Relationships… The Lost Art

Bringing Back the Lost Art of Relationship Building - AppraisersBlogs

Relationships. It’s a lost art of business when it comes to the appraiser profession…

I have been an appraiser since 2003, when I started my career path. Since then, the appraiser profession has gone through many changes, none more impactful than creating the Home Valuation Code of Conduct or HVCC law that was put into effect after the crash. HVCC created the new normal for the profession where Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) were installed as the firewall or third party between the appraiser and the lender.

Overnight on May 1st, 2009, appraisers all over the country lost every relationship they had built with mortgage companies, lenders, and banks. The days of walking into mortgage companies building and speaking to the owner or broker to solicit your services were gone. I remember working for an appraisal company in Clearwater, Florida, in 2005, where it was part of my job to stop in at mortgage offices in my travels and do everything I could to gain their business. Sometimes I was successful, and sometimes I wasn’t; however, that was part of the fun in this profession. I also remember stopping into client’s offices with donuts and coffee and just talking shop with the brokers and owners. I enjoyed the phone calls about jobs I was performing for them and explaining specific issues and/ or successes that were going on. Ahhh. The days of the past that I miss so much.

See, these days, there aren’t any so-called relationships being built, although the AMCs like to call us appraisers their partners. (I don’t recall reaping the benefits of being a partner in anything with AMCs). Many new appraisers have come into the profession after HVCC, now know as DODD-FRANK, and have no idea how things used to be. How you had to hustle and build relationships, prove your worth to another company to earn their business, and maintain it with good quality work. Today you sign up on a link an AMC sends you, and BOOM, you are now on their panel of appraisers regardless of how long you have been an appraiser, your experience, and your knowledge. You are now considered a Partner. While most other service businesses have to prove themselves, earn the business, and perform to high standards, appraisers have to sign up and accept assignments to work. The art of building a relationship has been lost… or so I thought.

For years, I signed up with AMCs to get on their panels and get orders. Over the years, I have taken myself off AMC lists, and as of today, I work with only 3 out of over 200 registered in my state. Why? It’s because of what I learned years ago about building relationships and applying that to my business today.

Today as I am writing this, I have changed my business model to do more private work and less lender work. Work that requires me to build relationships with others and perform at a high level. Private work consists of everything that is non-lender work. Examples of private work are Pre-listing appraisals for homeowners or realtors, divorce appraisals, litigation appraisals, Tax appeal appraisals, and Consulting appraisal work.

I set out to establish that lost art of relationship building.From 2009 to about 2019, I was doing Lender appraisals, and deep down, something was missing. I would only be talking to customer service reps, people overseas that the AMCs subcontracted out to review work, and I had no one to go to with my issues and ideas. I know nothing about these people, and they don’t know anything about me. After listening to a podcast by Blaine Feyen and his Real Value Podcast about building a referral business, I set out to establish that lost art of relationship building. The link to that episode is here.

Building this referral or relationship business wasn’t going to be easy, and it most certainly wouldn’t include any lenders that used AMCs for their ordering process. I needed to look elsewhere for this to happen. Where did I go? I went to the realtor Facebook groups, Investor groups, and recently, I went to the new platform called clubhouse. All of these places have one thing in common…. They are places I could answer questions, give VALUE and prove to others that I am the expert in my area when it comes to the appraisal profession.

On top of that, I revamped my appraiser website to include blogs about things no one else was writing, created a new blog called Skap The Appraiser, where I would talk about everything from business to my personal life. I wanted to allow others to see behind the curtain to who I was, what I do, and how I do it. I wanted them to feel as if they knew me after reading a blog article about my life and business. I created a Google my business page that I post too often that allowed others to review me and give them insight into my daily business life.

…bring back that lost art of relationship building.Now, I will say that there is a big disconnect between Realtors and Appraisers, as I have discussed in my previous blog article that can be read here. We see this all the time in group chats and more where appraisers are against the realtor and vice versa. However, through all these different platforms I have explored, I found this as an opportunity to do something different and bring back that lost art of relationship building.

Has it paid off or worked, you ask?

YES… In so many ways. Ways I never thought it would thinking back now. Probably the biggest and most powerful thing I did was getting on the clubhouse. If you’re not familiar with it, it is an audio-only app that allows you to connect with others and talk about topics. I immediately got on it and started following others as well as joining other clubhouse groups. One, in particular, called REAL ESTATE CONNECTIONS, is an Atlanta based Facebook group and social meetup group that established themselves on clubhouse. They started local in Atlanta but have expanded out into other cities and states and in my opinion the best Real Estate social networking site out there. This is where the relationship/referral aspect finally came into play. As I attended more and more Clubhouse meetings, I suddenly realized that I was the ONLY appraiser amongst many Realtors and other Real Estate Professionals. I immediately established myself as the Expert Appraiser by just taking the time to answer questions, give my opinions on topics, and adding value where value was needed. As time went on, I started to make connections with Realtors and others. So far as to have some of the best Realtors and some of the most knowledgeable people in there contacting me for advice or referring me to others. I was now being asked by them for my services, thus creating a relationship with them, and something that was lacking for many years.

Today because of those relationships that I built, I have created a new business model, one that consists of less lender work and more private work, as we discussed earlier. I have increased my phone contact list by about 18 people, and every day, I get some new call or message from a Realtor or other person to provide my services. In turn, I also have been able to provide these contacts with information, leads, and work that they usually wouldn’t get. The best part of all of this… I get to engage with others that are wanting to learn, understand and gain my knowledge. The other fantastic part of this… I feel respected again for what I do. There is nothing more exciting than getting a voicemail or email that states,” SO and SO referred me to you and said you are the person to talk to.”

Relationships. It’s a lost art of business when it comes to the appraiser profession; however, I am so glad that I remembered it, glad I listened to that podcast, and even happier that I set out to do what many have let stay in the past. My business is less stressful but more exciting than its ever been in many years. I no longer feel like a robot. I feel like a human being, a business owner, and a valuable part of the process.

Mark Skapinetz
Latest posts by Mark Skapinetz (see all)
Image credit flickr - Felipe Tofani
Mark Skapinetz

Mark Skapinetz

Mark Skapinetz is a Real Estate Appraiser in Marietta GA with extensive knowledge in Residential Appraising.  He is President for the American Guild of Appraisers (AGA). Featured on Podcasts as well as published interviews in Valuation Review. He is the creator of the 100% Real Estate Appraiser Group, Skap The Appraiser and co-creator of Appraisal Forum & Festival (AppraiserFest).

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar IMJSAYN says:

    Thanks for the tips Mark. I’ve never heard of clubhouse but it sounds interesting. I’m going to give it a try.

    • Avatar Mark Skapinetz says:

      Feel free to hit me up via email or via my website and I can also send you an invite to it and explain it more. Anything to help out.

  2. Avatar don silva says:

    Just so sad to see our freedom of choice and expression taken from us. Started in 1992, before licensing, just common sense and hard work to develop a client base, and just like that, 2009 all that hard work gone. We are the only professionals that have to pay EXTORSION money to others to get work and at that, its called a ROTATING BASE we have to work on and not one of professional expertise and knowledge, just rotate, as I was told. Had to call it quits and retire as I could not take any more. Its’ a lost profession and, HITTING THE NUMBERS, is still where its at for many of these so called AMC’S. You get black balled for quality work and they wear you out if you put conditions in a report to protect the lender and the buyer in order to protect yourself. Real estate brokers can cause even more distress if you do your job, they want their commissions and get it done. Good grief, I could write a book and many would be calling me to shut up and just die off.

  3. Avatar Seneca says:

    I do miss the golf outings and watching sporting events from the company suites.

  4. Tony Lipa on Twitter Tony Lipa on Twitter says:

    It’s time to repeal Dodd Frank and allow appraisers to have their business back!

    • Avatar don silva says:

      Dodd Frank only serves, predentary lenders and AMC’S, to make money from bad appraisals, never served a purpose, the consumer is the looser. When you talk to the one giving you an appraisal assignment, and they say to you”’ I CAN’T HELP YOU I DON’T KNOW A THING ABOUT APPRAISING, WHAT DO YOU MEAN–A FORCED HOT WATER SYSTEM, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE FROM ANYTHING ELSE-“” but aren’t they suppose to know about the assignment they are giving you and that was the reason for Dodd Frank, they are suppose to know about what they are giving you and know what you are doing and know that they are the authority to protect the home owner and the lender from the big bad appraiser, they are the authority as designated by the government of the United States o shame–what a crock, charging $750 for an appraisal and offering us $310 or $290 or, nonsense—what a joke. THE APPRAISAL PROFESSION HAS NEVER HAD ANY REAL ORGANIZATION TO STAND BY THEM AND IS WHY IT IS A WRECK.

  5. Avatar Tammie says:

    Great post Mark! I can sincerely relate.

    I remember mapping out my inspection schedule to include stopping off at various lenders. If one I already worked with, I stopped just to say “Hi!” and chat a little. If it was going to be morning, I’d stop off at Krispy Kreme first. 🙂

    If there was a lender I hadn’t work with yet, I’d stop to introduce myself and leave an “info-packet” I’d put together and had printed…to have something to put in their hands about me. I too miss those days when I felt like my clients knew me and I knew them.

    Like you, I have begun to do what you talk about…actively worked to get away from “AMC” work. I have also tried to forge relationships with Realtors® that I respect…those that do a great job and aren’t “hostile” toward appraisers. However, those numbers are growing smaller as we speak. I’m not really sure at what point Realtors® started seeing us as the enemy.

    It’s such a shame that so many in real estate sales have no clue what a Professional Appraiser does. But to be honest, we as appraisers must own our part in the failure to educate those outside our “circle”.

    When an opportunity presents itself, I try to take a little time to briefly “educate” Realtors® and others and hopefully make an overall good impression for them to take away. And maybe, just maybe undo some of the damage done by a previous “bad experience” they had with an appraiser. But lets be honest…my measly efforts in that department won’t make much difference. Especially when all it takes to be a BAD appraiser, is not arrive at their “magic number.”

    I’d honestly like to see the NAR’s Valuation division be more of an advocate for it’s Professional Appraiser members (of which I am one) and to actively promote a better working relationship and respect between Realtors® and Professional Appraisers. Luckily, that exact thing is beginning to happen…thanks to some really great Appraiser Members that have stepped up to Leadership Positions over recent years. P.S.A personal “Thank you!” to Pete Gallo for all his hard work in that area. 🙂

    In my feeble attempts to try to help Realtors® understand, even a little, what changes Professional Appraisers have gone through since HVCC/Dodd Frank, I’ve asked them before to consider this scenario;

    All of a sudden…overnight…the entire way a real estate broker does business changes. The “powers that be”, without any real input from you, changes the rules and requirements.

    These changes effectively cut your income in HALF.

    *You are no longer allowed to have direct contact with any lenders you have relationships with to send you buyer client referrals. Your name is placed on a list…along with hundreds of others. Maybe you will get calls, maybe not. In addition, these lists contain real estate agents from areas that may be hours away from where you typically work, and buyer referrals may or may not be given based on the proximity to the property in question.

    *You are no longer allowed to seek out listings. Instead, you are “signed up” with multiple 3rd Parties for a “panel of approved real estate agents” and you designate what market areas you cover. Nevertheless, agents from hours away may receive listings that were only a few minutes from you.

    *These 3rd Parties determine what “fee” they will offer you to list a property. This fee is the same regardless of the type of residence, 1100 sf ranch or a 5000 sf mansion. It doesn’t matter how much work you will need to do in order to market and sell a property, or what you consider to be a customary & reasonable fee for that work. You are allowed to request a fee increase, however the 3rd Parties determine if they will accept.

    *These 3rd Parties send out emails to every real estate agent they have on a long list, offering them a chance to “bid” in order to receive their listings. This bid period may even be a brief 2-4 hour window, which doesn’t allow you much time to research before you submit your “bid”.

    *There are restrictions in the “agreement” you must accept in order to receive their listings, that prohibit any discussion you may normally have regarding your “fees” with anyone other than the 3rd Party. You begin to realize that when a seller contracts with these 3rd Parties, they pay a fee to them up front. Then the 3rd Party seeks out bids from it’s list of agents. Any difference in the fee already paid by the seller and the “winning bid” the 3rd Party accepts, is kept by the 3rd Party.

    Soon you begin to realize that these 3rd Parties are assigning orders based on the “cheapest & fastest” agent, not the most qualified.

    *The fee paid by the seller is listed on closing statements as “Realtor’s® Fee”. However, it is not identified as “Fee Paid to Realtor®” and “Fee Paid to the 3rd Party Management Company”. Therefore, the public, (sellers & buyers) have no idea that you, the Realtor®, did not receive the total fee identified. This results in the misconception that Realtors® fees are much higher than needed. You may be accused of “price gouging”. But remember, you are prohibited from disclosing any fee information.

    *The 3rd Party, at their discretion, may impose time limits on when the property must be sold by, that may or may not accurately reflect the subject properties market area. However, if you accept their “listing order”, you must complete the sale by the required deadline.

    *If after completion of the sale of the listing, the 3rd Party determines they aren’t happy with the outcome, they may decide not to pay you. You may have to fight to get paid, or even file in small claims court. When it’s all said and done, you may STILL not get paid. As a result, this process causes you to have a certain percentage of your work that you are never paid for.

    *If the 3rd Party, seller or buyer don’t like something about the sales price you eventually got for a property, or about anything else you may or may not have done during the performance of this “listing order” you accepted, they may decide to file a formal complaint with the Real Estate Commission about you. Then it’s up to to defend yourself.

    *At any point in time, you may be removed from the 3rd Party’s “approved list” and find yourself with fewer and fewer listing orders with no indication as to why.

    Now, as a Realtor®, if these were the conditions you worked under….would you still be a Realtor®?

    Since your income has been effectively reduced by HALF, would you continue to hire assistants and/or bring on additional agents in your office?

    How about how you market your services? Since you have much less control over how you get business, would your marketing methods change?

    And doesn’t it make you wonder how much the number of Realtors® would have declined?

    I continue to be amazed that the AMC business model has not been challenged by the lenders that hire them. Truth is, many of the lenders/banks actually OWN AMCs. That makes them identify fees on a closing statement as going to the appraiser, when it fact it’s going to the lender…in a back door kind of way.

    There are a growing number of lenders going back to ordering their own appraisals. These lenders are the ones I have sought out. It’s seriously much less stress. 🙂

  6. Baggins Baggins says:
    These issues with changing nature of workflow, connections with others, technical integrations, they trace back to the concept of open source vs proprietary access. Some of us are still on about open source, ad free spaces, and avoided so many traps of the expanding digital age. Separation from loan production ruined the ml side of the appraisal industry, the tech industry swooped in like vultures to devour what was left. Chaos by design, unavoidable new mediums of technical integration. Each one of us must work to reclaim ‘traditional engagements’, if there is space for such a thing to even exist with the mediums of communications and performance measurement so rapidly changing.

    “The medium of communication is the message.”

  7. Avatar Dave says:

    It would be neat if attorneys who created HVCC would also have to have a similar platform to obtain work. AMC or Attorney Management Co. You have to be the quickest and cheapest attorney to get the blast order! Wouldn’t that be a hoot to see scummy attorneys have to go through what they did to we appraisers.

  8. Avatar don silva says:

    Dave great comment, but so true. I have said from the very beginning that we now have to pay, EXTORSION MONEY, to get business. Anytime there is a problem with the market, you blame the appraiser, its our fault for pushed values, its our fault that the brokers push the prices and set the standard for values. We are the only professionals that cannot talk to home owners, banks/financial institutions, loan officers, we have to pay someone to get business, years of hard work and trust with lenders is all gone and mean nothing. I lost business from AMC’s because I was truthful and did not hit the numbers for them–blacklisted-as they told me–they have to get the thing done.

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      Mr Don and Mr Dave.

      Now is the time to make your voice heard on the anti competitive nature of amc’s.

      I am one of only four comments. We need to flood this comment board immediately, please drop whatever you are doing and comment today. Phone a friend for them to do the same. Per this call to comment from the blogs just today. I posted an image of my comment for comment structure if needed, the other comments already visible.

      Mark, Dave, Dustin, George, Johnathan, Maureen, Julio, Cotton, Bill, Pat, Tammie, Mike, Advocate, Chase, MD, Bobbie, Midwest, Seneca, EJ, Vince, Wyatt, Marlaina, Donna, Anna, Wyatt, Anna, Diana, Denise, Pratt, Hamp, and even that deplorable Retired appraiser, and all the lurkers, where are you at? Please comment.

      • Avatar Dave says:

        Baggins, Appraiser’s voices have never been heard. I have bitched, cried and complained to my clients till the cows come home. I have given up hope. WE appraisers are way outnumbered by the elite crazy’s and really have little say. We are a necessary evil in the lending transaction. Period.

        • Baggins Baggins says:

          We took a long look at labor and employment issues, ADA CADA EEOC CCRD Fair Practice and Collective Bargaining, and so on and so forth. Basically employee rights. What was interesting was the familiarity of many activites which are regulated for employees, which are treatments appraisers have acclimated to. Many daily activites with those tasked both managing and distributing work in the appraisal industry would otherwise be outright illegal prohibited discriminatory activities which investigators would have enforcement power over, were the appraisers employees. An interesting side note, Department of Labor Standards and Statistics may be a good place to turn for unpaid work performed should such a need arise. The trade off is freedom of time but the value of that freedom is being constantly diminished. Well, at least 13 people commented as of the effective date of this post. Thank you.

          Check this one out. How would you like the tiny home on the exact east shady side of the mid rise, sandwiched between highly mixed use and changing zoning with variable sized land plots and parking limitations? I saved the photo as; ‘the impossible comp search’.


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Relationships… The Lost Art

by Mark Skapinetz time to read: 6 min