Why is Residential Appraisal in Trouble?
There will soon be no need for residential appraisers.
I remember years ago, doing education for my merging AIREA/SREA chapter(s) in San Diego. AVMs were just coming to our attention. I invited a MAI who happened to also be a PhD in economics, Phil Mitchell. The room was full.
Someone asked about those “automated algorithmic computer calculated appraisals.” Could a canned program do as well as an appraiser? Without hesitation, he answered: “Not only will these models be able to appraise – they will do it better!” That was 24 years ago. He was right, partially.
I believed then that certain things could be better done by a computer. And still do. Yes, certain things are done very well by a computer, with the right data. Other things are done better by a human. Particularly by a human who knows the subject-matter.
It is true, AVMs have taken a large market share. However, they have not replaced the appraiser. Why are we still in this middle mushy area? Why no winner after all these years?
Let’s clarify a couple of issues. An appraisal is defined as a valuation done by an appraiser. “AVM” is actually an industry, not a type of model. Each competing AVM company has its own model. Different models do better in different places. And different AVMs have better or worse ‘coverage.’ (How often they can provide a number.) And each company keeps its magic formula secret. Secret. Else another company will steal its algorithm.
AVMs are reaching a point where improvements in algorithms bring little or no improvement in accuracy or precision (trueness or sureness). In fact, the issue now is that there is no consistent way to measure trueness and sureness! (I am currently a member of the AVM Standards Task Force, sponsored under the “Congressionally Authorized” Appraisal Foundation.)
Appraisers also have reached a point of little or no improvement in accuracy or precision. The issue here: there is really no way to measure trueness or sureness. The standard under USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) is “belief.” The test in USPAP is “credibility” or “worthy of belief.” How do you measure believability or worthiness? An appraisal is an opinion. This is the problem. Clients, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac need quantitative results, not opinion.
Neither AVMs nor appraisals (nor any other ‘method’) appear sufficiently reliable, given cost and speed. One reason, we are approaching the limits of unenhanced data. “Adjustment support” and algorithms can only work with the data available.
AVMs are stuck with whatever data can be obtained online immediately. (This includes so-called “non-traditional” variables.) What is missing is twofold: 1) the quantification (or lack) of ‘order’ (nonparametric) variables which have no measurable quantity or category. My expert witness specialty is view value, which can be the greatest value element in some areas, and; 2) certain modeling decisions which depend on human-unique abilities to generalize and identify outliers and fit curves.
Appraisers, residential and non-residential, are stuck with legacy practices, forms, and cells in spreadsheets — which depend on judgment instead of modern models and analytic algorithms in data selection. As we are taught — “picking comps” is circular. A good comp is competitive. A competitive sale is similar. And then – a similar sale is “one that can be compared to the subject! The problem here is that when you start with subjective judgment… you cannot achieve an objective end. Clients are concerned with one of three things: collateral risk, investment potential, or equity enforcement. Everyone has an opinion. What clients need is measurable analytics, risk scores, and other products and services, which can be prepared by appraisers or qualified asset analysts.
Clients are concerned with one of three things: collateral risk, investment potential, or equity enforcement.
The problem is in the data. The solution is in the data. But it is not a quick fix. Getting the data right means cleaning, scrubbing, and organizing the data so it becomes useful information for good decisions.
We will come back with a Part II to this question: “Is Residential Appraisal Finished?” In TAAR (The Asset Analyst Report) we consider more specific solutions for our subscribers. We are currently developing high-quality on-line education on this topic. Valuemetrics.info