Old Habits & Past Mistakes …

Old Habits & Past Mistakes - Appraisers Are Creatures of Habit

Learning from your mistakes is all part of the change. You can’t change past mistakes, but you can certainly make sure the future doesn’t include them…

My last blog focused on change and how I have benefited from changing things in both my personal and professional life. While I have made many changes, I have now come across another aspect that seems to have followed me from my past, the ability to learn from my mistakes instead of making them over and over.

See, we as appraisers are creatures of habit. Well, let me rephrase that, we as humans are creatures of habit and even with a change for good your old habits seem to stick around. The saying “Old Habits Die Hard” is used to say that it is hard to stop doing things that one has been doing for a long time. Let me tell you that this is 100% true. You see, even when you make a change in your life, whether it be to stop smoking, hit the gym, find better clients, or respond to that annoying email, you tend to still lean on what you were accustomed to instead of developing a new way to either approach that task or respond to it.

I’ll give you a couple of examples I’ve encountered lately.

The other day I received an email from a client to address an issue they had with my report. The issue was as follows: “1) the subject’s opinion of value is increased by more than 5% from the prior sale price, however, the neighborhood trends have been stable. As per appraiser’s comments on page 4 of the report, the kitchen and baths have been remodeled less than one year ago. Appraiser to comment if the remodeling took place after the prior sale.”

I opened my report to make sure that I had stated all repairs and renovations, which I did. I summarized all the interior and exterior renovations and explained in detail what had been done to the home since it was purchased. The first line opened with “Since the homes purchase on 6/1/2019” and continued with more in depth summary.

At first, I was taken back and well, the rage came over me where I wanted to just say “READ THE REPORT“. I actually typed that out in the response box. Then I caught myself and realized that my old habit of just getting angry doesn’t mix with my new ways. What did I do? I responded nicely, “In regards to the revision request the appraiser has explained this within the report and the explanation can be found on the addendum page. If you need further explanation please let me know.” I received a nice thank you from the client and that they had overlooked what I had stated.

Another example that I encountered, and I know we as appraisers hate this. I was sent an order with a below “Customary and Reasonable” fee a mile from my home. I declined the order and they wanted an explanation. Immediately I was typing how the fee was insulting and they will get what they pay for, etc. Before hitting send I once again sat back and decided that wasn’t the way to go. I replied “ Thank you for the offer, however, the fee stated for this assignment is not typically what we get for a home in this area. I went on to explain the characteristics of the property and explained that I could get it done in the time frame asked for a fee of XYZ. Well, lo and behold, I was sent the assignment due to me doing my research and taking the time to explain to them my reasons.

See change doesn’t just end with you making it. It takes further self-evaluation and self-reflection to make sure you actually change. Even in my personal life every day, I’m reminded of the fact that I still have a lot of work to do to continue the change. I still make the same mistakes I did before my willingness to change, and it ends up looking and feeling like I haven’t changed. I am reminded of this often by my wife. Learning from your mistakes is all part of the change. You can’t change past mistakes, but you can certainly make sure the future doesn’t include them.

Old Habits Die Hard… Some you have no choice in making them disappear right away or you too may die … Some will take time to disappear, and some may never go away, but you certainly can make sure they don’t affect you in a way that is harmful.

So the next time you are ready to hit the “send” button or react a certain way, take a moment and see if this moment can be handled differently. I am not here to preach to anyone, I am just blogging about my experience and my efforts to make changes. You can take it however you want, but for those that know me, know that the changes I’ve made are benefitting me in many ways

Mark Skapinetz
Latest posts by Mark Skapinetz (see all)
Image credit flickr - Simon Carr
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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14 Responses

  1. Kathy Morton Bunting Hoey on Facebook Kathy Morton Bunting Hoey on Facebook says:

    One of my first mentors told me to walk away and come back to it later when you have had a chance to think it through and calm down before responding. Good advice!

  2. Kimberly Pugh DeFilippis on Facebook Kimberly Pugh DeFilippis on Facebook says:

    Good article, Mark

  3. Nice reminder that we also have to do good customer service and not take things personally.

  4. Avatar Ron Maloney says:

    Great article. Thanks Mark!

  5. Avatar TruthBTold says:

    Wow, I just went thru this process yesterday with a revision request. One thing that I’ve noticed that many of the people reviewing the reports are doing is, their taking their boilerplate checklist and looking for the exact words from that checklist (health and safety, livability, appeal, marketability) when you already have full explanations and comparables that support this or they were never a relevant issue to begin with. Additionally, any hypothetical thought that can be conjured up, is game for a revision. So because most of these AMC’s score your appraisal performance by revision request, we have to be mind readers as well.

  6. Great ideas Mark. All of us need filters. Within reason. Sometimes bad acts require being called out and resisted.

  7. Avatar Bill Johnson says:

    The hell with filters, I call it like I see it. Serving my client is not telling them what they want to hear, but in part telling them what they don’t want to hear. I’d rather spend two hours tracking down management to explain things (assuming their wrong) then to spend 10 minutes say adding a statement into a report dealing with with a bogus stipulation request.

    Seek the truth.

  8. Avatar Bill Johnson says:

    Mark, when you write “The other day I received an email from a client to address an issue they had with my report, “The issue was as follows: “1) the subject’s opinion of value increased by more than 5% from the prior sale price……”, do our clients even understand at times what they are asking? Do they not understand that market value and sales price have different definitions, and thus although they are perhaps in the same orchard, comparing them to each other is an apples to oranges conversation? Are we to assume that the prior sales price was 100% equal to market value and address their question accordingly? Are we independently supposed to analyze and determine market value as of the prior sale date / contract date (do an appraisal) so an apples to apples answer can be given?

    We ALL need to call out our clients for these bull crap requests, as often times they don’t know what they are doing and their ignorance can cause us hours, days, and weeks over any given year.

    Seek the truth.

  9. Avatar Mark Ziegler says:

    Had a “fun one” this week for an AMC I do a significant amount of work for, and primarily complex properties. I sent in a report that stated the subject is located on a “desirable street” in its market area. Kind of a “no-no” but, the 2 highest adjusted values of the 6 cited sales are located on the subject’s street and, objectively as opposed to subjectively, this can easily be supported. Nevertheless, I was called out by the first reviewer for not meeting FNMA Selling Guidelines B4-1.1-02 in using the word “desirable”.

    In responding in a separate addendum I pointed out their request, the fact it was objective and supportable, but also debatable, and I removed the verbiage. A second reviewer replied this was verbiage the lender should never have seen in the first place, so please remove any reference to this in your addendum. Rather stupid, but I’m frying bigger fish and acquiesced for expediency sake.

    A third reviewer then stated the report was still unacceptable because it contained the word “desirable: in the comment addendum when I stated: “The Comparable Sales were carefully chosen, the best available at the time of this report, best reflect the utility and desirability of the subject in the current market and are the best available indicator’s of value for the subject.”

    Apparently they must have had a FNMA English class this week stating the use of the word “desirable” is banned in all form or fashion for reports to be completed under FNMA Guidelines. I’ve used the aforementioned statement for at least 15, if not 20 years with never a peep. And, maybe not everyone took the class because while we’re monkeying around with this, I submitted 2 subsequent reports to the same AMC with identical verbiage that didn’t spend 15 minutes in underwriting before sailing through. Always a moving target.

    • Been there too! I always push back on these things. For good reason. Your example of one street being more desirable than another is 100% ok to state. For example Paseo Del mar (Palos Verdes, CA) One side backs up to and overlooks the ocean from the bluffs above it. The houses on the opposite side (landward side) have a great view (usually too) but NOT AS DESIRABLE as the unobstructed ocean view from the westerly side of the street.

      You used common sense. If you had said this part of town is not as desirable as another part of town for some ill-defined, purely subjective reason you MAY have gotten uncomfortably close to prohibited considerations. BUT YOU DIDN’T SAY THAT!

      Whenever any reviewer has a case of terminal brain flatulence we all need to push back. If the first two instances were debatable, then certainly the third instance was not and THAT reviewer should have been called to task.

      • Baggins Baggins says:

        Some tech guy must have added that to flagged words. Mis spell it, forget the space, or find a substitute. Language games are easy to pass by auto review systems. Flagged word and compulsory word inclusion identification is just another variant of spell checker.

        Rage at unacceptable assignment conditions is a good thing and serves as a defensive mechanism which helps the appraisers find better clients with more reliable ethic. Ethics is about right and wrong, fair or not, in the business world manners and courtesy are not ethic, they are decorum.

        A fresh start to me is leaving companies whom seek to take advantage of appraisers in the rear view mirror. If you give them an inch they will take a mile.

        “SEND IT BRO!”

        • Avatar Mark Ziegler says:

          Hey Baggins,

          You’re probably right on regarding the “tech stuff” as my fingers are like a Ouija Board with “Read the Report” responses for the last 15 years. However, this is a little crazy with 1 report getting “gigged” 3 times while 2 others with significantly similar verbiage flew unquestioned within the same AMC in the same week.

          There’s no question turnover in these AMC’s is significant, adding to the “moving target” scenario. But to have 3 different “reviewers” (used loosely) attempt to gig the same report while likely at least one of them let the next 2 fly implies an attempt to justify their existence.

          When dealing with AMC’s it’s never disclosed that the underwriter with no appraisal experience who just got hired yesterday and stayed out drinking until 5:00 A.M. the night before and has no concept of which side of bed they fell out of that morning is going to review your work in the assignment conditions. Potentially sadistic, but I do choose to work with AMC’s because I tend to do work they can’t find anyone else to do and charge accordingly.

          It’s less a matter of ethics and more a matter of ignorance (as opposed to stupidity) as I prefer to believe. However, and while I can’t display it on an invoice, there’s typically a “stupid tax” involved with my fees for these clients and, “God Bless”, most pay it.

          In light of this, since I generally get paid for anticipated grief, I “DO JUST SEND IT BRO!”

          • Baggins Baggins says:

            Awesome. That’s a movie reference from that biker and mechanical dog movie, jax I think, not sure. It’s also popular just because, send it!

            When I was trying to navigate the amc world I dealt with all manner of inconsistencies. That happens in direct but less frequently, likely because of lower chair turnover or just basic better hiring practices. I had learned many volume based outfits impose 40 a day underwriting quotas, some much more than that. Depends on how much automation they utilize. It’s all checklist and data scraping now. Expecting them to read anything is not realistic outside of in house and in house is typically reserved for direct departments. The tangible yet unspoken difference in administrative approach seems to me at least, to be if they impose find something quotas. I imagine one typical consequence of such a high volume high pressure environment for report review by poorly qualified people is one which is typical to any workforce, a worker may just skip the duties entirely, click everything through, take a snack break or free surf or whatever. And within the realm of outsourcing they likely use batches approach, a dozen here, a dozen there, could be in house could be work from home. I had a heck of a time with one underwriter and when I finally stopped providing revisions after a fresh one rolled in, one after the other, always something new and inconsequential, around round 5 I refused to do anything more until the underwriter were to be identified and contact me directly. Although they refused to furnish identifiable information which itself is so unprofessional it’s unbelievable, I did finally get on the phone with them. Between the daytime soap opera in the background and the cat meowing in her lap, I knew right off where I was at. Needless to say that was my last order for reverse fha’s through Landmark.

            I’m not sure how appraisers justify a fee decrease for amc’s, I have consistently added a hundo to those quotes for many years. Thankfully with a careful marketing strategy and the willingness to simply say no, it’s been many years since I’ve had to suffer amc abuse. I spent more time getting them to stop calling me than I ever spent signing up. I’ll find a new line of work before I turn back to amc’s. Identifying, soliciting, and acquiring direct assignment leads is as easy as calling down the line from easy to acquire top 100 lenders by state or similar data sourcing. I used to like soliciting to botique tiny outfit mortgage guys because I liked the random deal and ability to walk away freely. Lately I’m on with big boxer top 20’s because I’ll continue to get front line placement in the off seasons.

            I’m not joking or bragging when I say literally, when amc’s ring me I put their number on call block. If they spam me shotgun requests to multiple appraisers I write back telling them if it happens one more time I’m reporting them to the state regulatory board for harassment because I have previously made my position clear to all of them in the previous decade through a failed but persistent attempt to help reform their methods so we could work together. “If you want to work with me all I require is an upfront consistent C&R fee, and direct assignment.” If appraisers are on an approved panel they should expect a fair share of assignment volume as their capacity permits. Round robin and all.

            It’s easy to get ahead with direct providers with regular work samples. With all too many appraisers using typing services, on the go mobile click and go methods, illogical auto population of data through comps sharing, the list goes on. It’s easy to get ahead with the simple manual developed work sample.

            What really kept me away from amc’s whom would pay was the fact they’re running the margins from a group billing pool without a direct relationship between the consumer fee and the appraisers fee. For every time I got the C&R fee it was an untold but inevitable consequense that some appraiser elsewhere would be put down and pressured into a lower fee, cost savings not returned to that borrowing consumer, in order to stay ahead of whatever robust fee I was wrangling out of them. Since day one I have always refused to cause injury to another or take advantage of someone else to make it in this industry. It’s a tough sales pitch but it hits with the right people. Natural protection through standard solicitation and client engagement rules. Back in the day we used to call that the peer standard, for whatever it’s worth today. Cheers.

    • Avatar Ron Maloney says:

      Ridiculous. Waste of time.


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Old Habits & Past Mistakes …

by Mark Skapinetz time to read: 3 min