ACI Sky Causing Distress for Appraisers

VaCAP Board

VaCAP Board

Coalition of Appraisers in Virginia at Virginia Coalition of Appraiser Professionals
Coalition of individual appraisers working together to unite, promote and protect the collective interests of all appraisal professionals in Virginia; to promote needed changes in laws, rules, regulations, policies and standards affecting all appraisers in Virginia; to observe and report the actions of regulatory, legislative, oversight, and standards-setting entities of the Commonwealth.
VaCAP Board

ACI Sky Causing Distress for Appraisers

Are you giving in to ACI Sky?

An appraiser who will remain anonymous tells us…

“within the last week, I have had two issue of concerns with “UAD” compliance and ACI Sky Delivery ( I can hardly write that; as, it is a significant source of stress when I have to deal with it). I have tried to submit reports, with issues that prevented the upload (no surprise with “Sky”). The first involved the 1004MC form. The comparables that were available for the subject were extremely minimal – something like 4-6. The last period only included 1 comparable (no valid data). The trend indicated “increasing”. However, in our area, the trend is really demonstrative of “stable” at this time. The trend on page 1 of the U.R.A.R. indicated “stable”. There was explanation on the 1004MC form as to why the trends did not match. The representatives of the company associated with the order indicated that they had to “match”. I related that they did not, based on minimal data for comparables specifically, with an explanation as to why they didn’t necessarily match. As, page one represents the subject’s area market, and 1004MC is representative of comparable specific data. They insisted that I just use general market data for the 1004MC, so that they would match. In order to be compliant for USPAP and not be misleading, I included two 1004MC forms, with an explanation of why two were associated. However, they insisted that I remove the comparable specific form. In the end, I did not and they finally processed it. This brings up concerns, as noted, in that “conforming” to these processing software systems will, in a lot of cases, be misrepresentative, and ultimately we are appraising to the review/processing systems and not necessarily a true representation.

The second scenario was with an REO property. The “as is” value + the estimated cost for the repairs was not equal to or greater than the “as repaired” value. Well, no kidding. This is often the case, depending on what the repairs are, etc. It would not go through the system on this basis. Ultimately, I did not change the report. However, it is an ongoing concern with regard to what is happening by these software review processing systems and the insistence that we conform to “make it work”.

This appraiser goes on to say

“ACI Sky is a delivery system for AMC’s. I work with several who use this system. It provides the companies ‘pre-screening/review’ for reports being submitted. The point here is that anyone that encounters this system will have the same responses. I have had other companies indicate that page 1 of the URAR and the 1004MC have to match. But, again, this is not always the case in reality.

I am not concerned with being compliant with USPAP, because I either do not comply with what they are requesting, or at least make a disclaimer in my report regarding the factors associated. I am concerned with how many appraisers out there may be giving in to the system? More and more AMC’s are utilizing the ACI Sky delivery system; and, there are other systems that cause similar upload issues. These systems cause immense frustrations, as they prevent uploads multiple times, and don’t always give the same error each time. As one of my colleagues related, dealing with these systems make you want to throw your computer across the room”.

So appraisers, the question is are you having similar difficulties with ACI Sky? If so, please comment and we will contact them and advise them of these issues.

ACI is “a leading innovator and provider of software solutions in the valuation industry for thirty years, has brought advancement and technical achievements to mortgage servicing that led to the complete automation of many paper-intensive reporting processes” and are coincidentally NOW owned by First American / Corelogic.

Image credit flickr - JoshuA Byrd
VaCAP Board

VaCAP Board

Coalition of individual appraisers working together to unite, promote and protect the collective interests of all appraisal professionals in Virginia; to promote needed changes in laws, rules, regulations, policies and standards affecting all appraisers in Virginia; to observe and report the actions of regulatory, legislative, oversight, and standards-setting entities of the Commonwealth.

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44 Responses

  1. Thomas Woolford says:

    I fired the 2 clients I had that used that horrendous piece of code. They are attempting to reduce costs on their end, by piling a bunch of computer generated BS on us to decipher. “Just say no”!

    As far as ACI or ALM, definitely Total. There is a very good reason they are the biggest software vendor. None of them are perfect, but of those I’ve demo’d, Total is far superior, and constantly improved.

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  2. Jeff says:

    I have used alamode for 20 years. I have never used ACI. I do feel ACI is not out for the best interest of appraisers and more in the pockets of the lenders. I would drop ACI the first time I couldn’t send off an appraisal because a hard stop was forcing a correction that is at the discretion of the appraiser who monitors the markets they are in.

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    • Tammy Marsh says:

      Hey Jeff,

      I do not use ACI.  Sky Delivery is a associated with Sky Delivery system that Appraisal Management companies.  It processes essentially all of the different software systems that come into their upload process.  I, like you, have never been impressed with ACI.

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      • Jeff says:

        Yes you are correct. I am glad to say I have weeded out all AMCs that use SKY delivery. What a pain in the you know what. Not only does it hard stop non USPAP errors but if you are not using the ACI program for appraising the upload takes for ever. I am free of that process

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  3. GAPeach says:

    I dumped ACI after I read Software Provider Conflict of Interests by Mike Ford. Why use a product from a company that screws appraisers?

    Mike Ford: “It will be very hard to justify using my ACI suite anymore, knowing any money I spend there supports a conglomerate that thinks it’s okay to pay appraisers $70.00 fees for “restricted appraisals” that suffer from schizophrenia.”

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    • Bill Johsnon says:

      They are ALL guilty of something GAPeach. Although over the years I have paid Ala mode $15,000 to $20,000 in software fees, it did not stop them in developing the Mercury Network where they in my opinion robbed appraisers by way of a $13.50 per full report transaction fee. Seems like no big deal, but when they sold off that division this year (or last) and disclosed in the press release they conduct 20,000 transactions A DAY, my quick math reflects nearly a hundred million dollar business per year. Multiply by way of a few years (2009 – 2016) and this company generated upwards of $500,000,000 to $700,000,000 million dollars off the backs of appraisers by way of this single system. Even in cases where they charged the lender (borrower), their profits were still generated by the appraiser grunts in the field.

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      • Jeff says:

        I pass this fee on to the lender so no problem. Also in my opinion Mercury Network is a way for lenders to order appraisals without the nuances involved when ordering through an AMC. I would much rather have an educated reply from a lender than an uneducated reply from a software system that an AMC developed for their own profit gain.

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    • Bill Johnson says:

      So Jeff, if your area allows you to pass the expense onto the lender who actually collects from the borrower, this doesn’t disprove my point that A la mode has gouged hundreds of millions of dollars from the appraisal process. As it relates to this article, lenders, AMCs, software portals, etc. need to butt out of our business. The borrower needs to know how much the ACTUAL APPRAISAL cost, and any and all other AMC, software, or technology fees, needs to be separated out.

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      • Jeff says:

        No its $15.00 versus an AMC fee which is a minimum of that. Appraisal Port charges a fee as well. I get your point and im with you because this is a system that if it had more success could end  up increasing there fee and it is a way for a company to capitalize on the appraisal process for their own selfish gain but my point was that I would rather use Mercury because when I get a correction request it is usually based on a review made by an educated person and not from some idiotic program like ACI SKY that can drive an appraiser crazy. And as I read in some other comments the time it takes to go through the process of accepting orders, updating orders and attempting to send appraisals has stripped away any free time an appraiser once had

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    • I am both humbled and “happier than a pig in you know what” at the same time  if something I wrote discouraged one person from buying ACI for the reason cited in GAPeach’s quote! Bless you sir!

      Bill Johnson is also right (below). MY appraisal report used to be a typed hard copy. Then it became a deliverable report via pdf in email (or via ACIs proprietary ‘commuting’ system in Lord knows what form or format). Technically still ‘my’ appraisal report but with increasing encroachment into the manner it was delivered.

      Somewhere along the way the whores that write & sell appraisal software programs decided simply creating alternative products that could only be made USPAP compliant only by unreasonable effort and time cost by appraisers was not enough.

      They had to sell the users of appraisers on the idea that there was no reason appraisals could not be supplied in different formats that allowed them to tamper with, censor, interfere with or to even change the definition of what “delivery” means. That allowed users to use the reports in ways never intended or authorized by the appraisers. Now the appraisal of real estate for loan transactions had to ALSO include the added service of providing absolute property ratings for both the subject and a huge database of comparable sales. Absolute comparisons were never a broadly accepted part of the appraisal process. certainly they were never intended by appraisers to replace relative comparisons like the ones used by typical buyers and sellers in the marketplace.

      Of course that lead to telling us that we must next provide reports in XML formats IN ADDITION to pdfs. NOW we have ENV formats. Apparently the XML format is not enough of a bottleneck or separate profit center for our so called allies in the appraisal forms software industry.

      Now “delivery” to the intended user-client can be intercepted and indeed stopped completely by third parties or worse, software designed by third parties…even if the use of that software promotes elimination of accepted sound appraisal practices and encourages appraising designed to ‘fit the form and delivery system’ rather than the market.

      Need to analyze market conditions in a manner suited only to the abbreviated forms and low cost appraisals? No problem. Just get TAF/ASB/AQB/& APB and regulators to change the definition of the words analyze or report; or any other aspects of USPAP that are ‘inconvenient’.

      27 Years to the month after FIRREA 1989 was passed to protect the faith and trust of the American public in the American finance system and appraisal process it has ceased to do so anymore.

      Not because it was poorly written. Just the opposite in fact. As originally written it was a great piece of legislation. So were USPAP. That was before each underwent so many special interest revisions that they fail to promote trust in a process at all.

      Quite the opposite in fact.

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  4. Randall R. Davis, SRPA, SRA says:

    I too had the problem with the MC and neighborhood value trend varied due to extremely limited comparable home data (one sale for each of the last two periods). ServiceLink wanted them to match but I refused. They detailed that Fannie Mae guidelines for the URAR neighborhood data is supposed to be only comparable homes from the market area like the 1004MC and not all home sales from the market area. Fine, but no trend can be developed with comparable sales when they are very limited. I detailed that fact in the report and it took four SL requests to “reconcile” and my replies of “READ THE REPORT” before they finally agreed with me.

    I don’t blame the ACI software……I blame the lender and their inability or unwillingness to override obvious inabilities to comply with Fannie Mae guidelines. Those damn square pegs just won’t fit in the round hole.

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    • Software designers are ‘partners in crime’. It starts with the idea that computers can do things they cannot. Once that erroneous assumption is accepted a philosophy of ‘good enough’ replaces reasoning.

      You see, the system and forms we use are ‘good enough’. The process that allowed cost savings by eliminating professional reviews and or technical skills suited to real estate analysis is also ‘good enough’.

      Using regression analysis that only addresses 70% to 90% of a property’s value related elements is ‘good enough’.

      FNMA patenting and using a collateral underwriter system not designed by licensed appraisers; using a database they admit to as being fatally flawed and which has incorporated the stolen work product of tens of thousands of appraisers is also ‘good enough’.

      Eventually using a Zillow or similar type product that ONLY has 90% to 95% claimed reliability when a property value is within 5% of the area median, will also be ‘good enough’.

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  5. John M. Pratt says:

    On this problem with the Neighborhood section and the MC needs to match I have included a statement in the comments of the MC form. I agree that they need to read the report and I do not change the report to meet their computer program.

    The following statement is what I include in the comments of the MC form. “The information to complete this form is based on “Comparable properties “which have been listed or sold in the prior 12 months and the information in the “neighborhood section which is based on all competing (comparable) properties in the neighborhood may not produce the same results and/or conclusions.”

    The MC form only has a snapshot of the the comparable sales and listings in the neighborhood, if you transfer the MC information to the neighborhood section it could be misleading to the readers of the report if you have a limited amount of activity.  
    My RESPONSE IS  send it to the lender, no changes are going to be made to the report.

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  6. David says:

    ACI Sky is the worst automated review I have ever run into…  If I have too many spaces in the lender’s name it finds it as an error and the list goes on….  I’ve never used ACI software but is anything like the “SKY” system I wouldn’t even look at it!

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  7. Bill Johnson says:

    As an A la mode client for years, I still remember a decision I made as it relates to ACI / Lighthouse that still haunts me to this day. A client I no longer use (forgot their name), required at the time that I have a version of ACI JUST TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR POTENTIAL WORK. Although I completed some work over the following 12 months for the client, after the year was up I cancelled ACI. Although ACI was not the issue (the lender was), it left a bad taste in my mouth that is still sour today. This was the beginning as it relates to everybody wanting a piece of the appraisers pie ($$). You live and learn.

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  8. Jason. You know...that Jason says:

    AMC:  I need a fee quote on XXX Any Street.

    Me:  $400.

    AMC:  Can you upload through Sky?

    Me:  $500.

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  9. John Pratt says:

    I did not realize it but the appraisal report I just completed need to be uploaded thru ACI. I got so frustrated that I sent a PDF to the AMC. I am now going to tell them to take me off any list they may have of appraisers.

    The computer check of my report stated that there was no photo of the front of house, the back or street.. I went back and looked at the report, they were there.

    Last Time.

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  10. Bill Johnson says:

    Has anybody ever wondered where our vacation time went? If one completes only 300 assignments a year, but faces 15 minutes of difficulty on each to defeat ACI Sky, then we lose 4,500 minutes of productivity per year. In the normal world, that 75 hours represents nearly two weeks of time.

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    • Jeff says:

      you are exactly right

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      • Bill Johnson says:

        Jeff, the whole industry/issue revolves around how much money different companies can take from what the borrower assumes is the actual amount that solely goes to the appraiser. Appraisalport, Global DMS, Mercury Network, technology fees, delivery fees, background fees, and of course the fees that go directly to the AMC’s. On a federal level its not required that the borrowers paperwork have the separation of fees, my state does not require disclosure within the forms, and of course most clients demand NO INVOICE be included in the report. The game is to hide the truth. The lenders are the ones who either own the AMC, select the AMC, or make arrangements for kickbacks from the AMC. The lenders are the problem.

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      • Baggins Baggins says:

        Funny story. The same companies whom operate one way under one regulatory umbrella, operate a different way under different regulatory umbrellas simultaneously. Truth be told; too much turnover, too many refinances, all time low actual home ownership levels. We don’t need industry income balance, we need a dramatic reduction in industry participants. It’s entirely too easy to use homes as atm’s. Courtesy of…

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    • 365 days a year. There are 52 weeks and weekends or 104 days. That leaves 261 work days if you take no holidays or vacations off. Bill, you deserve your two weeks PLUS holidays. Lets take another 20 days off so you only have 241 work days including storms, snow days and sick days.

      Bill you work too hard. You should not have to work 10 to 14 hours a day to complete your 1.244 appraisals a day. Respectfully you ‘need’ to do two things.

      1. go to http://www.appraisersguild.org or http://www.mfford.com and look up the C&R fee proposal written over a year ago. Its ok to skip to the last page cuz the stuff in between is really boring (I know because I wrote it).

      2. Start charging $500 to $1,000+- for almost all SFRs and decline to work more than 8 hours on any day and all weekends. IF you continue to complete one complete appraisal a day you will still earn over $120,000 a year (gross) less office and assistants overhead .

      Why, that’s nearly 2/3 as much gross as a Coester AMC VP earns!

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    • The last time I “did” 300+ appraisals in one year I was using PCPlus+ Appraisal Software; templates, taping 35mm pictures to the reports; using qualified trainees with preprinted three page checklists, and doing mostly 704 DriveBys for limited liability title insurance company /bank helocs. It may well have been over a thousand-maybe more.

      My computer was only a tool then. Not an appraisal delivery system.

      Excluding weekends there are only 261 work days per year. Eliminate 6 holidays and 14 days vacation and 3 sick days, there are only 238 days left. I can’t do 300 appraisals in 238 8-hour workdays.

      Nor will I try.

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  11. Tammy Marsh says:

    Ditto to the last three posts.  It can be immensely time consuming, along with the frustration.

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  12. Baggins - Technocrats strike again. Baggins - Technocrats strike again. says:

    You can all save the logical appraisal based explanations. The people who develop these data point correlative software peramiters are not appraisers. This issue sounds just like every time I tried to submit .env, or through any of the multitude of Alamode plug ins, and quite similar to what every report goes through with FNMA CU now. It has, and will continue to make better sense, to not subscribe to these ‘additional services’ packages.  You’re paying for the ability for the lenders to put your reporting in a box where all data correlations must align within very stringent preset inflexible peramiters. How else could an non appraiser tech genius ‘apply value’ to the process of automatic review, other than to bring more review settings and correlative data points into play? Too bad they won’t have a hand in reformulating the 1004 form which was of course, created before such automatic correlative data review was possible. You can’t make this up. It’s just another example of overuse of scraped data, and all this program does is the same thing these appraisal companies sell to the lenders, it reviews data for correlative data points. Except the appraiser was the one that paid for it! They sold it, you bought it. Quit purchasing the next new thing all the time, slow it down, and you’ll experience less instances of illogical relationships between man and machine.

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  13. Tammy Marsh says:

    This system is not purchased by appraisers. It is purchased by appraisal management companies for their upload/review process. The only way to avoid it is by not working with those companies that utilize this system. However, more and more of the appraisal management companies are using this system.

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    • bill johnson says:

      In my opinion you’re wrong Tammy. If the borrower pays $600 for an appraisal, but the actual appraiser only receives $350, then a portion of our fee gets spent. The lenders or AMC’s take our fees to in part help with the regulation of the day. If the borrower needs more protection, then itemize out this expense so they can pay for the regulation themselves. Check your cell phone bill for the protection (surcharge / tax) you pay for to have access to (911) (mine cost 11 cents). Why have others figured out ways to charge consumers to the last cent, but as appraisers we are often on the hook for hundreds? If the lender has more regulations to juggle, then again split out this expense so the borrower can pay for it, or add it to your cost of business. With the machines taking over, its getting harder and harder to not join them.

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      • Jeff says:

        Bill if the borrower is paying $600 for an appraisal and you are only getting $350, the AMC is taking money out of your pocket. As appraisers you need to get with your fellow appraisers to raise your fees to get what is fair for the time it takes to complete your reports. The AMC is taking money out of your pocket

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      The question begs to be asked. Purchased from whom?

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  14. Interesting. I’ll largely ignore the 1004MC doesn’t match issue though I rarely rely on 1004MC for my reports. I include it and then turn right around in most cases and report it is essentially useless and misleading as an indicator, and then I provide AND SUPPORT my page one conclusions from other IDENTIFIED data.

    USPAP forbids us from creating misleading reports. If the 1004MC data is no good or misleading I certainly am not transferring it to page one. NO LENDER, NO AMC, NO GSE and frankly NO regulatory agency has the authority to tell us to do something that results in a misleading appraisal report.

    1. ACI was bought out by First American.

    2. First American immediately created one of the worst examples of a misleading form in their so called PACE PRO program / system. It was so bad it even got the attention of the Executive Director of the Appraisal Subcommittee. Look it up.

    3. First American now has an almost complete monopoly over the entire real estate refinance or sale transaction system. Why ANY consumer would use a company that will arrange the CMA; marketing, escrow, home inspection, mortgage loan, appraisal management, appraisal review, title insurance, oversee funding, and then service the loan, is beyond me. Talk about eliminating virtually ALL normal checks and balances!

    I used ACI and WinTotal  both for more than 20 years. Im quitting ACI though it does many things in  a way I am more comfortable with than Total. WHY would I continue to support a product from a monopolistic corporation that is hell bent on destroying the appraisal profession? Their fraud-inducing PACE PRO product was going to be offered with $70 appraisal fees !

    I have to withhold judgment on their “sky” product. I don’t do a lot of transactional work anymore and when I do my AMC knows they either have to walk me through their process or upload the stuff themselves. (its a GOOD AMC!).

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Well, those are times when I actually do fall back on the minimum standards argument.  All that is necessary for GSE compliance is the pdf and xml.  The fail point is when the client will not even allow transmission of the report until automatic grading criteria is met, if such a demand is at odds with; credible valuation results &; not misleading the reader.  That is;  Unacceptable assignment conditions.

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  15. I’ve eliminated all but two AMCs from use or consideration. One is owned by a friend and I’ve described previously how when I do a rare assignment for them that they have to walk me through the process now days.

    The other one is an AMC that I’ve never done an assignment for, but that keeps sending me silly requests. Some that I in turn post in here.

    Combined they may account for 2% to 10% of my annual income. Seems to be about the optimal balance of AMC vs non AMC work for me.

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  16. SDMike says:

    I’ve used both ACI and A la Mode Total/Wintotal and ACI loses by a long shot. They nickel and dime you at every turn. That being said, we as appraisers have to recognize that the industry is what it is and no amount of whining on our part is going to change the way software companies operate. Appraisal Port, Appraiser Zone, a la mode, etc. all charge “technology fees” and that’s just the way it is. To complain and resist is futile! I use Mercury Network and am glad I do. I get appraisals (good paying ones or I don’t take them) from lenders and others that I’ve never heard of, just because I’m registered on Mercury Networks. My regular clients use it and we charge them the fee too. They’re in business to make money. It’s not going to change so we need to get over it. Yeah, some 20 and 30 year appraisers are going to complain because it’s not what they’re used to using. Times change. Get over it. People used to ride horses and now they use cars. Oh, but they now have to pay for gas, oil, and maintenance that they never did, with their horse. It’s change. Get over it. If you don’t like paying the fee, DON’T TAKE THE ORDER! I work for myself, am an SRA, and only have myself to blame for taking a bad paying order or having to pay a tech fee. I don’t work with AMCs or lenders who use Sky because it wastes my time and I don’t appreciate its ham-handed error checking. It’s my decision. I make the decision and move on and don’t complain about it. Stop whining and go do an appraisal!

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    • Mike, I don’t think most or even many of us object to paying for necessary service fees. Its like we used to pay for developing 35mm photos and two sided tape; or Forms & Worms gridded sketch pads.

      Also, it’s not whining to try to improve our work environment; or to insist upon being treated as the professionals that most of us still are.

      Necessary costs of doing business versus UNNECESSARY costs.

      I DO agree though that we make our own decisions; though some have greater freedom of choice than others. You’ve offered several timely and helpful reminders to us all.

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