Can We Stop Taking Comp Photos?

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Dustin Harris

Certified Real Estate Appraiser at The Appraiser Coach
A multi-business owner and residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers. His principles and methodologies are also taught in an online, Mastermind group. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children. Dustin Harris on e-AppraisersDirectory.com
Dustin Harris

Latest posts by Dustin Harris (see all)

Can We Stop Taking Comp Photos

I personally do not think that appraisers should be required to take comp photos…

First, before the hate mail starts rolling in, let me assure you that I understand the requirements surrounding comparable photos, and I do take them as an appraiser. I am not here to debate what the policies are, but I am here to question if those policies should be in place. I personally do not think that appraisers should be required to take comp photos.

Modern technology has provided appraisers with a way to know as much about a property from the comfort of their own desk as they likely would be able to learn from a drive-by. Oftentimes, appraisers are able to learn more with technology then they would be able to by personally visiting the property. Satellite and Google Maps sometimes allow you to view the property in a more intimate way than you might be able to from a drive-by. For example, you are able to see behind the house and get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area. You can’t do that from the road. I work a very rural area where often the home is located down in long, private driveway. Additionally, MLS and county information will give more insight into the property than driving past the front of it ever will.

Technology has made the need for appraisers to take comp photos virtually obsolete. I have heard the arguments that as soon as comp photos are no longer required, the appraiser will have nothing to do, but I simply disagree. Our time should be spent doing analysis, not driving around in our cars. I understand if you want to have a policy in your personal appraisal office where the appraiser is required to take a photo of all comparables, but I do not think it should be required from the clients nationwide. It is simply a huge waste of time for busy appraisers.

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode: 230 Can We Stop Taking Comp Photos Already?

Dustin Harris

Dustin Harris

A multi-business owner and residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers. His principles and methodologies are also taught in an online, Mastermind group. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children. Dustin Harris on e-AppraisersDirectory.com

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65 Responses

  1. Avatar Ralph says:

    No Dustin! You must drive by every sale, even if your competent in that market, and can view the MLS photo, aerial map and google street scene! However if your just a guy off the street you can now conduct an interior inspection for a bifurcation product!!! (But my clients won’t let a licensed appraiser or trainee inspect a home!). Welcome to appraiser world 2019!

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  2. Heidi Ford on Facebook Heidi Ford on Facebook says:

    Driving the comps really doesn’t have anything to do with photos, which helps support the argument that bifurcated appraisals are crappy products.

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  3. Lisa Nagle on Facebook Lisa Nagle on Facebook says:

    Agree!!

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  4. Brian Kirkpatrick on Facebook Brian Kirkpatrick on Facebook says:

    This argument has become much more legitimate since the the introduction of the bifurcated 1004. If the lending industry wants to go in that direction for “modernization” than original appraiser comparable photos and verification of these sales should be under question as well.

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    • I get the logic in your comment, but I am unwilling to concede that the bifurcated pony loaf 1004 is acceptable by itself. It’s certainly not a valid argument for me in not viewing my comparables. IF I am actually viewing them anyway then what is the difficulty in taking a picture of them while I am at it? Perhaps to refresh my memory back in the office?

      I submit that full 50% of the argument against comp photos is a concealed argument for not seeing them at all.

      3
  5. Avatar Greg says:

    Google street views are often several years old. I have found, not that uncommonly, the properties are improved, or in some cases, entire buildings are removed. Components of a house can also change since Google was last in the area; Decks are replaced with new and larger types, siding changes, new roofs, etc… If you rely on Google Maps and the street view, you are likely looking at the property from at least a few years ago. Unless of course you get lucky and Google Maps has been in your area recently. You should really go and inspect the comparables from at least the street. I find inspecting the comps from at least the street to be extremely more helpful than relying on an aerial image or outdated street view.

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    • Phillip Case on Facebook Phillip Case on Facebook says:

      You wouldn’t be using Google maps for data other than to gain an idea of the surroundings just as if your were driving by or thru that street. Your specific property data source is MLS or tax records. Doesn’t matter if changes were made such as decks. etc.

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    • Soni Gittel on Facebook Soni Gittel on Facebook says:

      Whatever external influence the realtor made sure was out of the photo can be seen better from the street.

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      • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

        Its amazing how difficult it can be to spot those high tension power lines running through back yards from overhead views, but yet amazingly simple for agents to block out via their front photo. Drive the comps, and trust no one.

        Seek the truth.

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      • Avatar Koma says:

        Or them even forgetting to turn around and taking a picture of the mountains.

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        • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

          No joke, had one the other day where the giant local neighborhood water storage container (elevated to the rear +/- hundreds of feet ), literally looked like it was sitting on top of the comps roof (from the right angle). The agents picture, and lack of any explanation significantly downplayed the issue.

          The moral of the story Koma, is that it was a model match to my subject (sold for much less), and although I wan’t going to use it, others might (current or in future), and I wanted a true picture of it in my work file to protect me in the future.

          Seek the truth.

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  6. Avatar Jack Of All Trades says:

    Taking comp pictures is the dumbest AMC requirement there is and a complete waste of time, and sometimes the police get involved cause of a homeowner complaint.

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    • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

      Perhaps it doesn’t apply to you Mr. Trades, but as I previously noted those of us who do high volume 1073 appraisals where the property may not be typical (street in front, neighbor in back), its vital to see the orientation of the property. Yes you can pull up plat maps and overlay satellite maps, but does the property face the courtyard, the parking lot, the dumpster, the noisy pool, or the canyon, etc.? Being of a condo form of ownership with no private lot dimensions for reference, how big or small is the exclusive use patio / yard for 1st floor locations? How do the 2nd story and their balconies compare to the first stories.

      I get it.

      Seek the truth.

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      • Avatar Jack Of All Trades says:

        I ain’t talking about driving the comps , i am talking taking the pictures , only you as the market expert can tell the difference if the pool next to the unit is a problem, where I live you can’t get out of the car and ask the doorman of a 50 story condo complex to let you in so you can observe that

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        • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

          The taking of the picture Mr Trades is to offer your immediate client support for what you did, and perhaps more importantly provide documentation for others that view your work down the line (Federal Gov. / via UAD portal / state review boards, etc.). As an example, I used a comp the other day where I was on the fence concerning its location designation (satellite view / etc.), however upon driving the property the newly paved old street now had double yellow lines, and speed bumps (obviously adverse). The picture I took of the property in part focused on featuring the adverse features (showed double lines / speed bumps) so that all parties involved had a visual understanding of why I did what I did (location rating).

          Interesting enough Mr. Trades, neither the listing agent nor the 9 other times the property was used as a comp (via A la mode) by a panel of my peers, was the property identified as warranting an adverse location designation, nor did any of the appraisers photos show the adverse characteristics.

          This is a great example of why we drive the comps, and why we use our photos instead of using what the agent wants to show, or perhaps what even other appraisers don’t want to explain.

          Seek the truth.

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          • Avatar Jack Of All Trades says:

            I’ve had a home owner run out of the house and chase me on foot for 1/8 of a mile cursing and spewing threats the entire way.

            I’ve had a guy stand up on his porch and aims his gun at me.

            All the more reason to get the L out of the business. At $400 to $500 fees (pre 1004MC, pre 6 comps, pre UAD) it was barely worth it. At $225 to $275 I will gladly allow you guys to play JFK and take a hit for me. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t touch a residential appraisal today with the added BS addenda and liability for $1,000 a pop.

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            • Brandishing a firearm and certainly aiming one at someone that is on a public right of way is illegal in every single state I am aware of. I’ve had people follow me by car until I pulled over an explained what was happening. More were appreciative of the explanation than not.

              The only one that ever demanded my camera and film was a security guard for a gated City (Rolling Hills CA). In his case, I simply told him to go F himself. We have all had instances where people ‘confronted’ (softly or harshly) us. We have a couple choices. Learn to deal with it effectively or as you mentioned, get out of the business.

              Has anyone ever posted the address of someone that challenged them with a gun or threats of harm?Turned them in to the police? Have you written an editorial to the local paper pointing out WHY we do what we do and reminding hyper-sensitive owners that the public right of way is just that?

              Hell, I’ve had the police actually draw down on me telling me to exit the vehicle and walk backward toward them. Turns out home invasion took place in the street I was taking pictures on the night before. Once they verified ID they were apologetic for inconvenience and any alarm they may have caused me, and gave me a card and said here is a number to call IF I felt I had been mistreated or abused in any way. Given the background, they were just doing their jobs.

              We DO work in a profession that has risk of unpleasant confrontations. We either accept it or get out of it. Same as a cop, divorce attorney, bill collector, tax assessor, (even IRS, though as an appraiser that was always fun in the field) door to door sales people, etc..

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      • Baggins Baggins says:

        Everything you see with aerial imagery and focus in rendered digital images from aerial and ground level may not be what it appears. Those are not true high def images, they’re rendered digital extrapolations. Tech guys still can’t figure out the ghost in the machine and why the AI will render some things which should not be there in the first place, and remove other items which should be there. Yes that actually happens and they still can’t figure out exactly why it happens but they can do that on purpose if they want to.

        Oh Coach, you’re a victim of your own overly aggressive business model. If you would not have taken a leg up with discounting ahead of more worthy more detail orientated peer appraisers, we could have all been getting paid more. We could have all hired local apprentice persons to work in our offices without any need for outsourcing, had a raise ourselves, and created jobs for others. If you’re stressed on the requirements of the job, rather than advocate for a reduction in quality which costs jobs and results in a net loss industry wide of appraiser positions, why don’t you charge what is necessary to get the job done correctly and legitimately instead? It’s behavior like this which is directly responsible for the lack of available quality appraisal servicers in this industry. Undercutting results in net job losses industry wide.

        Please show me the google services terms of data validity with aerial and street view imagery. I want factual data to back up the claims that the data is reliable, will not become overly stale, is properly labeled and rendered. I’ve got 10 year old google and bing images being plastered with 2019 date stamps in my locations. Fake News.

        3
  7. Avatar Michael Curtis, SRA, AI-RRS says:

    Absolutely ridiculous to suggest such a thing. This opens the door for fraud. I started in appraisal before comp photos were required; a photo of a typical neighborhood dwelling and front, street and rear of the subject was all that was required. Even when FNMA started requiring comp photos, I did field reviews and drove by comps and found that the photos in the report were nothing like what was actually there. Our profession is slowly sliding down the toilet. I have driven by many comps over the past 35 years and found many that were nothing like the MLS photos or MLS description. First the push to do desktops without inspecting the property, now not even taking comp photos? What is next? Not verifying MLS info and believing all the hype found in a typical MLS listing? What exactly are we getting paid to do? We are getting paid to accurately report value. How can we be accurate if we have even the slightest bit of doubt about the characteristics of either the subject or the comps. If this is the majority opinion of the appraisal profession, then we should turn appraisal reporting over to AVM or to cost estimators or accountants. Because each could do what we do for a lot less money. I’m glad I’m retiring this year.

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  8. Avatar CJK says:

    “MLS and county information will give more insight into the property than driving past the front of it ever will.”

    Some Listing brokers only include one poor photo, others use cell phone photos and you cannot even see anything, still others pay people to use wide angel views and photo shop. Public Records might not have photos, or the photos are several years old. It’s not really about the photos, it’s about location and view adjustments, the photos just prove that we went to the locations. The 1004P still wants the appraiser address views and locations, how do we know if we need to make an adjustment if we do not even drive the area.

    2
  9. Avatar Bill Johnson says:

    Unfortunately Dustin likes to take his local market experiences (in this case rural market / pictures), and attempts to apply reasoning on a national scale where in my opinion (suburban / urban appraiser), his experience is most often the exact opposite of the typical appraiser (by volume / suburban / urban). Perhaps its a rural thing, but by volume some 30 to 40% of my work is done on form 1073 where its not unusual to spend 30 minutes walking the grounds to look at the 20 sales and or active & pending listings over the prior 12 months. Sure, can the pictures all look alike minus five different building colors, yes, but in walking the comps and gathering other information, its this data that will be used to support your opinion. If I’m doing my job, why the heck would I complain about taking a picture that might just save my ass in the future? That being said, it certainty gets old taking pictures of urban 30+ story buildings where in reality you can’t point to the subjects balcony if you had to.

    On a side note, how the hell is it possible for these on the ground project site maps to always be facing the wrong direction?

    Seek the truth.

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  10. Taking comp photos should be a scope of work issue–whatever is required for credible assignment results. In some cases, even when taking a comp photo is not a requirement, I may drive comps to see if a marginal home was torn down or rehabbed. In cases like what Dustin is stating (rural or isolated areas) taking comp photos makes less sense. In some states all comps could be 50+ miles away and in different directions. I recently took an advanced appraisal class and we had a guy from Alaska there. He often has to fly to properties. He can’t fly to all of his comps.

    I do firmly believe the requirement to take an original photo of a comp, even if you have already snapped an original, is patently ridiculous–especially if the comp date is unchanged. Some AMCs and lenders won’t let you reuse your own photo even if there has been no subsequent sale of the home since the photo was taken. Talk about stupid…

    9
    • Too many people don’t bother to view the comparable Abdur. DISHONEST appraisers are exactly why the original photo requirement was made mandatory. Taking such photos is at a minimum evidence that the appraiser ‘probably’ looked at whatever there was to see.

      Even a picture from the road of a huge farm and house set so far back it is only a dot provides useful information. For example-that road noise is not likely an adverse factor even if ‘fronting’ to a major highway.

      4
      • Mike, you’re kinda making my point for me. If required for credible assignment results, by all means drive the comps. But driving comparables is not a USPAP requirement; it is a GSE mortgage lending requirement. If driving every single comparable was required for every single appraisal, some states would not be able to have appraisals done or they would cost $5,000+ to account for multiple flights and days of time just to get an original photo of each comparable used in a report.

        Would driving every comparable yield more information? Yes. So would personally inspecting every single comparable used. I can’t tell you how many times I wished agents had taken (or posted) better interior photos. A perfect appraisal would involve an appraiser:

        1) Inspecting and measuring the subject.
        2) Inspecting and measuring each comparable used in the report.
        3) Verifying and validating all raw data used in an MLS export.
        4) Verifying all permits for all properties used–including raw exports.

        This level of detail is not considered required to do a credible job. If it were, most of us would get maybe one appraisal done a month.

        I am all for doing a thorough job, but in many cases looking at an MLS photo of a comp and maybe cross-checking with Streetview/Google Earth is sufficient. The current GSE requirement came into being before we had essentially digitized the surface of the earth.

        4
        • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

          Even though you have valid points Abdur that might apply 1 in a 100, or 1 in 10 times (by appraisal volume), its the lazy 99 in a 100, or the lazy 90 in a 100 appraiser that wants to apply these exceptions all the time that concern me.

          With society the way it is today and with children limited in their ability to play in their own front yards, in doing review assignments, I find it amazing how appraisers seem to find all of the homes where children are allowed to play and are playing the exact time they are driving by.

          Seek the truth.

          1
        • Abdur, HOW exactly would one know if it is required for credible assignment results without going to see the comparison in the first place?

          Better yet, how would one convince CA BREA that one complied with USPAP WHEN THEY THEMSELVES DON’T FOLLOW IT? Instead, they have arbitrary interpretations of ‘factual findings’. They would ask; “Did you go see the comparables?”. Answer no. You would be in violation of SR 1 which requires that all relevant data be considered and analyzed through THEIR interpretation of compliance would not necessarily be that which is required by and under USPAP itself.

          Appraisers should be very wary of ‘skipping’ over any expected or traditional methods. Many can’t even articulate a defensible exclusion explanation for cost or income approach on an SFR.

          To say driving comps is not a USPAP requirement but only an FNMA requirement is disingenuous for a generally accepted, sound appraisal practice fundamental for over 40 years! USPAP requires that we consider all available information. Not merely information that is conveniently acquired.

          Just because TAF wrongly dumped the Departure Provision in favor of a much more ambiguously interpreted scope of a work rule, does not mean half-assed appraisal has somehow become acceptable.

          For over 40 years, no appraiser organization has endorsed giving free ‘comp checks’ verbally over the phone. None. CAN it be done? Sure. Just twist disclosures and compliance into a pretzel and call them restricted appraisals. Not exactly the same thing though.

          Desk appraisals are not new, but they had (have) to have certain elements for acceptability. Not the least among these should be a GIANT disclosure (rather than hidden boilerplate) that assignment results and conclusions may have been affected by the abbreviated nature of the assignment (stated as EAs &/or hypotheticals).

          Even though Evals have not been adopted by more than 11 states (as being ok for an appraiser to do), it is clear that appraisers have been doing them for years. Otherwise, how would they ‘know’ so many clients are demanding them? The interesting thing about Evals is that FIRREA specifically prohibits them being called any kind of appraisal. Some states in their adoption of ne legislation allowing them to REQUIRE that they are labeled “Evaluation Appraisal” which is a direct violation of FIRREA. I would not do an eval on a single piece of real estate or multiples in tenant in common ownership. I MAY do them under an entity interest valuation (which is really more of business valuation or a stock analysis). Another line that is improperly being blurred in my opinion.

          Perfection is not required under USPAP (nor is it considered attainable). But items 1, 3 & 4 are supposed to be getting done already. The fact that appraisers have figured out workarounds; assumptions and side-stepping verbiage that FNMA ‘usually accepts’ does not make those work arounds ok. They certainly are not indicative of sound appraisal practice.

          HBU requires legality of use. Failing to verify permits (legality of use) means we have not properly performed our HBU obligation.

          Lastly, I have charged a client $7,800 for a C&I job I could have done locally for $1500 to $2500. It involved three in-the-field days; driving 12 California Counties, interviewing numerous local agents, interviewing hotel/motel and restaurant owners and managers and driving 1,389 miles and a huge amount of online research.

          You have to charge what it takes to do the jobs properly, or not accept them. Seeking after the fact justifications for not doing what we are hired to do is not sound appraisal practice. It undermines our profession.

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          • Mike,

            A standard borrower cannot afford to pay $7,800 for an appraisal. The work you are describing applies to an extremely tiny fraction of all appraisal work. One size does not fit all. Some appraisals require extreme detail and analysis and others are more routine.

            In many cases, where an appraiser drives a neighborhood all the time, and knows every alleyway in their market, driving comps is not needed for credible assignment results. Not in the age of massive digitization of nearly all of Earth’s surface elements.

            If after seeing a home and analyzing selected comps an appraiser realizes they need to head back out to the field to view some comps to check influences, that’s fine. Again, I am all for being thorough, but I am also for being reasonable.

            0
            • Abdur if you believe that driving comparable sales is not needed for credible appraisals, then my friend, you are part of the problem and not the solution.

              Don’t conflate USPAP not requiring property inspection to infer generic acceptability of all alternate methods as currently practiced.

              A CREDIBLE appraisal is one that is complete. It includes as thorough inspection of the property as is possible and practical; as well as of each comparable. REDUCED credibility appraisals have become acceptable since we adopted SOW instead of departure justification. That’s where we shift the blame from ourselves to the client and SOW for report shortcomings.

              For the record, desktop appraisals are not credible (compared with a complete appraisal – a meaning that used to be easily understood until TAF started screwing around with definitions). They are not credible when compared with a 2055 exterior inspection based appraisal either.

              They should NEVER have been allowed to be used for anything other than restricted appraisal reports. Realistically they are only marginally better than the comp check each appraiser does for their own preliminary work

              Desktops coupled with some form of half-assed “bifurcated” inspection are less credible than appraisers’ own desktop. The reason is that the desktop does not pretend (by format) to be more than it is.

              You clearly missed the point re $7,800 fee. The point is to charge what is required in order to take the time to properly complete an assignment.

              An attorney asked if I knew anyone that would do an sfr appraisal for $500 to $600 yesterday. I said I might consider it at $600 depending on nature of litigation. Then he mentioned it was forensic back to 1991. Fee shot up to $1,000+ (I’d want 1500 but this is a good client asking for a favor). I’ll end up referring him elsewhere because THAT is something I WON’T do for $600 with a 1991 value date.

              The fee point is either charge enough to do the job correctly or don’t do it at all.

              2
  11. Casey Scott Clay on Facebook Casey Scott Clay on Facebook says:

    appraising in rural areas of Alabama when comps can be (in complex reports) 20-40 miles away in all directions…it’s an all day job just running around taking pictures…which takes you away from your desk and making money. i think mls photos show a more realistic view of the comps b/c that photo was taken at time of the actual sale of that property. the picture that we’re taking as appraisers might be taken a year later when the comp has either been improved, deteriorated, or demolished. google maps has made viewing the neighborhood obsolete.

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    • Casey, I get the distance issue. That is NOT the same (or valid) argument for using mls pictures instead of originals. It’s certainly an honestly stated objection to comparables inspection, though.

      Respectfully, if it takes all day in Alabama then charge more. (It takes me from 1 to 4 hours in Los Angeles and Inland Empire Counties). This is why I also contend that for most of us it is simply not physically possible to do two or more full appraisals, start to finish in one working day of 8 hours with only the appraiser doing all the work.

      We are ALL subject to USPAP; Dodd-Frank, State Laws and generally accepted practice in addition to being obligated to follow clients Special Requirements. It is NOT UP to individual appraisers to decide whether approaches and assignment requirements can be ignored simply because they are inconvenient or deemed to be ‘obsolete’ (by a limited segment of appraisers).

      I respectfully repeat, if assignment conditions are time-consuming THEN CHARGE accordingly.

      3
  12. Shawn Vanderhart on Facebook Shawn Vanderhart on Facebook says:

    Waste of our time

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  13. Avatar Denise Wright says:

    TOTALLY AGREE! I’ve been saying this for years. Depending on the subject property, I can waste up to 4 hours in the car driving around taking photos!

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    • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

      Are you wasting your time Denise? Perhaps you never find anything different by driving/walking sales to see if they are comparables, but I find issues all the time (listing photo / versus my photo). What happens when I call out that visual difference with my photo evidence, (say adverse), adjust down my subjects value, and the price gets negotiated/cut accordingly? That single transaction could be used by dozens of agents (setting of price / future sales), dozens of appraisers, and of course will be added to the federal governments database to in part determine if appraisal waivers are warranted for other properties.

      What are the implications when dozens, hundreds, or thousands of homes are mistakenly overvalued when others take short cuts.

      I get it.

      Seek the truth.

      3
      • Avatar Denise Wright says:

        Yes, it is a waste of time. Our MLS includes NUMEROUS photos and I always check aerials (Google, MLS maps, etc). I also have been appraising almost 30 years and know my market quite well. I don’t consider not taking comp photos a short cut, and I am offended by that insinuation.

        Happy Friday

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        • Avatar Jack Of All Trades says:

          Agreed Complete waste of time Denise and we all have to remember the certification page where it states “ did you observe the comp from the street view “ key word is observe and not picture.

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        • Baggins Baggins says:

          Just a week ago I learned from drive by’s that one property which looked good on paper, was not a good match because the area was more customized. This was a key comparable and because it fell off, resulted in tens of thousands less in appraised value. In the real world it was important to drive by and learn that seemingly similar homes on paper were not similar at all. With agents running with avm’s which also don’t recognize those differences, and agents operating anywhere they can get it, it’s a free for all in many locations.

          Those of us whom operate in big cities rarely get to the same neighborhood twice, not routinely at least. And if we do, it will be months if not years later anyways. There will be a few of them which you end up at more frequently but the rest is rather random.

          With rural, if you don’t drive it you don’t know enough about it. Oh I see now why this had longer dom and a reduced price. Hairpin turns on a 200 yard driveway with 30 degree slope on the shady side. How exactly does that work in the winter? And this one had no sun, that one did. It may be permitted for well but tell me where they’re going to put one in there with all that shale? You can’t always know that from digital tools. Flatlanders have it easy in this regard.

          There is also the case of omg, I turned left instead of right and a mere few blocks later, my life might be in danger. You don’t get that insight without driving it yourself.

          3
          • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

            The flip side of that Baggins is why do suburban / urban similar on paper sales from the same neighborhood sale for significantly different prices (5 to 10% locally often = +/- $100,000)? We hear about it all the time (cookie cutters), but I double dog dare you to find two chocolate chip cookies where the chips are melted exactly the same. We’re not talking about store bought cookies, but rather homemade ones where each can have small but significant variances in taste and texture. Kind of like where each home and location can have subtle difference that must be analyzed for potential market reaction. By analyzed, perhaps park and observe instead of driving by. Good luck to those who don’t know the agents pictures are from 5 years earlier when the home was being rented.

            On a side note, if your local MLS has a decent rental category/history (locally our records go back 15 years), than as common practice one should go back to potentially learn secrets not disclosed by the current agent/listing.

            Seek the truth.

            2
        • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

          Due to the times were in Denise (shared data, appraisal waivers, etc.), that 1 in 10 or 1 in a 100 time where the picture is wrong (results could vary) has consequences for all. As it relates to numerous photos, I love it when I discover the listing photos of today, are the same ones as used to rent the property out some years earlier. As it relates to knowing my market (a single county / 3.1 million people), not a single week goes by where I don’t discover something new.

          I have no beef Denise, but rather am sharing a different opinion.

          Seek the truth.

          3
    • You mean ‘waste’ up to four hours properly performing your appraisal?

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      • Avatar Denise Wright says:

        So this comment, as the previous one by Bill, is why I usually lurk rather than comment. This is uncalled for. I have an opinion, you have an opinion. But name calling doesn’t help your argument. “Waste” performing my appraisal? Really? It is clear you are saying I’m a lazy person who doesn’t want to complete a credible report. Yes, I’m offended by this comment. Happy Sunday

        4
        • Avatar Bill Johnson says:

          As I said in a previous comment Denise “I have no beef Denise, but rather am sharing a different opinion”, I get where your coming from.

          Perhaps this doesn’t apply to you Denise and if so sleep easy, but many appraisers like to use the exceptions and apply them as the standard when it comes to pictures. By way of doing reviews on a local level, and seeing 1st hand the percentage of appraisers that don’t visually confirm they drove the comps (via an original picture), its often a small step to show they didn’t confirm other things as well.

          Sleep easy Denise, buts its true that many appraisers get lazy and don’t treat each assignment like they will be going in front of the review board upon completion.

          Seek the truth.

          4
          • Avatar Denise Wright says:

            I do sleep easy. I have reviewed many appraisals and understand there are some bad apples out there, who give appraisers a bad name. That said, this whole conversation began with me merely stating that taking comp photos is a waste of time, and I stand by that statement. It would appear this opinion is 50/50 from the reactions to this article as well as comments on appraisal blogs. I would just appreciate those on the opposing side not throw derogatory comments to those who disagree.

            Sleeping Easy in Ohio

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        • DW there is no personal offense or slight intended. I tend to write long missives. I was being overly brief and with 20/20 hindsight perhaps its is an insensitive post as queried.

          My point is simply this. Properly performing an appraisal involves a complex set of procedures that starts before an order is even accepted. Verifying ownership interests and property complexity BEFORE an order is undertaken used to be so commonplace most assumed it was mandatory. No we ‘auto-accept’ (some).

          Reconciliation of data used to take place in each approach ad then again in the overall conclusion as to approach. Now many automatically (improperly) exclude both income and cost approaches and as a result think no reconciliation is needed anywhere.

          There are a lot of steps in between that also become truncated, ignored, assumed or incompletely performed.

          One of the most common is a failure to bother driving by comps for many. It was so abusive FNMA said “Enough!” Prove you saw the comparable sales.

          The end result is that many (like myself) are automatically ‘suspicious’ as a result of having specific instances where we proved (including by admissions) no comparable sales inspections took place when some mls pics were used instead of originals. Not all instances, but some.

          Every single ‘step’ we cut out or do in a half-hearted manner is one more argument for replacing appraisers with automation. I can’t speak for bill, but THAT gets me pretty ‘energized’ to oppose it. Sorry you feel its a statement that ‘you personally’ are lazy. It is intended to convey illustrative generic laziness – not yours specifically.

          Try the other side of the coin. If an appraiser is inspecting a comparable anyway. Even if only at the driveway gate, how much effort does it take to shoot the gate and explain the improvement is not visible from theroadway? Or to describe why it is not visible?

          DW – Your opinion is as equally valid as any other. Getting your feathers ruffled once in awhile is no reason not to post it. I am offended by appraisers that post willingness to adopt what are to me unacceptable appraisal practices, but that won’t keep me from posting. Nor does periodically rudely being told I’m out in left field. (not you – again generic).

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        • Name calling? “You mean ‘waste’ up to four hours properly performing your appraisal?”

          Not exactly an accurate or factual statement DW.

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  14. Avatar Dean Zibas says:

    Fannie Mae’s new bifurcated appraisals will not require the appraiser or the property inspector to drive by the comps. A spokesperson said it is not necessary. So Fannie Mae agrees, just has not put it into practice yet.

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    • Avatar CJK says:

      The 1004P still has the site and view section for the subject and comparables. If appraisers are not looking at the subject or the comparables how will they known if an adjustment is required? The same appraisers who are crying about talking a comp photo, are the same people who are now complaining about someone else taking the subject photos. It is a shame that FNMA wants to dictates everything and the lenders may or may not comply. When the market crashes again, they will be coming after the $125 appraisers, have fun boys/girls. See you in court.

      FNMA does not require the cost approach, all of my clients require it. FNMA does not require the 1004MC, all of my clients require it. FNMA does not require utilities to be on, all of my clients require it. FNMA does not require a comment for sales over 6 months old, all of my clients require a comment. FNAM nor longer has a per line, net or gross adjustment guideline, all of my clients still use this. The list is never ending. We need just one set of guidelines, not all this overlay. Even if FNMA says that photos are not required by the appraiser, how many lenders will still require them? If they want to save people some money, how about lowering the lender fees and the Real Estate commissions ($15,000 commission for a property that was on the market for 1 day, $30,000 if they had both sides, and they do not even show up for the appraisal).

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      • Concur with all except pone giant issue “FNMA nor longer has a per line, net or gross adjustment guideline, all of my clients still use this”

        That is an unacceptable assignment condition where the client is telling you NOT to use market data. They are in violation of Dodd-Frank, Appraiser independence guidelines and most generally accepted sound appraisal practices. ANY client directing that needs to have their executive officers contacted and urged to comply with the law.

        If risk of being dropped is too high for you, redact all appraiser identifiers from such an order (and file number) and send to me. I’ll contact their compliance department.

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  15. Avatar Patrick says:

    If you sign it , you buy it!!

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  16. Avatar Jeff Weeks says:

    The biggest problem I have is that poof no need to take comp photos anymore just because a newer and cheaper product is being introduced. And still a trainee appraiser is still handcuffed. That’s my biggest issue. As for Comp photos in my markets I drive by these comps and have appraised most of them at some point. Taking comp photos for each report is stupid and time consuming. Not to mention when someone gets freaked out because your taking pics of their house and call the cops. Driving comps and taking pics of comps is different.

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    • True Jeff, but because we have had dishonest appraisers not even driving by them, the photo became a requirement. We see the posts right here that it is less profitable, or driving time is wasted time.

      Arguments for reduced standards of performance are always presented in their most benign light. Instead of the most probable practices according to poor practices already proven to be present in large numbers of assignments.

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  17. Avatar Jeff Weeks says:

    Its not a USPAP requirement just like its not a USPAP requirement for supervisors to inspect every property with a trainee. SO you have to ask yourself who is causing the time restraints and inefficiency in this business. The lender that’s who. Let us do our job under USPAP plain and simple

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  18. Jeff Bodi on Facebook Jeff Bodi on Facebook says:

    Interesting to note the bifurcated appraisals and avm’s are relying upon mls and google pics. slanting the playing field against appraisers to exterminate appraisers.

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    • Avatar CJK says:

      I am not sure if they truly want to exterminate the appraisers, It’s more like keep us out of site until they need a fall guy again. Remember, we have the license, insurance and are regulated by the state. They need us to suffer the impact, in the next crash. They are masters of deflection. 2-5 more years and I am done with this cluster F***.

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  19. Avatar Mike says:

    I couldn’t agree more, especially now that bifurcated appraisals have came into the picture. Until the Scope Of Work certification on the forms change, I don’t see it happening. On a serious note, what would it take to actually have this requirement changed? So many things have changed in our profession, appraisal waivers, bifurcated appraisals, AVM’s, etc. Why couldn’t something like no longer requiring comp photos change too? Not to get off topic, but I stopped doing FHA appraisals because I felt that failing to identify property deficiencies, beyond my scope of knowledge, could someday get me sued. It’s one thing to conduct a head a shoulders attic inspection, but when they want me to belly crawl a crawl space, I just said no more. I know the word union scares people, but do you suppose if we unionized, we might actually be able to have some say so in proposed changes such as these types of things?

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  20. Avatar don says:

    Some of the best stories told are of driving to take pictures: My worst was finding me following a school bus’s route, it was the same route for my comp photos. I share an office with an appraiser who took a photo of a newly moved in FBI agents home. The local Police, the Sheriff and the FBI stopped by his home that afternoon. Several friends were called by the police asking why they were taking pictures after they got home from work.

    a side hobby was saving photos of houses on FIRE, and including them as comps, most reviewers ignored them. Who never took the wrong picture?

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  21. Avatar David says:

    Glad to see such enthusiastic support for street/neighborhood photos. BUT, more important are the interior MLS photos – no one seems to recognize the importance of these; particularly with the high end properties.

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  22. Giles Antiques on Facebook Giles Antiques on Facebook says:

    After almost 50 years of practice, I still can NOT tell the difference between good 18th century George III table and a cheap Bombay repro from a cell phone photo. I NEED TO SEE IT. And if its not worth the client at least 300 bucks for me to go to his house, then its not wort my skills to share with him.

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  23. Photos are evidence you actually viewed the property. Yes, you can cheat and lie, but you might get caught too. Like when that house was being dozed you might think of a better comp. There are a lot of things viewing the property does besides picture taking. You can check for repairs on going, see things hidden by the MLS photos, and see the context of the property. Is the water tower next door? Landfill? Rock quarry? People are lazy. If not required to view the property, they won’t…and in doing so justify the bifurcated product and a significant discount upon your part for the report that you have created that is less reliable than if you actually saw the property…especially RURAL property you seem to think less important to view…

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  24. I think we need to separate the action of taking photos of comparables, from the action of driving the comparables.

    Current technology provides numerous photos of most properties on the MLS, far more photographic documentation than the appraiser can get from a drive-by picture (often from a moving vehicle). My practice focuses almost exclusively on litigation and other non-lender work, and many assignments involve retrospective valuations. A current photograph on a comparable property that might have sold years ago provides little useful information about property at time of sale.

    So while I’m not an advocate of mandatory comp photos, that DOES NOT mean that I eschew the idea of DRIVING the comparables. Physically inspecting comparable properties provides valuable information about the neighborhood, the property and the relationship of the comp to its surroundings. Even in cases where I’m using numerous comparables for statistical modeling, I still drive the neighborhood to get a sense of locational and other factors that might play into my analysis.

    So that’s my two cents . . . photos should be optional, but driving the comparables (depending on how many there are) is a no-brainer. For the record, I’ve posted the same response to Michael Ford’s commentary as well.

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    • Sure. Because it is SO difficult to take a picture when I am out carefully viewing a comparable property. My memory in viewing multiple properties on a day in the field is far superior to having something to job my mind.

      I get the logic of your retrospective perceptions. I also do litigation work. I take current photos as well as using historic ones; and note any differences. I also take far better pictures than the typical mls photo. Photos that are much more representative of the overall property appearance and orientation of improvements to the site.

      Respectfully disagree about separating fundamental functions. It only allows the dishonest appraisers another spurious excuse in their fallacious arguments about driving to see comparables.

      Michael, sadly some in our profession DO lie and cheat. Sad, but true.

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  25. Avatar don says:

    A lie is the greatest defense for another lie. Extra photos, calling others liers making more photos is still not the written word. Does a lie become a truth after a given time?

    We can only do our job as we describe it. Dishonesty is as old as the world! How about the judge stating that he can see a lie being made. Can we tell the truth better than our competition.

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Can We Stop Taking Comp Photos?

by Dustin Harris time to read: 1 min