Don’t Fence Me In
We truly live in an incredible world. The age of information and technology has given us more freedom than at any other time in the history of mankind. Just in the last few years, the mobile office has become a reality in such a way that it would be nearly impossible for our clients to know much about our physical office at all. Since most of us have little to no walk-in traffic, running an appraisal office from a spare bedroom at home or even from the lanai of your Belizean condo is not out of the realm of possibility.
Technological advances in VoIP phone systems, high speed internet, cloud storage, and lightweight laptops allow for a professional office to be controlled and managed from just about anywhere in the world. A few weeks ago, I assisted a new neighbor as he moved into our subdivision. Naturally, I asked him what he did for a living and what brought him to Podunk, Idaho. He informed me that he was a staging manager for a team of trainers. In other words, he helps with the logistics of setting up and running business conferences. He went on to say that just a few years ago, he had to live and work in the city where his company’s corporate offices were housed. Due to the incredible advances in technology however, he can now live anywhere in the world as long as he has high-speed internet and is not too far from a major airport. My good friend recently told me of a man he knows who just moved his entire family to Puerto Rico. His job is the same, but he now does it from a lovely tropical island.
Yet, as appraisers, we are fenced in geographically in many ways. Due to the fact that our job requires a physical inspection by the licensed appraiser, we are mostly confined to the areas in which we live and work. Or are we?
Most of us are fee appraisers. Most of us get the majority of our appraisal work from AMC clients. We do a lot of what we do for federal financial transactions. Due to the current makeup of regulations, we find ourselves somewhat stuck geographically. For most of our clients, we – the licensed or certified appraiser – must be the one to physically inspect the property. I have written before about how a change in this one regulation could be the thing to turn our profession around. Yet, it continues to be the climate we live and choose to work in. That does not mean we all have to work in that environment.
There is nothing in USPAP or the state laws that I am familiar with that require the signing appraiser also be present during the inspection. For many of you, having someone else do the inspection is not good business sense, but it is not illegal. I personally believe that most thinking adults can be trained in and do effective work as on-site information gatherers (including notes, pictures, and sketch) in a fairly short period of time (usually 2-3 months or 100-150 supervised inspections). Using today’s technology, that information can be relayed reliably to the appraiser in a Caribbean island (or just back at the office 20 miles away) almost instantaneously. Body cameras could also be used to assist in the process so oversight by the signing appraiser could be improved even more.
In today’s environment, this kind of setup is only possible if you do mostly non-lender work or choose to work for a company (such as Red Sky Risk Services) who allows those, other than the appraiser, to do inspections. Now, if we could just get other lenders and AMCs to follow suit. My condo in Belize is waiting.