiser has more and more to do on every job and people do not realize how much is involved. A majority of the population thinks we get $400+/- for walking through a house taking a few photos and measurements and we’re done. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig if it were that easy.
All too often we are wasting too much time driving from one end of the city to the next for one simple photo. ProxyPics can save you in a pinch if you get the wrong photo of a property or your camera died. A lot of the hybrid reports we are seeing these days provide a photo from a third-party source and ProxyPics can now be that source but provide that photo much faster.
The app allows its users, even people who are not appraisers, to be notified when a picture is needed. If they are near that location, they can take the picture through the app, submit it to the appraiser, and receive payment.
Buzz: Where did you get the idea for this new product?
Luke: Over the years we’ve expanded our business in many different directions. I started as an appraiser and five or so years into it everyone would ask me if buying this property was a good idea. I then obtained my broker’s license for sales, after that when the REO boom started I kept meeting preservation companies to allow access to foreclosed properties. Shortly after this, we opened a property preservation company. In all three industries, I realized how important real-time photos were to depict the current condition of a property or asset.
In recent years we’ve discovered that everything needs to be faster and that is where this idea came from. Crowdsourcing is the fastest growing industry and requesting real-time photos from the person that is standing next to the building is a no brainer. Not only is it lightning fast but affordable too.
Buzz: Why do you think Appraisers would want to download the app?
Luke: Not only am I an appraiser and think this will change the industry but I’ve heard from multiple appraisers and lenders saying what a great idea this app is, that they wish they would have thought of it. We made the app available a week ago and appraisers are already using it and providing us with positive feedback which is great to hear because as an appraiser, I feel like negative feedback is what appraisers usually have to listen to. I think this will help take the industry in the right direction. Maybe this will lead to other professions looking to the appraisal industry on how to improve their business model for the first time.
Buzz: Where do you see the future of the appraisal industry?
Luke: I’ve been asked this question many times over the years and my answer stays pretty consistent. With the recent changes the AQB made to qualify as a new appraiser, I think those are great and should have come a bit sooner but better late than never. That will help but I still see the appraiser shifting to more of an analyst. I believe the physical property characteristics will be provided to the appraiser/analyst via a service like ProxyPics in which the borrower/realtor will walk the property taking photos/video of the subject. With advancements in technology, phone cameras with dual lenses will measure the footprint of the dwelling and the appraiser/analyst will be provided this physical data and they will analyze that data to provide a value estimate.
I also feel that the single point value estimate will be replaced by a range as they do in other countries which I believe makes much more sense. This will eliminate the appraisal shortage as an appraiser will drastically increase their capacity and make a higher dollar per assignment which should be expected.
Buzz: Is there anything else we didn’t ask that you think our readers should know about ProxyPics?
Luke: The appraisal industry is only a small fraction of what ProxyPics can do for you. Taking the professional environment out let’s think personal. You’re thinking of buying a certain car that’s 200 miles away but you’d like to take a look and the photos the seller took might not be showing that giant dent. You can pay $5, get that photo within minutes and put your mind at ease. Are you on vacation and you have a feeling your son/daughter might be throwing that house party they promised they wouldn’t? Request a photo from your beach chair and put your mind at ease. You’ve been wanting to go to that new brunch place but there’s always a line around the corner. Request a photo of that line, maybe it’s not that long today. These are just a few examples of what ProxyPics can do but the possibilities are endless.
Buzz: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We are excited to download the app and try ProxyPics for ourselves. To learn more about ProxyPics visit their website or download their app for free here.
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