Appraisals, Fees, Lenders and Lies…

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No Control Over the Way YOUR Business Prices Its Products!

Can you think of a single business where an individual has less control over their own financial future than the appraisal business?

In most professions, your level of success is dependent on your personal work ethic, dedication to education, promptness of service, and overall level of quality. But, no, not in the appraisal industry. The HVCC took all that away. In the vast majority of circumstances, appraisers in any general market are paid the same fee. An average appraisal in Moore County, NC is worth $450.00. A VA appraisal $500.00. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been licensed six months or thirty years. It doesn’t matter how quickly you turn your work in, how detailed the report is, how many designations you’ve earned. Nothing matters, and you have no control over the way “YOUR Business” prices its products. Prior to HVCC, appraisers could visit companies and ask for their business. You built business relationships and prospered based on your own initiative.

I can’t imagine any other business where the same system is in place. Think a brand-new doctor gets paid the same as a twenty-year veteran? Can you think of a single business where an individual has less control over their own financial future than the appraisal business?

The entire scenario leads to lower quality appraisals. Where’s the motivation for appraisers to work hard, take new classes, learn the latest technology? It makes no difference how much extra effort they put into “their business,” because their business model has been destroyed. Their pay schedule is controlled by a lender or AMC.

No one wants to talk about this fiasco. All we hear about is all the so-called new technology and using automated valuation services instead of traditional appraisals. Think about this one rule change and what it might mean. “For any lender who chooses to use an AVM for their appraisal service, they must lend their own private funds.” Each bank can decide for themselves. It seems easy to worry less about quality when you are lending someone else’s money. Remember “In-House” loans? Maybe it’s time for a come back…

Let’s look at a few important facts.

#1. Lenders claim we need faster appraisals and that appraisers delay the lending process. They say that’s one of the biggest reasons they are pushing for online valuations.

That’s a lie. Simple fix. Order the appraisal at the same time a home inspection is ordered, or when the application is taken (when the buyer typically pays for the appraisal). I guarantee you appraisers can finish the appraisal before the lender completes the paperwork and is ready to close. It’s funny how much talk there is about appraisers slowing down the lending process when they’re the last thing ordered. What’s wrong with that timing?

#2. Lenders and GSEs claim the technology and big data is so much improved, a computer can do as good, or a better job than a traditional appraiser.

That’s another lie. Big data works very with consistent and accurate data. The real estate industry provides neither. Take a look at the over 800 different MLS systems that mostly use different methods of reporting data. How do you sort data when it’s not all reported the same way? It’s easy to track the errors in online valuations and look at their level of quality from the early 1990’s to today. The margins of error are the same. Sure, the bells and whistles look much nicer and there is much more information. However, more data means nothing but dots and dashes. In this case, bigger is not better. It is a simple fact that no computer will ever be as reliable as a highly trained licensed appraiser.

I’m pretty sure Fannie Mae just got a 3.7 BILLION dollar bailout and business is good. At this time, we need better work, not to be striving for faster and cheaper. I must have missed the public outcry for faster and cheaper appraisals. It was only an outcry from the very people who seek to reduce the role of traditional appraisals, only so they can charge for their AVM services. It’s really not that complicated. Take the financial incentive away from this appraisal debate and the debate would disappear overnight. It’s nothing more than a fight over who gets paid for the appraisal portion of a mortgage loan. If it’s simply a matter of deciding which appraisal product is better for consumers, it’s no contest.

If low quality appraisals are the answer, we’re right on track.

Let’s also talk about another fallacy. Fannie Mae will provide “no appraisal” loans in two circumstances. First, there must be at least a 20% down payment, so the owner has something invested in the property. That’s great. But, we have new 97% loans hitting the market. That’s bad.

The second circumstance is that they must have an appraisal on file from a previous loan. So, in other words, they are going to use the work of an appraiser to take work away from an appraiser.

I have a problem with that and it seems downright criminal. That report was created for a specific time and place. Circumstances have changed since that first appraisal report was written. Fannie Mae got to pay once for the appraiser’s work and then can use it anytime they want? An appraisal is an opinion, like what a doctor or lawyer may offer. It’s not a product you buy and own. It is a professional opinion that is only good for that day. Appraised values likely change every few months. So, imagine if my name is on a report and they use that report to make a loan two years later. If the loan must be repossessed for any reason, will part of the blame be on the appraiser? Lots of grey areas there but the bottom line is Fannie Mae will only allow a no-appraisal loan – if they have an appraisal. Is that confusing? And, this time, they don’t have to pay for the appraisal. What a system.

Be very careful what you wish for. AVMs may become the worst real estate nightmare in history and don’t say we never told you so.

#1 – Appraisers should be paid based on their value in the marketplace like every other business. Experience and quality should have value.

#2 – Order the appraisal earlier in the lending process and any timing issues will go away.

#3 – As for AVMs – they were not in 1995, and will never be a consistent and reliable valuation tool to provide security for most people’s single, largest, lifetime investment.

Hamp ThomasBy Hamp Thomas, founder and president of the Institute of Housing Technologies. He is also the president of Carolina Appraisers & Real Estate. He is the author of the American Measurement Standard; the Size Matters – Residential Square Footage books, continuing education courses (for agents and appraisers), the course Inside the New Appraisal Process; ANSI, Home Measurement & the Power of Price-Per-Square-Foot; Understanding ANSI, and numerous other real estate courses, webinars, videos, and blogs. Hamp also authored the Professional’s Dictionary of Real Estate Terms; Home Measurement Basics; Realtors and Square Footage; and his latest book Death of an Industry-Real Estate Appraisal.

Image credit flickr - Tilemahos Efthimiadis
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40 Responses

  1. Advocate says:

    Well said! Please everyone share this with all their contacts. Public awareness is a strong enforcer of change.

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  2. Jeffrey Patterson on Facebook says:

    It is also measure by the minimum legal requirements… what other profession is measured and hired based on the least they can do and the cheapest they can do…

    Which… by the way is the appraisers fault!

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  3. Taunya Richards on Facebook says:

    Trid went a long way towards making fees uniform. That and most people don’t understand that an appraisal is more than showing up at the house. If we don’t educate the public and we don’t start lobbying for protections against FNMA game, we will become obsolete to most mortgage lending. Seems like our country has a huge learning disability. They ignore financial fiscal until they crash it again.

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  4. Lizzie Judge on Facebook says:

    I work in a rural market. I am willing to go to some areas where maybe only 1 or 2 other appraisers work and I can charge higher price because we all do and/or there isn’t as much competition, and therefore one of us will get our bid accepted and it typically rotates – but the point is, I get those fees that I am asking for that are higher becuase that is now customary in those markets. The problem I find is that the majority of appraisers in my area are still quoting fees from 20 years ago. I mean I understand collusion and price fixing but sometimes I think… why are you still quoting the prices you are quoting? If I want any appraisals in certain areas, I’m forced to bid the lower fees where there are more appraisers just because I know my competition is bidding so low and if I don’t I won’t get any bids accepted. Of course it’s supply/demand, but if we were all standing our ground and charging higher fees we would probably get them just based on my experience Not to mention another issue is that a lot of times AMCs take $50-$100+ of the fee which also cuts down on our take home, which is a total different subject haha.

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  5. Kimberly Pugh DeFilippis on Facebook says:

    Has the author considered sharing this with a national publication like USA Today?

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    • Hamp Thomas says:

      It’s hard to get a national publication’s attention. You have to know someone or have some way to get them to look at your info. I’ve been trying for many years and will keep on. Good thought, thanks…

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      • contact cezary.podkul@wsj.com

        His current research is related to undue pressure on appraisers but your information is related.

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        • Baggins Baggins says:

          Funny, because we’re national and live, right now. Link it! That’s the future, major media dinosaurs are dying out quickly. Within the hour this article can see a thousand links if everyone hit their twitter, facebook, private message lists, af blogs, and others, etc. This blog tracks top hits on google for relevant content. Monster truck, Karate, UFC. See, I just tricked a web bot into listing this elsewhere and somewhere along the way, someone will land here unintentionally. Welcome to the net.

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  6. Very well-written article. The points you articulate are spot on.

    The elephant in the room is government bailouts of financial institutions. If the majority of loans were “in-house” a financial institution would have a huge incentive to make very prudent loans. That in turn would lead to the quality of appraisals becoming one of the most important components of underwriting.

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  7. Chris says:

    Best damn thing I ever read !!!…..yes send this to USA today and everyone else, Some one may actually take this up to get there news story on the air !!!!

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  8. Dan Johnson, SRA says:

    Well said and agree! This needs to become national news so those who matter read it.

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Let’s start small and see if the amc workers can read in the first place. Another excellent article from Hamp. I like the reiteration of the argument that everyone is jockeying for the appraisal fee, if 100% of that simply went to the appraiser, none of this would be happening. Don’t call me, if I hear your company has a stronger competitive fee than the next guy, I’ll call you. If you force me to work with underqualified people whom don’t hold appraisers licenses, it probably won’t last long.

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  9. Hamp, great article. Re your numbered (#) items above:

    #1- concur. In September 2015 a system for determining both state and national minimum reasonable fees was proposed  http://appraisersblogs.com/appraisal/customary-reasonable-fees-have-become-mutually-exclusive-oxymorons/ (A more reader friendly version may be seen at http://www.appraisersguild.org – site revisions caused formatting issues in this link). The greatest opposition to minimum reasonable fees came from other appraisers. Whether they happened to work for AMCs or were simply misguided will never be known. Until appraisers recognize the amount of time it takes to produce a credible report according to USPAP, and relate that time to money we will see no C&R fees.

    #2 Too simple! Agents and loan brokers don’t want to risk alienation of borrowers by ordering appraisals unless they already know they have ‘tentative approval’. Even though credit report and appraisal fees have traditionally been paid at time of loan application neither bank nor loan correspondents actually order appraisals until they have taken the two to four weeks needed to ‘sanitize’ or ‘package’ borrower’s loan applications. It’s easier to blame ‘slow appraisers’ for delays than to be truthful to borrowers / consumers.

    #3 Agree re AVMs yet federal regulators WANT to believe (and promote) the concept that “Big Data” is so sophisticated as to be ‘adequately’ reliable all across the nation. They refuse to admit their studies are fatally flawed. see link http://appraisersblogs.com/FHFA-working-paper-credibility-questioned

    The old crime fighters adage to ‘follow the money’ has never been more true.  As individual loan profits are near impossible to ‘follow’ following the players is a good surrogate. http://appraisersblogs.com/mismo-data-mining-public-trust-harmed Note MISMOs organizational composition and leadership; Mtg Bankers Assoc.; FNMA, major title insurance cos., and both First American and CoreLogic – two companies that FTC refused to allow to merge and that have both become monopolies in their own right independent of each other (F/A bought ACI and pumps out the most egregiously deficient hybrid forms; and CorelaMode er Corelogic bought A la Mode and it’s appraisal uploading service (as well as the main competitor).

    Toss in sponsorship and membership on the Board of Trustees of The Appraisal Foundation by CoreLogic representatives and they can even directly influence the very standards and rules under which all appraisers MUST operate for federally regulated transactions.

    The organizations that comprise MISMO are beyond powerful. Collectively they can determine who gets elected at nearly all levels of state and federal government.

    Until ALL appraiser Societies, Guilds, Institutions and Coalitions unite in pursuit of fundamental objectives (C&R fees and Appraiser Independence) we can only keep putting out the little ‘campfires while the entire forest burns down around us. We could all use your ongoing voice Hamp!

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  10. Wayne Courtney says:

    Hello Friends, I have decided to retire. Instead of going to the AppraiserFest I will be going deep sea fishing in Belize. That country is awesome…Second largest coral reef in the world, second best deep sea fishing location in the world. One Belize dollar equal two US dollars. They speak English, population about 300,000 for the entire country. We could meet up on Ambergris Caye and do the fishing excursion! You will not get any continuing education but you will get an education!  You will need a passport but it is not expensive and is good for TEN years. What is your status as an appraiser? Are you one of the 82,208 total appraisers in the entire United States and the possessions? What if you are the 36.6% of those who hold an general certification? If so,,.why in the world do you play this game? No one-four family properties, No residential acreage….EVERYTHING ELSE requires a general certification! A General Certification is REQUIRED for everything else! GET INTO THIS  BUSINESS, OR GET OUT!  Those of our group that continue to provide income for the AMC parasites have no reason to complain. Could you be the problem?  Gee…why not pay dues to an appraisal organization? why not chase some pitiful designation? Come on, lets get together and solve this problem!

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    • Wayne Courtney says:

      If you are going to spend your money and time, why not have fun?

       

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      • Wayne Courtney says:

        Opps: one US Dollar = 2 Belize dollars. A beautiful place with lobster and conch being cooked on the road side stands. So much to see and do!

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        • Wayne Courtney says:

          Let’s go fishing…and party! Southwest Airline from Hobby for about $330 round trip, luggage included! Check it out! Of course…that does not cover room or food or excursions, golf cart rental, water taxi, etc…..but compare the total cost to an appraisal conference and we will have more fun. I am trying to be honest about the cost…however it should be cheaper than the Appraiserfest! No profit to me (Not trying to profit)…. just a good time! Why the hell not? LOL
          If you like to snorkel or scuba this is the place for you! This country has Mayan Ruins, Jungle, mountains, etc. etc. check out the videos on youtube, etc.

          I have an email address that you can contact if you have interest. I do not have all of the answers or even most of them but I will try to help. This is a world class deep sea fishing trip, you and your spouse will get your fill of lobster and conch! The Belkin beer is awesome! Those interested can group up with me and we will plan some fishing trips or whatever,,,I am not a travel agent,,,,just an appraiser like you that wants to have fun. contact me at: Redbayou@aol.com

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    • Tom Molinari says:

      I’m thinking of turning in my Alamode mobile appraisal software for a mobile wood burning pizza oven. I’ll do the brew pub circuit and work as many days as I want. I will be paid market prices for gourmet pizzas and not worry about deadlines, cheap and fast, or being sued.

      Anyone else have any ideas for appraisers thinking of retirement or new businesses?

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      • Michelle Murphy on Facebook says:

        Personally I love doing appraisal work. But I have considered starting other businesses due to the stressful work. Dog walking/sitting is very appealing!

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      • Baggins Baggins says:

        Say hi to the health inspector for me, and get good with the rolling permit game. Still though, it would be fun. For every time I look at those nifty alternates though, just lots of competition out there. Make it or break it, try it out on the side, don’t just trade off outright.

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  11. Michelle Murphy on Facebook says:

    The fees are why younger appraisers or potential appraiser drop out of the business! I find it frustrating that other people decide how much my I make!

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  12. Jeff says:

    I had an interesting encounter yesterday. Amrock who was once TSI asked me to sign up with them. I had been completing assignments for TSI and really like working with them. The catch was in order to sign up I was required to fill out a questionnaire which was actually a test. Are you kidding me. I don’t think so. What and who are running these companies. The arrogance has gone overboard. Big companies will try everything to diminish the independence of and become a big brother mentality to appraisers. They will try any angle to have control over appraisers. I replied that I am a professional (independent) appraiser and was not interested. Too bad too because I enjoy working for Quicken Loans and they would send me a lot of work if I worked with them. Why do they feel this type of behavior to be necessary.

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    • Chris says:

      They want to be their “employees” without paying for anything !! Again, no shortage of appraisers, just a shortage who don’t need them anymore !!

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    • Chris says:

      P.S.

      What happened to TSI ??? Owed to much money to appraisers ???

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    • Baggins Baggins says:

      That’s new…. Post it, I’d like to see what that looked like. I also had a new one, some security protocols few page q&a dealie. I just somehow got through it, it was not a quiz, but a detailed data security questionnaire. Now we probably will see more of that in the future.

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    • Taunya Richards on Facebook says:

      That is pretty insulting. Perhaps what the AMCs should do is quit pandering to the bottom feeders then they wouldn’t NEED to do things like this. Most appraisers are quite capable of producing a report in a timely manner, and communicating, and uploading to the right platform. The AMCs deal with those who really shouldn’t be appraising and probably shouldn’t be outside without holding someone’s hand. (AND I”M NOT KIDDING on that…some things I’ve seen just amazes me).

      Because the industry refuses to acknowledge they don’t have an appraiser shortage, they keep working with the people who really don’t know how to communicate in a professional manner, let alone appraise without someone telling them what to do, when to do it and how to do it.

      I’ve made the decision to think more long term appraising with an end goal of doing something other than lending once I get my license.

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  13. Jeff says:

    1. What should you do if the product ordered on the Engagement Letter is incorrect?
      a. Call TSI Appraisal to let them know
      b. Update My Appraisal Connection immediately
      c. Update My Appraisal Connection immediately and wait for TSI Appraisal to update the product type in the order.

    2. TSI requires all reports to be UAD compliant and delivered in what format?
      a. PDF
      b. MISMO XML
      c. UAD

    3. How soon after being requested are revisions/corrections due?
      a. 24 hours
      b. 48 hours
      c. 72 hours

    4. When submitting a revised appraisal, which of the following should be submitted?
      a. The complete appraisal, including the revised page(s)
      b. Only the revised page(s)
      c. A partial appraisal, including the revised page(s) and all necessary photo, map, and addendum page(s)

    5. Which of the following documents should be attached to every appraisal?
      a. E&O Insurance
      b. Appraisal License and E&O Insurance
      c. Appraisal License

    6. If a trainee that has not been approved and added to your MAC account, assists with an appraisal assignment, the supervising appraiser must:
      a. Accompany the trainee during the inspection, sign as the appraiser, and note the trainee’s assistance in the report
      b. Simply accompany the trainee during the inspection
      c. Simply sign the appraisal report

    7. If a comparable sale is gated or obstructed, what should you do?
      a. This comparable sale cannot be used
      b. Provide a photo of the gated/obstructed view and also include an MLS photo
      c. Provide 2 MLS photos

    8. What should you do if the borrower has not your returned your calls to schedule an inspection in 48 hours?
      a. Add this information to My Appraisal Connection
      b. Call the TSI Appraisal Partner Management team
      c. Call the mortgage banker and alert the TSI Appraisal Partner Management team

    9. You cannot discuss compensation, market values, or comparable sales selection with the borrower.
      a. True
      b. False

    10. What should you do if the borrower asks questions at any point after the inspection?
      a. Direct them to the mortgage banker
      b. Tell them you cannot answer the question
      c. Direct them to the mortgage banker and alert the TSI Appraisal Partner Management team

    11. What should you do if you cannot deliver the report on time?
      a. Place a note in My Appraisal Connection immediately, explain the reason for the delay, and provide expected date of completion
      b. Call TSI Appraisal to let them know
      c. Call TSI Appraisal AND send them an email immediately

    12. What must you do prior to a final inspection?
      a. Make sure the repairs have been completed
      b. Alert TSI Appraisal
      c. Drink a Red Bull

    13. What should you do if the property address is different from what is listed on the appraisal order?
      a. Contact the mortgage banker to let them know
      b. Notify TSI Appraisal prior to delivering the report
      c. Email TSI Appraisal after you have submitted the report

    14. If the property address on the Engagement Letter does not match the USPS confirmed address, which address should you use?
      a. The address on the Engagement Letter
      b. The USPS address

    15. Is it acceptable for another Appraiser to complete the inspection for an order that you were assigned to?
      a. Yes
      b. No

    16. What must you do if a highly comparable sale in your search was not considered?
      a. This is not acceptable. If a highly comparable sale exists, it must be used
      b. Call TSI Appraisal to let them know why it was not used
      c. Provide commentary in your report explaining why

    17. MLS photos can only be used as supporting data.
      a. True
      b. False

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  14. Jeff says:

    Although this looks pretty simple its the point that allowing AMC’s to give a questionnaire before you can sign up with them is sending the wrong message. My credentials are sufficient. I do not participate in this type of behavior which pretty much is saying as an AMC we are going to do whatever we want to attempt to diminish your independence and professional statute

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    • Milton P says:

      You are not going to miss anything. They are going downhill fast and are now just like every other bottom feeding amc out there.

      There latest is to text the borrower with 3 times to schedule the appointment. Completely clueless idiots on why we need to talk with the borrowers, besides it being illegal to text with out their permission.

      They must have gone out and hired a new round of pizza delivery people.

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      • Taunya Richards on Facebook says:

        I think they are trying to hard to connect with the millennial potential buyer who prefers text and cannot deal with anything that isn’t fast…oh and cheap. The problem is that there is a history of what happens when you treat real estate fast and cheap. 2008 was only 10 years ago and apparently we’ve forgotten. Purchasing a house has become just another thing to consume. I don’t think the average buyer appreciates the magnitude of liability and responsibility of owning real estate.

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        • Milton P says:

          Taunya, While I agree with your assessment of  trying to connect with  millenials, I can talk a heck of lot faster than texting. This allows me to gain all the information I need on the property before going. Being prepared for what the property is like is very efficient and saves me time and money. There is nothing worse than expecting one thing and finding out the property is totally different. In business, time is money and texting is not efficient, not even for millenials. The $10K fine if you get caught texting without permission is not a risk I am willing to take either.

          Amrock (TSI) clearly has bad legal advisors. Look at all the law suits they have been involved with and have lost. Nothing replaces good judgment and common sense. Those Detroit people have neither.

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  15. Jeff says:

    How many of you were once alamode users and switched. Im thinking about using a different appraisal program but I love alamode and hate to switch but I do not trust CoreLogic with my data. If so what software do you recommend. I do not like ACI as I think they are pro AMC and not pro appraiser

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  16. I bought Homeputer though haven’t used it yet. Excellent support and help directly from the guy that owns the smal company.

    I also recently received invitation to use FREE software from new start up in Boston (REGGORA?) I’ll double check name but I was extremely impressed by software designer that called to talk to me about it.

     

    Clickforms is offering $250 discount for new users. I’m proud of you for considering refusal to continue support of corelamode’s recent purchase.

     

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    • Jeff says:

      My challenge would be making sure I have software that all my lenders would accept. Im worried  I may have to say goodbye to Mercury Network which I always appreciated because it allows lenders to order appraisals through a service that detracts from the AMC model. But now the AMC bought it. SHIT

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      • Baggins Baggins says:

        That one changed a while ago. The use of Mercury only requires xml, which all software provides, and you do not need to have alamode to use mercury. You probably do for some whom use plug ins, but for the better non amc clients, they don’t use plug ins so you should still have access. Just recently I viewed some distributor side solicitations which also reiterated this. Remember, the coupling of alamode and mercury was at first, owned by the same company. Then alamode sold, mercury was uncoupled. Then open access. Then, a surprising turn of events, now both are owned by a singular company again… So really anything could happen but a rule of thumb, don’t buy the more expensive subscriptions to any software, avoiding distributors whom use proprietary plug ins is a good thing. The proprietary plug in is nothing more than an overly detailed rule checker list which adds review correlative requirements over and above the appraisers internal software EO checker. This defies logic to imagine the amc tech staff whom are not appraisers selecting which rules apply for their company but that is in fact what happens. If a company wanted a gotcha for each and every ‘review’, they merely need to check more review boxes. The internal EO reviewer in alamode is very important, that would be my primary side by side investigation point if looking at new software. Alamode can miss dates now and then, does not always have spell check work on 4-6 page, index pages don’t overflow properly, but those issues would be minor compared to inadequate internal EO checkers with other softwares. Although not customizable, it still is thankfully almost all-encompassing regarding FNMA hard stop rule sets and a variety of other correlative warnings. That should be the appraisers primary focus because that’s the illusion gaming part of it all. There would be no need for plug ins and other review software which they sell to distributors, if they would allow the appraisers those complete tools in the first place. What a racket, a million complex rules, one company supplying all the review tools, give half the tools to the report developers and the other half to the distribution side ‘reviewers’. The profit incentive to market the tools to the distributors is one key reason that assignment and software has become so unfair lately. Any company whom holds out on tools for appraisers and markets those tools to lenders can not say they’re prioritizing appraisers first. I’ve had access within Mercury distributor side, along with other platforms, these programs routinely offer more tools to lenders than they do to appraisers. Where is my open order capacity setting? Where is my proximity and by zip customizable per individual client control feature, my ability to scroll through participating subscriber lists and create a panel, my specific customizable review rule checklist with hundreds of alert for this or not check box options? Those are just a few notable features distributors are given, but appraisers are not. If you want to guarantee your question will not be answered, ask questions about features and controls, inquiring if there is fair balance between what lenders and amc’s are offered vs what the appraiser is offered. Subscribing to plug ins is akin to paying more, to receive less.  If the appraisal software providers were to give every possible feature to the appraiser, we could self manage assignment platforms and distributors with no middle man what so ever. Seeing the bigger picture yet?

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    • Jeff says:

      I really liked the video for Reggora may have to test drive it.

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Appraisals, Fees, Lenders and Lies…

by AppraisersBlogs time to read: 5 min
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